Catherine Mobray

In Her Shoes: Catherine Mowbray | Data Engineer, DWP Digital

Meet Catherine Mowbray, Data Engineer at DWP Digital

Catherine Mowbray

I joined the Data & Analytics team in DWP Digital in January this year as a data engineer. I work on the IRIS (Integrated Risk and Intelligence Service) team and I’ve really enjoyed my time working on this team. I’m excited to have the chance to share my experience so far!

Tell us a bit about yourself, background, and your current role

At school, I was always interested in maths and science and had a great biology teacher at A-level. That convinced me to study Human Genetics at Newcastle University as an undergraduate. Part of that course involved a lab-based project in the third year which I thoroughly enjoyed, pointing me towards a career in science.

Through networking and word of mouth, I managed to secure a job as a research technician in the Mitochondrial Research Group at Newcastle University, where I stayed for about 18 months. During my time there I had extremely supportive colleagues who recommended I study for a PhD. I applied and started my PhD developing liver models for drug testing in 2007, graduating in 2011. From there I completed a series of Research Associate posts, for the last five years conducting research and testing in clinical trials looking into causes and treatments for recurrent urinary tract infections and alternatives to treatment with antibiotics.

However, during the start of the pandemic in 2020 the lab suddenly closed, and I was unable to conduct my usual work. As a result, I taught myself Bash/Shell scripting to analyse a large batch of bacterial sequencing data that we had collected but never started doing anything with. This allowed me to develop coding skills that were relevant to my current role, so when I was made redundant in August 2021 I began applying for more coding-based jobs. I spotted the vacancy for a Data Engineer role on Civil Service Jobs and decided to apply due to Bash/Shell scripting being listed as one of the criteria. I must admit, I was more than surprised when I was invited to interview!

I was ecstatic when I was informed that I had passed the interview and was offered the Data Engineer role. When I started in the department in January 2022, I knew I had a lot to learn and began training in Python and SQL with the support of team members. Now I’m working independently using my new skills, contributing to maintaining and building required features for ETL and database-querying services and delivering good-quality data to customers.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I typically get out of bed at the last possible moment and have a strong coffee to kick-start my brain – I am not a natural morning person! I double check my emails and calendar to mentally order my day, then look at my notes to pick up where I left off the day before. At the end of each day, I like to reach a natural finishing point in my code so I can pick it up easily – I think of it as reaching the end of a paragraph. I will then jot down where I am on my whiteboard and my thoughts on where to go next, followed by checking my calendar for the next day to make sure I know when meetings are. After signing out it’s time to walk my dog, then put my feet up and play a computer game or continue with my cross stitch for the evening.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I was always aware that this was something you definitely should do, but I can’t honestly say I did. I have tended to follow what I’ve enjoyed doing and have been lucky enough to enjoy most of my jobs. When I was made redundant from my scientific role, I did have a decision to make – do I continue with where I am or try something different? Due to the short-term, stressful nature of my previous roles, I decided to try and switch my focus to coding, which I found a refreshing change of direction during lockdown and aimed to have a career with more stability and new learning opportunities. Fortunately, I feel like this worked out well!

What do you love about working for Data and Analytics within DWP Digital?

There are two major things I enjoy about my job – the people and the work. Everyone I have met so far in DWP Digital has been so kind, supportive and generous with their time, it has made a rather daunting career change into a pleasant experience. I was involved in meetings and discussions from day one and was always encouraged to ask questions and offer opinions. Even though it’s a totally new area for me I have never felt silly, which I put down to the fantastic team I’ve joined. I also find the day-to-day work really rewarding. I’ve always enjoyed a good puzzle and identifying code that can be improved to match requirements, and then working out how to implement those changes is very motivating for me.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you overcome these challenges?

I think my biggest challenge has always been having a lack of confidence in myself. It has improved as I’ve got older, but even when applying for this role I was pleasantly surprised at getting an interview, and even more so at being offered a post! Looking back, I don’t know why I doubted myself so much – I knew I could do this job (and others I’ve applied for in the past), but communicating my abilities to others in a confident manner has been something I’ve struggled with. I think this is partially an anxiety of mine about being seen as over-confident or boastful. When interviewing or taking part in meetings, I do have to periodically remind myself that being open and honest with my knowledge or opinions to help the team is what matters, not whether someone will see that as a knowledge gap or overstepping the mark.

Have you benefited from coaching, mentoring or the sponsorship of others?

I have never had formal mentoring, but over the years I have been supported in different aspects of my career by colleagues. My former boss was instrumental in teaching me how important “telling the story” is when communicating technical concepts to non-technical stakeholders or customers. Another of my former colleagues supported me in deciding to apply for coding roles, giving me the confidence to believe that I could be successful in changing my career path.

