A bit of determination and hard work can pay off

Earlier today I read a post by @loulouk titled “You’ve come a long way baby” – the post was well written and touched on something which is close to my heart which is feeling valued and qualified to do your job.  Essentially not feeling out of your depth every single day of your working life.

Well I thought I’d share my story of how I got to where I am now – this will be brief as I can make it – I’m not really into War and Peace style writing – As I’m also a person without formal qualifications, but with – I’d like to think  – a shed load of experience now, especially after 14 years in Local Government (Devon County Council) and 7 years as a Father and 10 years as a partner and Husband and more recently a School Governor and a Part Time Research & Policy Analyst for a Local Social Enterprise IT Support Organisation (Cosmic).

I started working for Devon County Council in 1996 as an office junior, pretty much filing and photocopying along general administrative duties and helping wherever I could.

As time went on, my administrative duties grew and I soon became the training administrator for the corporate training team, where some of my early inspirations came – I spent more time learning about myself and reflecting on a range of training materials then actually doing administration (if I’m honest I was a terrible training co-ordinator) But I learnt a huge amount about myself and this was a great opportunity to develop – so a positive came out of it :).

I soon felt frustrated and wanted to experience more, so I spoke to my line manager of the time (who was very supportive of me) about what opportunities I could explore as the Council was, and still is, a very large organisation and I wanted to experience as much of it as possible.  I managed to get approval for some shadowing opportunities  – one with the Youth Council Co-ordinator, which was great and very interesting and the other was with the Councils Sustainable Development Co-ordinator. It was this job, looking at community needs, community planning and community action that inspired me to try to create a job opportunity.

As luck would have I was offered a part-time job working as a sustainable development project officer. My project was to facilitate and create the councils Local Agenda 21 Plan which was a requirement around 1998-2000.

This post expanded and I became full-time and I was involved in mapping community action across the county and meeting community groups and business who were contributing to “A Better Devon, a Better World” – The councils local agenda 21 action plan.

It would appear that luck or chance plays a large part in my story (as well as hard work, of course) The next step for me happened when I met the Head of Economic Development at a Christmas meal and spoke to him about the type of work I was doing and what types of things I was interested in. I mentioned that I was particularly interested in how communities can use technology to better improve their access to information and how technology can help the organisation improve how it worked.

I bumped into him about 2 months later and he asked me to pop to his office as he would like to discuss an opportunity with me. The opportunity was to manage a project which was to see the councils two tourist information centres replaced with a call centre and a number of touch screen kiosks as well as a new two county IT infrastructure across Devon and Cornwall. I was very surprised that he thought I was capable of doing this, but I learnt that I would be providing more a support role early on as he appreciated my lack of knowledge, but admired my persistence and determination to get things done. I learnt very fast and I learnt so much working on this project, not just from doing the work, but meeting the variety of people involved in the project across the two counties.

It was towards the logical end of this project and the inevitable funding of my post that the eGovernment agenda seemed to gain momentum in the council. I was asked to lead on some work mapping services with a colleague across the directorate and also lead on some website review and rationalisation work. At the end of this process and as luck would have it again – the council advertised for a Corporate Web Manager, I applied and was fortunately successful.

I did that job for 4-5 years primarily through the eGovernment programme and I also learnt a great deal about the council during this time, finding out about all the services we provided, all of the transactions we provide and through which channel.

Towards the end of this job, my role expanded to include Web Innovations, New Media and Portal and I wrote the councils first web strategy, and started getting involved in Social Media after attending a Socitm event with Ewan McIntosh. It was Ewan’s  presentation that inspired me to continue my learning in this domain and to keep pushing the boundaries. This work connected me with my current team the Enterprise Architects. And guess what as if by magic a Job for an Enterprise Architect was advertised and I applied to that post 2 years ago and was successful.

Today, I look back and think “What the F**k happened there…I realise that I am lucky to have had the opportunities I’ve had but I also (and I’ve had to learn this) accept that I worked very hard for all of those opportunities and jobs.

