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My first six weeks in Parliament

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Content design, Cultural values, Experts in what we do, Women in digital
Elisabeth at her desk working away
Elisabeth at her desk working away

Starting any new job is nerve-racking. You’re beginning a new chapter with new people, places, processes and systems. It can be a bit overwhelming.

Starting a job in Parliament, well, that's a whole other story. Talk about hard to get your head around. Just walking through the palace for the first time, my mind was blown. I've been here for six weeks now so I thought I'd share what it's like to work in Parliament and be a part of the content team at PDS.

Elisabeth's work equipment
The view from Elisabeth's desk

Let's start at the very beginning

I'm not going to lie and say politics is my passion. It's not, I've never really followed politics. I kept an eye out for big events and had a gist of what was happening in Government and very occasionally, Parliament. Like many others, I didn't know the difference between Government and Parliament. I used to think they were one and the same.

But then I was contacted by HR and invited to the Parliamentary Digital Service (PDS) open day. For the first time since I'd started job hunting, I was actually excited about a role. And as the potential job was read out to me, I was mentally ticking off everything I could do. I had found my career holy grail and I was intrigued to know more.

I went to the open day, nervously wandering around a room of developers and project managers, trying to find where content fitted in. I spoke to Emma Allen, Director of Digital Development, and I couldn't believe there was an opportunity to be involved with shaping Parliament’s digital content.

From an outsider’s view, it was the chance to help an old and complex institution communicate better with people, like me, who found it hard to engage with politics.

Where I came from

My background is small agency based, which is highly pressurised, heavily focused on monetary gain and often sets unrealistically high expectations. Clients want everything ‘delivered yesterday’ and it can feel like one step forward, two steps back. No matter how good a job you do, it's just never quite good enough. It’s exhausting.

Don't get me wrong, agency life gives you invaluable skills and hands-on experience from diplomacy, presentation, organisational and problem solving skills to working well under pressure, managing others and generally getting the job done. There’s no excuses in an agency. You're dropped in at the deep end and you have to learn to swim.

Why I chose PDS

I'm not particularly commercially driven and it’s always made me sad that great content is often used to convince people to buy more (even if it’s in a subtle way). I always cared more about connecting with and engaging people, even for a brand.

That's why Parliament felt like the perfect fit. It’s giving me an opportunity to help grow digital content, to connect with a sometimes disillusioned and alienated public, to engage people in the things that matter to them, to help make information available in a way that they can understand and to potentially have an impact on a modern Parliament. That to me is more fulfilling and worthwhile than making money. We’re making a difference here (hopefully).

My first few weeks

After an overwhelming first day of security passes, a jumble of names and faces and some tech issues, I quickly got into my groove at PDS. There’s so much to learn about the houses, the processes and the people but each day I feel I have a better grip on a totally new world. As different pockets of the 'business' open up, my questions and ideas come tumbling out, probably much to the annoyance of the content team.

So, has my first six weeks been everything I expected it to be? Yes and no. When you have no idea what to expect the reality will always be a bit different. But the last six weeks have exceeded my expectations. My day to day is very different but I'm enjoying every project I'm working on and every meeting I go into.

The content team is a mixed bag of characters, the dynamics allow for different perspectives, which helps us create the best piece of work possible. The opportunity to be collaborative and bring a project together as a team means our content has a little bit of everyone.

All for one and one for all

In the short amount of time I’ve been here, I can see PDS has a people culture. We’re one unit working together to help the wider collective, from Members of Parliament to members of the public. Every individual matters and everyone brings something unique to the table.

PDS’s culture is also one of trust. Take your laptop and soak up the atmosphere in Portcullis House or find a quiet corner and create your working zen. The choice is yours and you have the freedom to work the way that suits you best. Even the flexitime helps take away any travel stress. If my train’s late, it doesn't mean I'll be late so I have peace of mind.

Now the shock of working in Parliament has worn off, I find myself excited to tackle the challenges ahead. I hope during my time at PDS I can help in some small way to bridge gaps between Parliament, MPs and the public. We try to be inclusive, open and accountable.

And if I can think of any motto to summarise the culture in PDS and within Parliament itself, it's Alexandre Dumas's legendary Musketeer slogan “all for one and one for all”. Because it’s as important to think of the individual as it is the collective and vice versa. It’s an ongoing battle to balance both, but one that should always be fought.

Interested in working for PDS? Take a look at our current job vacancies.

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