Do you believe in the power of networking? If so, where do you network?

In my previous role, networking was very much seen as attending big conferences or meetings and introducing yourself to people in order to increase visibility. I must admit, I was terrible at this – the thought of doing that was terrifying! I have since realised that networking doesn’t have to be such a big deal – just chatting with people you meet around the office or in a couple of minutes before a Teams meeting starts and there’s just the two of you in the call is also networking. Getting to know people and having a chat can open doors and make collaborations a lot easier than it would be if you remain more isolated.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to a career in tech?

It’s never too late to start! For the last few years it was always on my mind that if I’d gone to university now, I would have chosen something like a computer science degree. As the years went on a career in tech seemed further and further away. However, upon learning to code, build a pipeline and use data for analysis, I realised that it’s never too late. If you have a desire to change, make the time to learn some concepts, learn a bit of code and build something with it. Employers are keen to hear how you can use your learned concepts and coding skills, not just whether you have a certificate saying you can do it.

What does the future hold for you?

I am thoroughly enjoying my role and can’t see any reason for a change of scenery in the near future! Over the next few months I aim to build on the knowledge I have gained in this role and learn different parts of the job to be a complete team member. In the longer term, I aim to develop the skills to become a Senior Data Engineer and continue to learn about and implement new technologies within my role. The future is exciting!


Inspirational Woman: Katharine Purser | Head of Data Strategy and Enablement, DWP Digital

Meet Katharine Purser, Head of Data Strategy and Enablement at DWP Digital

Katharine Purser

Katharine is Head of Data Strategy and Enablement at DWP Digital.In this piece, we talk about her career journey, her next challenge and fighting imposter syndrome.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

You could say all my roles so far in my career have revolved in some way around using data to help understand and solve policy problems. I started my career in management consultancy, designing, building and running date big databases for government projects. I then moved into strategic advisory consultancy for government in the policy space.

When I joined the civil service in 2007, I then spent a few years working in different policy roles in both local and central government. But all the time, using complex data sets to understand what was happening to help define, shape and refine policy. So, I’ve always really understood how important data is.

Having that bridge across both policy and digital has really given me the knowledge and skills to deliver what I need in my current role.

I’m now Head of Data Strategy and Enablement at DWP Digital, my day-to-day responsibility is around establishing the Chief Data Office function for the department. This is about helping realise the difference between what the Data and Analytics function does – in terms of serving up data products and services for the department – in comparison to what the Chief Data Office does. Focused on helping the whole department to understand the strategic asset of their data and how to use it, in a way that really drives the department forward towards our strategic objectives.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I never really sat down and planned my career over a long period of time. However, I often set myself goals that I wanted to achieve. When I first started in consultancy, I was conscious that at some point I wanted to work in government. Then when I moved into government, I was conscious that at some point I wanted to move into the senior civil service. So, making decisions about the kinds of roles that I took on while I was consulting gave me an indication that I wanted to work in the government space and in the civil service. I was always thinking about what small steps I could take that would enable me to move into the senior civil service at some point.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

It took me three or four attempts to get into the senior civil service. I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s a challenge, though I think that trying for something is an important part of growth and development, even if you don’t feel quite ready, it’s a good learning process.

A challenging but extremely positive part of my life was having a family. It helped me develop a different set of skills that I can deploy both at home and in the workplace, but I recognise it probably took me slightly longer to achieve a level of seniority, because I wanted to focus on parenting my children when they were little.

Due to this, I made the decision to work for my local authority when my children were very young. The office was much closer to home, a 10-minute walk away, and not have to commute was really helpful and the office also had a nursery on site. It was a huge advantage. It gave me opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise had. Particularly, in strategic leadership opportunities. The local authority role helped me build my capability and my breadth of knowledge. It was a real positive experience and allowed me to have a positive work-life balance.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I’m proud to say I’ve had many throughout my career. For each new role I take on I’m very clear about what it is I want to achieve. But I wouldn’t say one is any bigger than the other. The real lesson for me is, in each role I take on, to be very clear about what it is I’m there to do and why. What’s the value that I’m going to bring to a role and how can I achieve that.

One of the highlights of my careers was having the opportunity to set up a multi-disciplinary and cross-agency team that focused on supporting some of the most vulnerable people into work in my local borough in Barnet. It was data-driven and really successful.

This type of work for social purpose is what really attracted me to my current role in DWP Digital and it gave me some of the skills I needed to write  DWP’s first data strategy.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

You need to have a huge amount of self-belief, fight the imposter syndrome which believe me, we all have. Sometimes, even when you think ‘I don’t think I’m quite the right person for that job’, you can be guaranteed that there’s another person somewhere who’s less well qualified and who’s less capable going for it. And if you don’t apply for it, they’ll probably get it.

