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DWP Digital Academy – a bit like Disneyland for geeks

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On Monday 24 February the DWP Digital Academy started its first course at Fulham Jobcentre in London.

The Academy has been set up to ensure that DWP has a coherent programme of activity to develop and grow our own in house capability to build effective digital services.

We want to equip our own people with digital skills so they can fill key roles in our projects and programmes.

This first 8 week course aims to provide firm foundation in the concepts and skills needed in our new digital organization. The first course will also act as a pilot to determine what works best and what will be needed to meet the complete needs of the organization.

Pre- course

The Digital Academy started a week ago. I’m closing down my work placement in Andy Nelson’s team (DWP’s Chief Information Officer) to prepare for the next two months of training in all things Digital.

It’s been a good time during these past 6 months. My first placement as a Civil Service Technology in Business Fast Streamer has given me a great overview of DWP IT. Developing the 2014-2015 DWP IT Business Plan was my first project and it’s almost complete. I’m really happy with the feedback I’ve had from the IT Executive Team and confident that the final product is looking good.

I was excited to get started on the Academy. I know I’m a guinea pig and the content will need to be tweaked following this pilot run. I was looking forward to finding out about agile methodology, how user channel shift can be encouraged, and learning to use google analytics to analyse websites and user behaviour.

Yes I know… I’m a geek and I’m proud.

This is like winning a golden ticket to Disneyland for me!

In my last job I project managed website development for a top British e-commerce firm. Getting the right training to move into projects in DWP has been top of my wish list, so when I heard I’d been given the opportunity to attend the DWP Digital Academy I did a little air punch of delight.

This is a really exciting time to be involved in digital and technology projects in government. There is an amazing horizon of opportunity. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in and help make a difference to the services we provide.

Week 1

After the first week I felt like I could breathe a sigh of relief. The pace of learning has been relentless. There’s been an enormous amount of information to take in.

I gained a technical foundation of knowledge ahead of this weeks’ homework: building a website in html (HyperText Markup Language). It’s great fun. We all had a quick go creating individual websites in class and I can tell you now, this is definitely a competitive bunch! Many took it as an opportunity to show-off some creative flair. I’m looking forward to the unveiling of final products at Monday’s showcase.

Hopefully mine won’t look too much like Frankenstein.

Topics covered this week include; GDS design standards, Agile principles of software development and an introduction to Google analytics. We also looked at protocols used for the transfer of information on the web such as what a Uniform Resource Locator (url – or web address) actually does and HyperText Transfer Protocol (http – the request/response protocol). Theory is always mind expanding but I’m the kind of girl that dreams of making things, so I’m excited to get my fingers on the keys and actually build something.

Discussion around each participant’s perspective and experience of Digital projects has been massively interesting. It’s given a surprising insight into the wider Department and varying needs/expectations. At times it’s quite challenging, but that’s what I like. If it were easy I’d be bored already. The conversations in class exploring what digital services are like now and what direction we think they will take in DWP in the future has been really animated.

Some of these debates were also picked up at the first DWP Fast Stream Technology in Business Developer Day.

My top tip: if you’re going to ask someone what digital means to them, you’re best off making a cup of tea first.

Rose Waite, Department for Work and Pensions

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