I look back and feel very proud of how I got to where I am today and whilst I sometimes still feel intimidated by colleagues and peers who are more qualified than I am. I learning more each day, that it is who I am that counts.

Nearly everything I know I learnt from doing, failing, reading books, researching, and interacting with inspirational people, the rest, well I’ll just take credit there and say that I’ve always been a bit different 🙂

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How big does your megaphone need to be

megaphone

The interesting thing about social networking and blogging is that it can give you a huge megaphone to the world. I was listening to Tim Davies the other day as he came down to help us work on a project to engage young people through social networks, he said that young people see Social networking as a huge megaphone to the world.

But how big does your megaphone need to be before you become noticed and recognised in the WWW. I have started to read a few blogs which have been around for some time and they obviously have a reputation and a following. But what is it that makes your virtual space popular or referred to. Some are just pure gold and are seen on many a blog roll. I know my blog roll is not complete but i am searching for more inspiration on a daily basis. If you know a good blog and want to recommend it, please let me know. 🙂

The reason i read the blogs i do is because i have a real interest in what they say and respect their views. They may not all know that but those on my blog roll are exactly that. I see the list as a personal recommendation and i wouldn’t recommend something if i didn’t think it would offer value, inspiration or insight to others.

One of the biggest things i have learnt in the last week is that i know only a small amount surrounding this new innovative area of social media and web 2.0 compared to most of the blogs i read. I have challenged myself to read more, question more and seek feedback from those who i respect.

So as i continue on my journey, i hope to see you along the way, if i do, stop me and say hello and tell me what your reading or whose blog your reading.

Navigating the future

I had a very interesting day today. I was at a Leadership workshop at Exeter University. It was facilitated by Liselotte Lyngsø from a company called Future Navigator. On the whole i thought the day was great, i watched and participated with people learning how to juggle with 3 balls and talking about larger toilet seats for the well endowed man…and these do really exist!!!

During one part of the morning Liselotte held up a sign which stated “quiet exams in progress”, which she had taken from the door, she raised the question, would this still be appropriate in the future , if young people are learning by collaboration and are sharing knowledge to get things done. If the expectation is that learning is partly a collective journey then how can you measure an individual. This also mirrors a culture difference between the West (United States of Me) and Asia (a collective approach). We need to start to think about this as leaders now as these are the workers and consumers of the future (i’m not talking hundreds of years i’m talking maybe 3-5 years) and it will be there expectations we will be aiming to exceed…

All i can say is that in some areas of my work rapid change will be required to embrace and support a new cultural co worker who will drive collaboration and knowledge sharing to new heights.

The workshop raised a lot of questions for self reflection which i will need to digest and no doubt use this blog to share some of those thoughts and reflections. One reflection i think i can share now is that i need to listen and hear what my kids are really saying to me more. They are only 2 and 4 years old but already offer insights and simple observations which are great to pull you out your normal frame of mind and get you thinking out of the box.

Now the weekend is upon us and i suppose many people will be waiting in line for petrol in response and in fear of a fuel crisis. Another point from today, how much of our lives are driven by our fears and not our hopes and dreams. For me at present it was slightly higher in the fear column then dreams, which is something i am now going to work on.

The question you need to ask yourself if you want to do the same thing is “why are you living?” This is something which is obvious when you turn up at events like today, but each moment of our lives should, in theory that is, be lived to the maximum, but the reality is that we are all struggling to balance the “wishful thinking approach to life” with the reality that actually happens. For most this may mean, putting things off for another day or week and for others it may mean skipping the gym and getting a pizza on the way home and not having time to spend with the family or friends.

All obvious stuff i think you will agree, but how many of us actually get the balance right?

Changing the subject we managed to get about another 15 strawberries from the allotment yesterday and each and everyone i managed to eat (the kids ate the most) tasted superb, fresh, juicy and so sweet.