Don’t be afraid and put yourself forward, even when it feels scary, even when it feels like a challenge. And, if you’re excited and interested in the role, it will come across. You’ll be surprised about how successful you can be when you’re passionate about something and you when you show that enthusiasm and willingness. Even when you may have to acknowledge sometimes that there are still things you need to learn.

Coming into this role and making the step back into digital after 20 years, I did have to be honest and say ‘I’ve never written a data strategy’ before, I didn’t come into this job with years of experience at the latest tech company in the data space. But I was able to be clear about what I do know, and why I thought I was the right person for this job, because I really care about what we’re doing and that has a positive impact.

Having self-belief and being passionate about what you do and choosing roles that really excite you and interest you. That will truly help you achieve your best.

Katharine Purser

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I speak to my mentors at different times in my career for different reasons, depending on what it is that I need to talk about. I don’t have a formal mentor, but there are senior leaders, who I’ve worked with throughout my career who I’ve built and maintained relationships with. I just reach out and say, “I’ve got this very specific issue I think you’ve dealt with before and I’d really value your opinion on it”. More often, than not, they’re willing to have a chat, whether it be on to how I handle a particular leadership challenge or something more operational.

I’ve not formally mentored anybody either, but my door is always open for colleagues that I’ve worked with over the years to approach me if they need my help. And I’ve kept relationships going with colleagues I’ve helped in the past. I think it’s also important to highlight the difference between mentoring and sponsoring. We need to focus on it if we’re going to really crack diversity at the more senior levels. More of us need to step up to be that voice in the room when someone isn’t there to be represented, to advocate for colleagues and help them to achieve recognition for their work. This is what will really make a difference.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

While maternity leave is essential and allows mothers to take time out to bond with their new child equal parenting leave is a key step change. Everyone should have the right to be supported by their employer, no matter how they create a family or who chooses to stay at home with a new child. It seems to me that women generally are at a slight disadvantage as they are generally the primary carers taking time out of work to look after the family while husbands/partner work their way up the career ladder. Until this is equalised, we won’t achieve change.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to call out bad behaviour. In my early career, there was some uncomfortable culture in the workplace, and I didn’t have the confidence to call it out. My advice is, don’t spend time in a culture you feel uncomfortable in, because they’ll be plenty of other organisations that will welcome you and will value your input.

In DWP Digital, I can sincerely say ‘I can be me in DWP’. Without a doubt there is huge tolerance and there’s huge diversity and you can be your authentic self. However, there are still occasions where well-intentioned but misplaced humour can hit the wrong note. I’m much more confident about educating others about behaviours or language which make me or colleagues uncomfortable than I was back then. At the same time, I actively encouraged and supported colleagues to speak up when they feel uncomfortable, or suspect others might be. It’s the shared responsibility of the whole leadership team to do that.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I’m looking forward to what the future brings, and hope that whatever is next is exciting, interesting, and that I can continue to add value.

DWP is on an exciting journey with the Chief Data Office and this is just the start of a journey to transform the way we use data to improve the lives of citizens.

There are also some great inspirational female leaders in DWP Digital I have learned so much.  I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work alongside them. I also look forward to coming together with my fellow female data specialists with our new ‘Women in Data’ network.


She Talk Tech podcast - In the Lounge with Sue Griffin, Head of User Support Services & Head of Service Management Practice, DWP Digital, 800x600

Listen to our latest She Talks Tech podcast - In the Lounge with Sue Griffin, Head of User Support Services & Head of Service Management Practice, DWP Digital

She Talk Tech podcast - In the Lounge with Sue Griffin, Head of User Support Services & Head of Service Management Practice, DWP Digital

In this episode of She Talks Tech, we hear from Sue Griffin – Head of User Support Services AND head of Service Management Practice at DWP digital.

She tells us about her career climb in the public sector, explains the scope of her role as DWP, and shares what it is like to run very large teams. We also discuss the skills required to work UX and how DWP are leading the way with innovation in this space.

If you want to find out more about Sue – you can connect with her on LinkedIn.

LISTEN HERE

‘She Talks Tech’ brings you stories, lessons and tips from some of the most inspirational women (and men!) in tech.

From robotics and drones, to fintech, neurodiversity and coronavirus apps; these incredible speakers are opening up to give us the latest information on tech in 2022.

Vanessa Valleley OBE, founder of WeAreTheCity and WeAreTechWomen brings you this latest resource to help you rise to the top of the tech industry. Women in tech make up just 21 per cent of the industry in the UK and we want to inspire that to change.

WeAreTechWomen are delighted to bring this very inspiring first series to wherever you normally listen to podcasts!

