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From the BBC to Parliament: my first few weeks

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Design, Open, Simplicity

I’ve just joined PDS as design lead and I wanted to write about my first few weeks here in Parliament.

My role here is to lead the design of a new website for UK Parliament. I'll be directing a team of awesome designers to make sure our work is of high quality and aligned to our design framework and strategy. I’ll also be working with colleagues from across Parliament to develop creative solutions that meet user needs, helping to create a digital service for a modern Parliament.

Where I came from

I studied graphic design at the Kent Institute of Art & Design (now known as the University for the Creative Arts). In my spare time I taught myself web design and created music websites. After graduation, I tried to get as much work experience as possible by working voluntarily at any design agency that would have me.

After some time, I managed to land my first job at the BBC as a junior designer. It was there that I really learnt my trade as a user experience and design practitioner.

My first job was to redesign the Radio 1 website which went on to win a Webby Award. I later went on to work on other things such as BBC News, Weather, and iPlayer creating user experiences for multiple platforms. Most recently I worked on the BBC’s first full voice app for voice controlled smart speakers.

I also found myself creating standards and guidelines as part of the BBC’s Global Experience Language which has become part of the foundations of the BBC’s website. After working my way up the career ladder over 12 years, as a senior designer, I felt it was time to make a change.

Changing jobs

I found making the change from one job to another incredibly scary. I was stepping into the unknown but I felt like I needed to take a risk and start somewhere completely new with different people, to learn new ways of working, and have new challenges to help solve.

At the beginning of every year, I write a list of things I want to achieve. After many years writing that I wanted a new job, I decided this year was the time to do it!

I started by turning my job search into a mini project. I created a Trello board of tasks I needed to do like get my portfolio ready, write a CV, look for and apply for jobs. I also created a spreadsheet and started to search and capture a list of places I wanted to move on to. Once I got my stuff together, I spotted a vacancy had come up at one of those places on the list…Parliament.

Why Parliament?

I’ve always been fascinated by Parliament. By the history, the politics, the people, the architecture, and the traditions. But I’ve not always been entirely sure what happens there.

I had stumbled across the My Society report which recommended the need to make Parliament more modern and I really like the idea that ethical design can help:

  • show Parliament as open, participative, and accountable
  • provide trusted, balanced, and discoverable content
  • communicate the value of both Houses and help them reach new audiences
  • be data-driven and encourage content and code re-use
  • help colleagues publish content and data with ease

…all while helping to build a better democracy.

UK Parliament new visual identity
UK Parliament new visual identity

I was also impressed with the output of PDS so far. They've released the new beta website, created a new visual identity, and they managed to photograph many of the MPs and Lords so that we can now see who’s representing us.

So, for me, it was a no-brainer to want to get involved and join the team.

My first few weeks

Walking towards the Houses of Parliament on my very first day was both exciting and terrifying.

Once I arrived, I was whisked away to my HR induction with some new starters then taken inside the Palace to get my security pass. I walked through Parliament for the very first time as a member of staff and went to meet my new team, a mix of design, technical, content, and product practitioners.

I’ve had catch ups with lots of people since I started. I wanted to find out more about everyone’s roles and responsibilities along with what’s been done so far, what’s worked well and what hasn’t, what people’s hopes are for the future, and what their expectations are for my role. It’s given me a huge insight into how the team works, what challenges there are to solve, and I'm getting a sense of how everyone in the team feels.

My team talked me through the work they've done on the beta website:

I also had my first experience of the infamous Red Lion pub for a cheeky drink after work.

I tweeted this after my first day:

I must say I feel like I’ve inherited a second family already. The team have been warm and welcoming and are all passionate about what they do here at PDS. I also had a catch up with my new manager Jeanette Clement, head of user research and design, to talk me through the role and what to expect.

I’m looking forward to championing Parliament’s new visual identity, creating a design system for PDS, crafting great user experiences across our new beta website, and recruiting new people to join our team.

If you’re interested in working at PDS, we have the following roles open:

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