Hello, I’m Adam Taylor, a Senior Project Manager here in MoJ Digital and Technology. What I actually do is try to bring people with different skills together to understand a problem and to come up with and deliver a solution, with my role then being to remove obstacles along the way.
In terms of background, that depends on how far you want to go back, but I’m from an immigrant family and grew up in social housing in Merseyside. I enjoyed primary school but was very unhappy in high school and left at 16, starting work at McDonalds. It remains a formative learning experience for me and I still use it as a yardstick for a well managed workplace that nails both repeatable processes and a strong, fun, team ethos.
I’ll fast forward across the next decade or so but it involved working on oil tankers, taking a degree in law, a degree in politics, living in the Netherlands, Spain, and Italy and working or volunteering as a university tutor, visiting fellow, the Army Reserves, a special constable, a refugee centre, the BBC and Parliament. It sounds more impressive than it really was - I got some lucky breaks but most of what I did was very temporary and entry-level, to say the least.
With 30 roving into view, I went looking for a steady job. In the end, it came down to the police or the Civil Service. With an offer of employment in Manchester Police or the Civil Service Fast Stream (my then girlfriend, now wife, was in London) I chose the latter.
I worked on bills, managed a large ops team, worked with SPADS and Ministers in private office and on delivering policy ideas into IT enabled reality.
The times I enjoyed the most were when I worked with specialists, including IT people, and so I started a long journey to effectively retrain and move sideways out of policy and into IT project delivery.
Moving into IT has been a challenge and I’m still on a journey, but then it has been possible - the Civil Service is a place where, if you are determined, you can find opportunities to do something different without having to start from zero.
I’d say that there are three main tools that I’ve used to get where I am now - formal learning, informal learning and tenacity.
A lot of people working in technology have been doing it since they left school, and so there can be a sort of disdain for book learning, but the books and associated exams are simply the distilled experience of some really experienced, competent people and so studying for and taking a range of professional exams has helped me to internalise some of that and make it my own.
Having knowledge about an area has also helped me to find opportunities to turn that knowledge into experience. Starting with project management qualifications and working my way through various jobs and IT courses, I’ve pepper-potted my way to be, perhaps, one of the MoJ’s more technically competent project managers (if a technically competent project manager isn’t an oxymoron!).
Some of what I’ve done in the past has been through work - the Axelos, APMG and APM stable of project management learning and qualifications for example - but some of it was on my own dollar - AWS Associate Solution Architect for example, which I studied for using ACloudGuru.
MoJ D&T is a great place for learning. It’s the only place I’ve ever worked in Government where there’s a real emphasis on the individual being the best judge of what they need and backing that principle with resources and money. I’ve taken full advantage of my Pluralsight account (video-based training) and D&T has funded exam fees for the certifications that I’ve taken (to be fair, it all comes in at a fraction of the cost of the traditional big training provider contract classroom courses).
I get a kick from learning, and I’m busy at work, so a lot of what I’ve done has been on my own time but I’m ok with that. I’ve also been fortunate to work with some real characters over the years, from whom I’ve learned a lot one way or another - we’re all a bit of a mixed bag and so you can learn from the good and the bad points of anyone, or any organisation you work with.
Pushing forward isn’t easy and I often feel stuck or a bit down, but in fairness to myself, I’ve kept pushing and have kept going. I do feel I’m getting somewhere, even if it’s hard going. This is the tenacity point - when moving out of policy into project delivery, and IT delivery specifically - I applied for dozens and dozens of jobs and ended up taking some right old lemons in order to get a foot in the door - you might get the first thing you apply for and get everything you wanted - in which case, great, but if you don’t then you’ve got to get back-up and keep going!
To finish off, I’d come back to the point about the journey - I’m still on it - the gradient doesn’t feel quite as steep as it has at times, but it’s still uphill and that’s ok - I consider myself very fortunate to be knocking on 43 years old and still learning a lot week by week, month by month.
My personal recommendations regarding learning:
- Don’t look to an employer or a scheme to manage your learning journey for you - they can be enablers, but most of the drive has to come from you.
- Do accredited courses if available- the exam focuses the mind.
- Make the most of the platforms you have available to you, for e.g.pluralsight in D&T (and I mean use, don’t sign-up but not use it).
- Never, ever give up and be kind to yourself!