So subscribe, rate the podcast and give it a 5-star review – and keep listening every Wednesday morning for a new episode of ‘She Talks Tech’.

Produced by Pineapple Audio Production.

Listen to more episodes of She Talks Tech here


WeAreVirtual, Emma Murray (800 × 600 px), New

12/05/2022: WeAreVirtual: Cultivating Brand You – Own Your Career! | Emma Murray

WeAreVirtual, Emma Murray, New

To start taking ownership, you need to first take a step back and reflect.

Not all careers are linear and evolve over time. Asking yourself the hard questions and being open to opportunities around you is key to visualising your true goal.

Ready to create a roadmap for your life? It’s time to Own Your Career – no more waiting and sitting on the side-lines. This workshop will cover the following areas:

  • Who is ‘Brand You’?
  • How do you create your own personal brand?
  • What do you want your career journey to look like?
  • How can you maximise the opportunities available to you?
  • What can you do to ensure that you achieve your definition of career success?

Join this interactive workshop with Product Owner, Emma Murray from DWP Digital to learn how to cultivate your personal brand and take control of your career today.

About Emma:

Emma MurrayEmma Murray Product Owner at DWP Digital has a love for learning and exploiting new technology as well as shearing that knowledge with others to help them to embrace the changing world of digital technology. She is also a leading figure in the DWP Women in Digital Network Group, organising events, speakers and developing new ways to communicate and engage to all existing and new members.

One Tech World Virtual Conference 2022

01 APRIL 2022

Book your place now to what is becoming the largest virtual conference for women in technology in 2022

FIND OUT MORE

DWP Digital - Birmingham Hub 400x300

DWP Digital unveils new Birmingham hub creating 130 jobs

Birmingham Hub - DWP Digital

DWP Digital has announced it will be expanding its operation into Birmingham and creating 130 jobs with the launch of its newest digital hub.

The opening of the new office space will allow the department to leverage the digital talent of the West Midlands and build flexible, multi-disciplinary squads to support areas including Health Transformation and Universal Credit.

During this first phase of recruitment DWP Digital will be hiring delivery managers, product managers, technical leads, business analysts, user researchers, interaction designers, content designers, developers, DevOps engineers, service designers, QA testers and performance analysts.

The digital hub is located at the new Arena Central development, which is just a short walk from the heart of Birmingham New Street Station. The space has been designed with collaboration in mind, boasting a modern look and feel with a combination of desks, breakout areas and meeting facilities.

Speaking about the announcement, Mohammed Din, deputy director at DWP Digital, said, “When it was announced the Department for Work and Pensions was going to expand its hub network, we were excited to see which locations would be selected.”

“While it was a difficult choice to pick one it was felt that Birmingham, with its central location and surrounding area, was an ideal place to attract the digital professionals required to join us and help us to deliver our goals.”

“We are looking for highly flexible professionals who are looking for their next career move to continue the government digital agenda and make a sustainable contribution to delivering digital services to those who most need it in our society.”

Alongside its great public transport links, Arena Central boasts easy access to Birmingham’s city centre and excellent amenities. This location will also give new recruits the opportunity to enjoy the flexibility of hybrid working and squad or team collaboration.

The launch of the new space means Birmingham is the seventh DWP Digital hub location in the country, joining Blackpool, Leeds, London, Manchester, Newcastle, and Sheffield.

Anyone interested in digital careers with the Department for Work and Pensions can visit www.careers.dwp.gov.uk to see the latest job vacancies.

DWP Digital

One Tech World Virtual Conference 2022

01 APRIL 2022

Join DWP Digital at our One Tech World conference and discover what it’s like to work for them, career opportunities, and a chance to network with them.

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Yetty Adesalu

This Black woman can! Yetty Adesalu shares her journey with DWP Digital

This Black woman can! Meet Yetty Adesalu, Business Analyst for DWP Digital

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Break the Bias’, which promotes the imagining of a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. Yetty Adesalu, DWP Digital, Business Analyst shares how she’s been able to excel in her career and takes us through her journey.

Yetty Adesalu

In my personal life, I have a passion to help people.  For example, I was inspired to take part in the Great Manchester Run a few years back, to raise funds for a local food bank that I support.

In my career I’m a subject matter expert and business analyst with over 18 years’ experience working in the banking sector before I moved into the Civil Service.

Working at DWP Digital means that I can actively become involved in projects that help me to combine my passion for change with my passion for helping people.

My career in banking gave me a varied background in trade finance, project and change management, relationship management, product management, business development, research and development, accounting controls and reconciliations, correspondent banking, financial analysis and advisory services.

