https://pds.blog.parliament.uk/2018/12/05/straight-outta-conwy/

Straight Outta Conwy

Hugh standing outside Parliament

I started as a content designer in PDS back in September, moving down to London from a small coastal town in North Wales where I worked for a local company in the leisure and tourism industry. As part of the induction process, I met lots of other new starters and noticed a trend. Many had come to Parliament from other big organisations like the BBC, national museums, charities or government departments.

What’s more, I didn’t meet anyone else that had made the move from outside of London. So, I’ve written about my first three months in PDS and London in general.

Waving to the Queen

My new commute sees me walk past Buckingham Palace, wave to the Queen, stroll through Hyde Park, cut through the Jaguar-lined King Charles St, the grand Foreign Office and Treasury buildings looming over from either side, all before crossing Whitehall and flashing my pass to enter the parliamentary estate.

To longer-serving colleagues and seasoned Londoners this will sound completely normal but it’s actually pretty cool. Just glancing out of the window and seeing the thousands of tourists that have travelled thousands of miles, often spending thousands of pounds, just to look at what we, as Parliament employees, look at on a daily basis. As I walked past Buckingham Palace one evening, I asked myself:

I was working on a caravan park in rural Wales a couple of weeks ago. How did all this happen?

So, how did all this happen?

Previously, I ran the marketing for my employer’s various businesses which included luxury holiday parks, holiday rentals, restaurants, and a spa. I took particular interest in the digital side of things. I loved gathering website analytics and data on existing customers, poring over campaign statistics, and shaping content and marketing campaigns based on previous results.

I was content designing before I even knew that content design was a thing. And when I did discover that content design was a thing, I decided it was time for a career change.

Fast forward to Friday 7 September and after a couple of months of security checks, I’m on the 15:33 train bound for Euston with two suitcases and a job offer from PDS.

First impressions

I was pleasantly surprised when I started working here. I expected it to be an impersonal and guarded environment. In previous jobs, when someone asked to see what you were working on, it was usually to check up on you. Here, it feels different. I’ve found that colleagues ask the same questions but out of genuine curiosity. They are quick to offer their experience and advice which makes for a positive and open workplace.

In the first couple of weeks, my line manager set up introductory chats with various team leaders across the Digital Development arm of PDS. They explained their team’s role and how I as a content designer might work with them.

They also candidly told me of the challenges they were facing within their teams. Initially, I was taken aback by how frank they were. It was at odds with my previous jobs where those sorts of conversations were usually held behind the closed doors of a boardroom. But being transparent is a fundamental value of PDS and by discussing the challenges we face openly, we’re in a better position to overcome them.

Also, it’s hard to properly understand the scale of what PDS is trying to achieve from reading a job description and filling out an application form. It’s not just a case of ‘building a new website for Parliament’. There’s more to it. In fact, there’s much, much more to it. This became apparent after my first couple of weeks but rather than put me off, it made me want to contribute even more.

A proper Londoner

Nearly three months in and I can now say with confidence that I'm a proper Londoner. I regularly flail my arms in exasperation behind tourists in tube stations and I no longer bat an eyelid at forking out £5.50 for a pint. Okay, one of those is true. Moving to London has been a brilliant experience so far though.

I’d recommend that anyone thinking of making the move to seriously consider it. London isn’t as big and scary as you might think.

Working here isn’t ‘normal’

The job stuff is going well too. One apprehension I had when joining was how I would fit into an organisation like PDS. Speaking to my line manager, I’ve learned that part of the reason I was given the job in the first place was because I offered something different. I’m currently working on the online shop and visiting services and my past experience in digital marketing has been really useful.

I’ve been alarmed by how quickly it became ‘normal’ to work here, which is both a good and bad thing. Good because it means I’ve settled in quickly. Bad because this isn’t a normal place to work and I don’t want it to be.

It sometimes takes a Cabinet Minister to hold the door open for you or a chat with a well-known MP in the lunch line to remind you of this. I had such a reminder when I shadowed Hansard a few weeks ago. The five minutes that we transcribed were related to my hometown constituency and a topic that will directly affect some of my close friends back in Wales.

I’m already conscious not to let my career at PDS turn into just another way of paying the bills because there is so much interesting stuff going on here. A few days ago, I was flicking through an original copy of the Declaration of Independence from 1778. Where else could you do that on a rainy Wednesday morning?

Read more posts from the content team in PDS. 

2 comments

  1. Paul Lappin

    Great article from a very different perspective. It also took me back to 1983 when I first moved to London from Rochdale.

    Link to this comment Reply

Leave a comment