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https://pds.blog.parliament.uk/2021/02/19/how-i-got-to-where-i-am-archaelology-to-change-engagement/

How I got to where I am: from archaelology to change and engagement

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Collaboration culture, Curiosity, How I got to where I am, Workplace Culture

Most of my early life centred around dance. I was not quite the ideal, petite build for ballet, which meant my poor parents had to go to many a dance show where I was at the back being some sort of tree.

I did at one point want to become a doctor and took extra classes at school in additional science, but quickly realised when I cried every time I had to have an injection that I didn’t have the stomach for it.

I wanted to be a female Indiana Jones

I studied archaeology of ancient civilisations at university and for a time wanted to become a female Indiana Jones. I spent most of my spare time on community digs, and volunteering at the British Museum.

When I realised I needed vast amounts of experience to become an archaeologist (and it was terribly paid to boot) I decided that working in the heritage sector was more appealing. I managed to get a traineeship at the Chiltern Open Air Museum in Buckinghamshire, managing around 200 volunteers.

From that, I became an assistant visitor services manager at Windsor Castle, a really fun place to work. I was the first external manager to join for 10 years. I was young and made lots of mistakes, but it was a fantastic experience.

Parliament seemed like a fascinating place to work

I then spotted an administrative assistant role in the Education Outreach team at Parliament and it really appealed to me, fitting in with my love of heritage and customer service. Parliament seemed like a fascinating place to work, which has definitely been the case.

After working in Participation for 4 years, I recently moved to PDS in the Change and Engagement team and I’m having a blast! I worked on a project to implement a new education booking system and loved the fast-paced nature of project work and helping people to adopt a technical change.

I am currently working on the MS Teams Programme, rolling out new calling features within Teams. The role is a mixture of data analysis, technical testing and engaging with stakeholders. I do not come from a technical background so it’s taken me some time to get to grips with the language and complexities behind our telephony, but it’s been great meeting people from across both Houses to see how they work.

Having to think differently

A challenge we face is that the more traditional change activities we would run (drop-in sessions, floorwalking, office visits etc.) are being run remotely, so we have had to think differently as to how we engage with people.

Most people are working in isolation and at home (me included), so engaging with them during change is more crucial than ever to give them the support they need. It’s important to bear in mind how much change is going on around us and in our personal lives at the moment, and understanding that people’s mental and emotional capacity to take on any more can vary.

It’s vital that we can empathise and recognise the challenges people are facing in order to successfully deliver our projects.

People seem to be engaging with new communication tools and hopefully this has helped to build confidence in those who might not have been particularly digital before. I believe success is what you make it, and as long as people feel supported by us, I’ll count that as a win!

Unexpected challenges and Mr Speaker’s Inspirational Award

The year threw unexpected challenges our way, professionally and personally. I supported the broadcast team as we moved to a hybrid Parliament during lockdown, and was delighted to be chosen to receive Mr Speaker’s Inspirational Award in the 2020 Living Our Values Awards.

It is testament to the fantastic people that work at Parliament that we were able to join together and create an effective and smooth transition to a hybrid Parliament almost overnight. It was great fun to volunteer and be a small part of this historic work. Thank you and well done to all my colleagues who joined me in winning this award.

‘Round the World’ in 119 seconds

I play darts to wind down and have been part of the Parliament team for over 3 years. A friend from another team set up a virtual league during the first lockdown so I have been playing in that for about a year now. It’s been great to stay in touch with people and throw a few darts to relax.

One fun story is that I was approached to play ‘Round the World’ in 119 seconds for Ladbible in 2019. I managed to do the challenge, and they paid me £400 for it. I guess I can now say I am a professional darts player!

(Heather is keen to point out that the vintage Rolls shown here is not hers.)

Interested in working at PDS? Find out more about working here.

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