I currently work as a business analyst on a small but important agile team. We provide the products and services that make it easier for colleagues to do their job, especially with the advent of hybrid working from the office and home, enabling them to collaborate with each other and external parties. Although I joined at the start of covid during the first lockdown in March 2020, I had a very welcoming start from my team members who have made me feel included and valued.

Yetty AdesaluOne exciting recent project my team worked on is the Customer Computer Kiosks project which is nationwide throughout DWP Jobcentres. Customer Computers provide citizens with digital access to a defined set of applications, allowing the creation of CVs, the ability to search and apply for job vacancies, and the creation and maintenance of Universal Credit accounts.  My team were responsible for upgrading the devices to the equivalent Windows 10 product managed Microsoft Intune which delivers cloud capabilities for PC and mobile management, with a better user experience, functionality, and greater security. We worked with stakeholders across the DWP estate to ensure that upgrades over 7000 devices, happened seamlessly.

I love working with Microsoft 365 which offers a range of products and makes it easy to collaborate, explore and innovate. As an avid learner, I taught myself to use the power apps to make my job simpler and efficient. As someone who is really interested in everything data, any opportunity to work with data using any of the M365 apps elates me.

What fascinates and excites me most about working in the technology industry is that there are no limits to what is possible. Technology provides an opportunity to learn new skills and push myself to heights that I might previously not have considered.

My advice for women looking for their next tech role/career move is to sharpen your transferable skills. Being in tech requires innovation, determination and efficiency which is a skill that comes naturally to women. Use that to your advantage.

If you’re looking for somewhere you are encouraged to grow and thrive in your profession, whilst maintaining a healthy work-life balance then make sure you look at DWP Digital careers site.

SEE YOURSELF HERE

Looking for a somewhere to build your digital career while working for an organisation that celebrates and embraces diversity?

FIND OPPORTUNITIES

Cheryl Stevens MBE - Speaker Spotlight

One Tech World Conference Speaker Spotlight: Cheryl Stevens MBE, DWP Digital

Speaker Spotlight - Cheryl Stevens MBE

WeAreTechWomen speaks to Cheryl Stevens MBE, Digital Director of Shared Channels Experience, DWP Digital, about her career.

Cheryl is also one of our speakers at our upcoming One Tech World conference on 01 April 2022. Cheryl will be discussing enabling an improved customer and colleague experience through better use of technology.

As a career civil servant Cheryl has held a variety of leadership posts; gaining operational insight, spearheading transformational change and developing an in depth knowledge of customers. Cheryl holds the vision of simplified experiences for colleagues and customers driven by life events and other user needs, regardless of channel or service line. Enabling safe, efficient, inclusive and consistent journeys across DWP. Enabling those services to operate securely with proportionate, tailored Identity and Trust solutions that meet both customer and service needs, whilst ensuring that the person, the data and the transaction are protected. Cheryl is passionate about lifting other Women in Digital & Identity.

This year, we are going to be bringing you the very best global virtual learning experience on a state-of-the-art conferencing platform. Our conference will provide ample opportunities to learn about emerging technologies and what is innovating and disrupting the industry. We are blessed to be given time from some of the world’s finest speakers who will be joining us to share their wisdom and knowledge. We will deliver innovative sessions on a variety of different areas of tech, with a side order of career development, fireside chats and ample networking opportunities, both on the day and through our global virtual networking world.

One Tech World Virtual Conference 2022

01 APRIL 2022

Book your place now to what is becoming the largest virtual conference for women in technology in 2022

FIND OUT MORE

Can you tell us a little about your background? Where you’ve come from, where you’ve worked, how you got to where you are today?

I grew up in a small village near Preston in Lancashire to working class parents. As a result we had to make difficult choices and one of those choices was that I couldn’t go to uni. That set me on a path of roles in hospitality before I joined the Civil Service at 19.  I worked my way through the grades and undertaken a variety of roles but with the same theme – improving customer experience.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I genuinely didn’t until about 10 years ago when I realised only 3 things were really important to me 1) I was bought into and felt an attachment to the purpose of the organisation and team that I would work with. 2) That it was a leader of people role, having large teams really motivates me; I like making a difference if I can. 3) That I can use my specialism in Identity & Trust.  That has led me to where I am, and I can honestly say my current role as Director of Shared Channels Experience in DWP fits those 3 things perfectly.

What inspired you to get involved with motivational speaking?

I think I have an interesting take on things as I have had a varied career and background and often people really relate to my upbringing and hurdles along the way but can see that positive outcomes are possible.

Do you have a favourite experience from your career?

I was awarded an MBE when I was just 30 years old for the part I played in a large transformation that really did change customer experience for the better.

What do you think WeAreTechWomen guests will gain from your talk?

Hopefully some tips or even confidence that despite a seemingly different path that I have taken, I got there.

