What does your day-to-day role look like?
No two days are ever the same. My teams are dealing with a variety of issues at any one time: responding to an event that has impacted on transport ( e.g. COVID-19, bad weather, industrial action, a failed transport operator, a terrorist attack); determining our policy response to changing threats (whether national security related or civil contingency type things); and undertaking scientific and research analysis to understand the way in which threats to transport can be mitigated. Most recently, we have been running the DfT operations centre for COVID-19 and have managed to do that completely virtually. All of those things require considerable engagement across government as well as different parts of the department, along with the need to provide leadership in a really uncertain environment. We have had to be agile in how we deliver and what we deliver, reprioritising as events have shaped the environment around us.
What do you enjoy about your job?
The variety! And the pace! But at its heart, the sense of team and having a common endeavour, whether that be within my directorate, within the department or across the security and resilience community. Transport impacts on every citizen in the UK in some way – not something that any of us think about when it is working as planned, but when there is disruption it matters.
What type of culture is there in your department and team?
DfT is a very friendly and non-hierarchical place to work. People pitch in to support colleagues – I see that every time we have to mount a response and ask for volunteers to staff the Ops centre. Our engagement scores are always pretty good in the people survey and in our recent pulse survey (in the middle of the COVID-19 response) they rose 6%! Where there are things that can be improved, there is a real drive and determination to do so in an inclusive way. Everyone has a voice, there are regular all staff events and a large number of staff network groups. The emphasis on learning and development is also really impressive, with a great programme for all grades.
What have you found challenging about your role?
I have found it hard not being in the office and not being with my teams. I have realised how much I pick up by osmosis – how people are feeling, what is worrying them, new work issues. So being an effective leader and a manager requires much more of us at the moment. And juggling the number of competing priorities for my time is a perennial struggle! With such a varied portfolio, there are inevitably lots of meetings. However, I’m still “leaving work” each day at a reasonable time, and have just returned to my usual flexible working pattern.