Weeknotes: 3/2022

Making progress, slowly

Weeknotes: 3/2022

It feels like spring has come to the island — while the temperatures are still cool, we’ve had days of vivid sun that lasts til dinnertime and I’ve seen some early buds blooming on my daily walks.

I’ve also had two full weeks of daily childcare for both my children. This is probably the first time this has happened for this long of stretch since we moved to BC in June — one of them (often the littlest, my 2yo) is typically kept/sent home at least once a week. Sometimes for a legitimate reason like a fever, but often for something that pre-pandemic would have been unthinkable: a runny nose, an occasional cough, a sore tummy, a vague ‘headache’, being too whiney, crying too much at drop off (yes, these are all actual reasons.)

I vacillate between empathy for the daycare who is just doing their best in challenging circumstances, to being angry that I pay so much money every month to have him sent home. But childcare is very hard to find in this city so I keep that to myself.

What’s gone well:

  • Recently I’ve had a lot of people reaching out for advice, guidance, direction lately, both on practical, tangible aspects of design but also on more strategic pieces like: how should design be structured in the org? How can leaders support this work? Additionally I’ve been asked to give a talk on this at our executive review meeting next week. It kind of feels like, after a year spent planting some seeds on the kind of design focus our government needs to have, I’m starting to see some some tiny buds. They may end up being nothing, or they make take another year to bloom. Time will tell.
  • I was on a hiring panel before the holidays, and this week I worked with leaders on our team to start hiring from the eligibility list from that competition. So, we‘re starting to build more capacity in our area, and we’re giving people who want to do this work a chance to learn how to do it. I feel really inspired by and grateful for this — it’s a small step in the right direction.
  • I’ve delivered a few small bits of work this week — content pieces to address some pretty regular feedback we get from our users. Tangible progress.

What I’ve struggled with:

  • Last week a pretty alarming article was published about someone I don’t know who experienced racism while working at Government Digital Service, and of all the people I follow who work or have worked at that org, only one (non-white) person mentioned it from what I can see. Why aren’t people (especially white people) talking about it? I did wonder if I was missing some context on this since I don’t work there anymore, but even so I think there should be more open dialogue on this. I shared it on twitter and instagram and got responses from a few BIPOC former colleagues, about their own experiences and how disappointing this is. I’m really disturbed by the white silence on this and wondering how I can be a respectful ally.
  • I’ve been seeing protectiveness around content lately. A sort of, “don’t re-write what I’ve written, I’ve got the final say.” And as someone who spent years as a content writer, getting everything picked apart and rewritten because everyone fancies themselves a writer, I both get it and also find it a bit jarring. We need high quality, intentional content that works for users. We also should be open to feedback and edits. Both things are true. So how do we balance them?
  • As part of my full-stack developer course, I just wrapped up a long module on Javascript. And honestly, I think I hate javascript. I love what it does but … just ….what? It makes no sense.
  • Time. Time is always an issue but feel moreso this fornight.

Inspired by:

  • I’ve been having lots of thoughts about how the hiring process in government works best for certain individuals and how this deepens inequality and leads to less diverse teams. I’ve actually been thinking about writing a blog post about it. But in the meantime, this twitter thread captures a lot of what I see as problematic.
  • This is in a similar vein and also points out the problems with how we select candidates:
  • And another thread — this time by my former colleagues at CDS, on some simple rules for content design:

Reading, watching, listening:

  • I finished Oh, William by Elizabeth Strout, one of my favourite writers of all time. This short novel (or novella) didn’t disappoint, I gobbled it up in a day.
  • I’ve been watching (and cringing at) Pam & Tommy — The story is vaguely interesting but the 90s nostalgia is probably my favourite aspect of the show.
  • I obsessively listened to The Trojan Horse Affair. The story itself — and the impact it had on so many aspects of British society — was riveting but even more I loved the dynamic and reflection and unpacking of issues between the two presenters (one white and one muslim.)