Find out more:

What are your top 3 tips for success?

  • Understand what is important to you in terms of role satisfaction and don’t compromise on that
  • Get a good mentor who can help you navigate the day to day and a sponsor who is your cheerleader and always looking for opportunities for you
  • Authenticity – be true to who you are and be your authentic self, always

What has been your biggest challenge during your career?

I came back to work after a long time off with a serious illness and I felt lost. I wasn’t sure where I fit in or what I wanted to do or even if I could do the role anymore.  My vast network and my mentor were critical at that time and really helped me find my feet again.

Which female role models are you most inspired by?

There are so many as I’m lucky to work with truly inspirational women every day in DWP Digital and those outside that are making a true difference to lives of millions of people.  I am most inspired by people I can relate to.

In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle for women at work and how can it be overcome?

Confidence.  I know that it has held me back in the past and it is still something I’m better at but still working on.  Having the right people around me that have nurtured and coached has definitely made a massive difference and I try to be that person back.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

I would have to say pay and flexible working

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

Have confidence, stay true to yourself and it will all be ok in the end.

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Jacqui Bury

How I’m gaining confidence at work after sharing my disability story 

Jacqui BuryFor International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Jacqui Bury from the Digital Recruitment team at DWP Digital shares her experience and highlights the importance of the day.

Being dyslexic is challenging and I have to work in different ways and find it that little bit harder to achieve what I need to achieve.

I didn’t tell my family, friends or employer about my dyslexia for a long time as I was so embarrassed and at first I didn’t know or understand what it was. Sad, I know, and it really is not my fault. I did not want people to treat me differently or to think that I wasn’t able.

Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling. The condition stems from differences in parts of the brain that process language. Dyslexics have excellent thinking skills in the areas of conceptualization, reason, imagination, and abstraction. Dyslexia comes in many different forms and I know that I am lucky as my dyslexia is not as bad as some peoples who have a lot more difficulty than me.

You can learn more about dyslexia here: What is dyslexia? – Kelli Sandman-Hurley – YouTube

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses

Being Dyslexic I benefit from understanding my own individual learning style and pattern of strengths and weaknesses. That way, I can study and work in a way which is most likely to be successful. I have strategies appropriate to my learning style.

I have always been a very confident person and hate to let people think, just because my brain processes things differently, that I am not able to do what people without the disability can do.

How my dyslexia affect’s me

When I’m reading I’m great with the first few words, but after than all the letters and words start to move. This can be very challenging. However, on a positive, I do get to read a few words before it goes this way, I see this as a positive as at least it’s not like it with every word.

Another way dyslexia affects me is when information is read out, it takes a little longer for me, compared to others to digest and understand. This is because information is slower to get to the other side of my brain which means I can miss some information.

When things are verbally explained and shown to me at the same time this really makes a massive difference as I can pick things up so much easier.

One of the other things I struggle with is spelling. I can spell, however again the dyslexia can confuse me and sometimes I even struggle with basic words. This can be frustrating, again I have to just try and see the positive side.

My day-to-day challenges

One of my biggest challenges is not being fast enough, and others noticing this, this makes me self-conscious. Also, not understanding what is being asked, this frustrates me as I know I am able, however the dyslexia stop me, so I can take a little longer to understand something that other people will take.

I currently use Read Write Gold (RWG) which is a fantastic tool and this really helps me to do my job daily. There are so many tools I can use with the RWG, the main ones I use include the reading tools, it can read when I am typing, this is fantastic as I hear each word as I type so I know if I’ve typed an incorrect word. I can also use it to read all my messages in everything I use, for example: emails, internet, excel, words docs.

Throughout my life I have struggled with my perceptions of people thinking I am thick and not able, and this affected my confidence. I had counselling to support me on how to share my difficulty in telling people I am dyslexic. I found this difficult as I was embarrassed, and I did not want people to think I could not do my job. Or when I was with my friends, for them to think she is thick, tough I know, however this is how it makes me feel.

I used to cover up my condition and use excuses by saying things, such as I haven’t got my glasses with me, or I’d just hide away in the back in case someone said can you read this to me.

The counsellor was fantastic and gave me coping strategies to help me deal with sharing my difficulty with people. One of the first tasks she gave me was how to share that I’m dyslexic with my colleagues at work. Again, this was hard as I’m aware of people judging me on it. I did share my condition with my colleagues in a team meeting and all of them were great and very supportive apart from one person. Not bad for a team of 12.

I’m proud to say that now I have addressed the issue of telling people my life is definitely so much better.

DWP Digital really does let me be me and I’m proud to work here, I feel supported as an individual with a disability and my colleagues really try to be inclusive to each other, which again does make me proud.

