What’s life like as a new starter working in the Digital Service at Parliament, especially given that remote working is the norm for the moment? We ask Sam Sergeant in the user research team.
Tell us about your new job?
I’m the lead user researcher here at PDS. I plan and conduct research to find out what our users (both internal and external) want and need from our digital offer.
What does that involve?
Typical activities I might be involved in day-to-day range from interviewing members of the public about why they come on trips to Parliament, to testing prototypes of room booking software with our internal staff.
Conducting this research helps our colleagues design the best possible solutions, and an important part of my job is advocating for our users and building empathy for their needs among the wider business.
As team lead, I also have responsibility for setting research strategy and supporting the other researchers to continually develop our team’s services in line with the organisation’s goals.
Why did you apply to join PDS?
Parliament is such an iconic institution; when I saw the job advertised the idea of working here really captured me.
Few people have the privilege to see such an important institution from the inside, so it felt like an opportunity I had to investigate.
Working at Parliament makes you feel like you’re a part of something important, and I really enjoy having that sense of purpose to my work. It’s incredibly rewarding knowing you’re working to ensure that an 800-year old institution is fit for a digital future!
How's it been working remotely in a new team?
In some ways nice – no need to worry about all those silly first-day-of-school things like getting lost or where to go for lunch. I did find it all a bit surreal though, it was difficult to feel I’d really started a new chapter when I hadn’t left my own house.
I also missed the normal chit-chat you’d get in the office. I’m a very social person and sitting at home all day every day isn’t ideal for me. We have plenty of video calls, but I do miss that background hum.
What kind of support has PDS given you?
PDS senior management has been great at communicating with all staff, new and existing. We’ve been encouraged to have honest discussions about how working from home is affecting us, and the fact it affects everyone differently.
It’s been great to see that the senior team understand everyone will have different challenges during this period, and that we need to find tailored ways to accommodate them.
I’ve also been supported in getting my home working environment set up so that I can be as comfortable and efficient as possible. I really appreciate that PDS saw it was important to give me the tools I need to do my job whether I’m in the office or in my spare room.
How have you got to know your team members?
The team was pro-active when it came to making sure I felt welcome.
Everyone had a one-to-one call with me to introduce themselves. I’ve been involved in bigger team meetings where I started to learn the group dynamics. I’ve also been able to meet small groups of colleagues for socially distanced drinks a couple of times which has been really nice.
Any tips for other new starters?
It’s easy to be too enthusiastic and want to meet everyone and do everything in week one. Slow down!
It’s also easy to forget that in a remote world you don’t have the natural break of walking between meeting rooms so you can easily exhaust yourself with back to back video calls. Set your half hour meetings for 25 minutes, and make sure you block out a lunchbreak to get some air and stretch your legs.
Don’t feel that because you’re not sitting next to someone you can’t ask those important little questions. If you’d ask it in real life, then just ping someone on Teams and tell them what you need to know!