Once I know what I am doing, I strive on giving my best, I feel this is a massive strength of mine. I’m gaining more confidence, for example I recently spoke at a management team meeting. There was over 100 people on the call, which was scary however it was great to share my story and a big step for me – I even put my camera on. The support messages I received were amazing and made me feel good.

I can honestly say now, I am no longer embarrassed and it’s a great place to be. Just being my lovely self.

If you’re interested in working in a team where everyone is valued, have a look at the current career opportunities on the DWP Digital Careers site.


Proud to be me: self-reflection as Black History Month comes to a close

Black History Month, Kafui Mbrou

Kafui Mbrou, IT Security Risk manager at DWP Digital shares what she’s ‘Proud To Be’ for Black History Month.

I’ve recently been involved in two events that led to a period of self-reflection, and I want to share my thoughts here. First of all, Black History Month, which comes to an end on 31 October. The theme for Black History Month this year is ‘Proud To Be’. The idea is that it aims to encourage people to share what makes them proud to be who they are.

Secondly, as part of the Digital Voices support network, I recently attended a session titled ‘I am Remarkable’. This talk aimed to help empower and encourage those that attend – particularly those in underrepresented groups – to develop their confidence and competence to engage in self-promotion.

During the session we were encouraged to challenge perceptions around self-promotion by writing down a few reasons why we felt that we were remarkable. This was a very difficult task for me as I was unsure of what to write.

What is it about self-promotion that is so difficult? According to Forbes.com, “It’s the ‘self’ part; the egocentric nature and seemingly aggressive pushiness that makes us cringe not only when we attempt it for ourselves, but when we observe others bragging in a self-centred manner”.

I was raised in a culture where from childhood we were taught that bragging was an unattractive quality, as it makes others feel insecure about themselves. Where self-promotion isn’t traditionally and culturally right, to the extent that custodians of culture and our traditions, in their wisdom, brought in a third party for the exercise of self-promoting. A classic case would be the appointment of a chief linguist (a chief’s public voice, as one must speak through him to communicate with the chief) who will do all the self-promotion of the chief and his achievements. At no point will the chief be seen promoting himself or the many achievements and development projects he’s done because culturally it would be wrong for him to do that. Therefore, if the custodians of our traditions say it’s not ethical to brag about who they are, then in my cultural setting it becomes a big challenge to promote myself.

I grew to belittle the things that I had achieved thinking they were not worth sharing in comparisons to greater things that were achieved by others. Humility was encouraged with the hope that others might recognise our achievements.

However, I have come to realise that accomplishments don’t speak for themselves! So with this in mind, how do we talk about our achievements with the aim of encouraging others without being perceived as a braggart?

It’s not bragging if it’s based on facts

During the session I was encouraged to see the positive aspect of self-promotion, and in doing so I was able to recognise some of the reasons why I feel am remarkable.

I am remarkable because I’m a Security Risk Manager

As a Security Risk Manager I assist diverse digital projects by providing advice and guidance on information security. This involves identifying and recording risk and mitigating them to the lowest possible level.

I joined DWP Digital 2016 as an FDM consultant with the aim of furthering my career in project management. On my first day of work I was placed in the Security team within a Product Delivery Unit. As a Business and Marketing Graduate, I wasn’t familiar with the Digital world and found myself asking a lot of questions: what is security? what does it mean?

I remember telling my manager that I struggle to explain my role to friends and family and he encouraged me to do a presentation on my understanding of the role. Although I was not from a Digital background I have since learnt on the job and love it due to the continuous development the role provides. Earlier this year I achieved a certification in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) with the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), together with successfully completing the BCS Foundation Certificate in Information Security Management Principles (CISMP).

The world of Digital is dynamic, no day is ever the same and it’s great to be a part of a team that contributes to making the department’s systems safe and secure for the citizen.

I am remarkable because I give back to the community

I have a passion for serving others and giving back to the community, particularly through youth volunteering. I believe it’s important to invest in our young people, by giving them visible role models, as that helps to develop them as the future generation. I am the project coordinator for a Christian youth charity which aims to provide an open forum for the young people to discuss issues that affect them on a day to day basis. I have also volunteered on the International Citizen Service, which is a development programme that brings young people from the UK and developing countries to volunteer in some of the poorest communities in Africa and Asia.

A few months ago (on my birthday) I took part in the 48in48 social justice non-profit build which is a 48-hour hackathon-style event. The aim is to connect local non-profits organisations with skilled marketing and technology professionals. At the end of these 48 hours, 48 local non-profits organisations have new, professional, websites. I had the honour of working with other professionals to build a website for a youth charity, and the whole event was a really rewarding experience.

I am remarkable because I am a Digital Voice

I am proud to be part of the DWP Digital Voices programme, which supports and encourages women to build their skills and confidence. I started my career in the civil service in 2016, when I successfully secured a placement in DWP Digital. Although I finally secured a job, several years of  being rejected from job applications after graduating from university had a considerable effect on my confidence. Also because of the under representation of women in this sector and coming from a BAME background, I had always held the perception that I would never be good enough when compared to my competitors.

Amid these challenges and setbacks, it has taken me a great deal of courage to build my confidence to an acceptable level. Embracing a new challenge like the Digital Voices programme has given me the opportunity to build my confidence in a safe, welcoming environment.

Since joining the programme I have seen a visible change in myself which has also been recognised by colleagues. I believe I am finding my voice and I’m becoming a visible role model to help bring other people up alongside me.

You are Remarkable

This period of self-reflection has been very important for me, especially during Black History Month as I am reminded that I am remarkable regardless of my colour, gender or any other stereotypes others may identify me with. Although I found it difficult initially, just like any new skill it’s important to invest time in learning, developing, and practicing in order to improve the art and skill of self-promoting.

You are remarkable, just try it!

If you’re interested in growing your digital career within an organisation with lots of opportunities, take a look at the DWP Digital careers site or you can also subscribe to the newsletter to be kept up to date with the latest roles.


Smiling man and woman standing on weighing dishes of balance scale. Concept of gender equality at work or in business, equal rights for both sexes. Colorful vector illustration in flat cartoon style.

DWP Digital’s pledge to redress the gender balance

The goal of the Tech Talent Charter (TTC) is for the UK tech sector to become a diverse and inclusive community where people from all backgrounds are welcomed, listened to and valued for their contributions.

Rowena Maccallum
Rowena Maccallum, DWP Gender Lead

This mirrors our aim in DWP Digital to be as diverse as the customers we represent.

Rowena Maccallum, Gender Lead for DWP Digital is delighted that they’ve signed up to the Tech Talent Charter for the third year running.

Rowena said “Although, the number of women holding digital roles in DWP Digital has increased, there’s still lots of work to be done to attract women to technical and leadership roles as we continue delivering our department-wide commitment to gender parity.

Making a pledge of inclusion through initiatives like the tech charter is definitely a positive step forward.

Reflecting on the last year

Taking on the DWP Gender Lead role in May 2021, supporting our Chief Digital Information Officer, Simon McKinnon, in his role as Gender Champion for DWP, presented a great opportunity and exciting challenge for me.

It’s been a busy time for us, as we aspire to increase female representation in digital roles and achieve a more gender balanced workforce across the department.

Some of the initiatives we’ve implemented include:

  • In DWP Digital we recently launched our new cohort of Digital Voices, this award-winning programme is now in its fourth year and helps support women in tech careers build confidence.
  • Our Women in Digital network is going from strength to strength and has been recognised through a shortlisting in the Computing Women in Tech Excellence Awards 2021 in the Diversity Employer of the Year category.
  • Across the department, our series of Women into Leadership conferences: 352 women across DWP have now participated, exploring how they can enhance their skills to become the leader they aspire to be. We continued these despite lockdown restrictions, running two virtual events.
  • The Springboard Leadership Programme: 62 women participated in a developmental programme, which aims to empower women to think with a new perspective about their development. This led to them gaining an Associate Institute of Leadership and management qualification.
  • The Crossing Threshold Programme: we sponsored 18 women in Senior Executive Officer roles to take part in this year-long development programme aimed at women looking for progression within the Civil Service.
  • Using the Applied digital platform in DWP Digital recruitment campaigns to remove unconscious bias from initial job applications.
  • With so much great activity taking place, it was amazing for our achievements to be recognised by winning the Best Public Sector Employer category at the Women in Tech Employer Awards in December 2020. DWP has also been listed in the Times top 50 Employers for Women for the third year running, which is a fantastic achievement. And over the last five years, representation of women at Senior Civil Servant level has increased from 39% to 50%.

Looking forward

Our diverse workforce consists of people with various and multiple characteristics and backgrounds, which enable us to create a workplace where people can be part of networks, where they can thrive and feel supported, regardless of their gender.

We’re currently refining our gender strategy plan, our priorities, vision and our intersectional approach for the year ahead. We’re looking to use technology, information and feedback from our colleagues to enable us to make informed decisions around our future initiatives accordingly.

I’m proud to be involved and contribute to the vital work that looks at everything through an inclusive lens. Working alongside members of our DWP communities and networks such as Women in Digital, our Diversity and Inclusivity Champions and cross-government, it’s great to see the passion and enthusiasm that our colleagues have.

Come join us

If you like the sound of working in an organisation where people feel valued, heard and supported, check out some of the roles we have available on DWP Digital careers website.”