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.

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Emma Murray featured

Emma's problem-solving career: from IT to product design

At DWP Digital, our people are encouraged to grow and thrive in their profession. Emma Murray, Product Owner is no different.

She takes us through her career journey and shares how she first joined the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in 1992, when she started working in her local jobcentre – around the time the field of IT was growing.

“As DWP started to embrace new technology, I took a keen interest in IT. I decided to complete an NVQ in IT, followed by a degree in the Science of Computing sponsored by the Benefits Agency,” she says. “I liked it, and was good at it, so I applied for a job in Blackpool as a Business Analyst (BA) to work on one of our benefit systems.” 

Building a career in digital

The next few years were busy for Emma. She had children, taught on a programming language and problem solving course, and provided training to DWP Digital colleagues on how to use and test systems and get qualified in business analysis.

“Once my children had reached a certain age, I was back to being me, and I applied for more technical roles. I became a first line technical support specialist, then moved in to a technical BA role.

“I’ve worked on many projects over the years that have provided direct benefit to our citizens or improved the IT hardware and software that our DWP colleagues use, including a key enterprise tool that services over 90,000 users,” says Emma.

“Over the last year I’ve been really proud to work on a major project that designed and implemented a new service portal that impacted every DWP colleague, as well as service providers,” says Emma.

“The new interface was urgently needed as the existing one was reaching end of life and needed to move from Jelly to Angular. This provides a more enriched user experience with mobile compatible features and advanced chat capability.”

Driving impact and overcoming challenges

Emma and her team develop new technologies for DWP, and they’re working on automation to make services more efficient. She finds it rewarding to work on such large scale, impactful projects, but she also enjoys facing new challenges each day.

“As a BA, I work closely with a wide range of stakeholders across the business,” she says, “for example infrastructure engineers, software engineers and external service providers.

“I have to manage conflicting requirements, which requires a great deal of diplomacy to ensure the team follows the product roadmap.

“You can achieve a great sense of satisfaction, from managing to get a people to agree on the way forward, to prioritising high demands of workload. Both ensure the most important things are dealt with and done at the right time.”

Embracing a diverse mix of perspectives

Ultimately, Emma sees her role in digital as about helping her colleagues across the organisation to spend more time working with citizens.

Emma enjoys her job, particularly when she’s facilitating groups of stakeholders to develop an agreed, tangible outcome. Agile methodology helps her team make sure they focus on those outcomes, and deliver them in a way that works for everyone.

“It’s challenging when people have a difference of opinions. It requires a great deal of drive and influence to keep them on track and get the outcome you need,” she says.

“I like retrospectives, where as a team we reflect on what we’ve achieved. It’s rewarding to know how your work has helped to make someone’s life easier, increased efficiencies for colleagues, or reduced costs for the taxpayer.”

Flexibility and balance in a digital environment

Emma is a working mum, and technology has enabled her to balance her work and home life, reducing the need for her to travel away from home.

“I utilise MS Teams a lot to interact with colleagues, using the video and voice call to connect with others, and other features to manage tasks and collaborate with my team” she says. “I also use Jira to organise the activities, workloads and resources of my engineers, where I’ve set up all my projects to track progress and underpin delivery”

“I’ve also been supported by my line manager to work part-year, which means I take four unpaid weeks every year during the school holidays to enable me to have quality time with my kids.”

“My passion out of work is my Kindle – I read all the time, and being able to read anywhere, anytime with a small device is great. Kindle also has audible now, which means I can listen to my books.”

“In DWP, everyone plays an important role, and there are a number of opportunities available to develop skills and knowledge, or gain experience,” says Emma.

“I’ve been involved in the Women in Digital network for a number of years. This personal and professional development network has helped me to meet, collaborate with and learn from colleagues across DWP Digital.

“I’ve also been involved with the award-winning Digital Voices programme, which helps to build confidence for public speaking and encourage women into digital roles.

“Through this programme I’ve gained a wide range of contacts, and it’s helped me with both my work and personal life. It’s given me the confidence to take part in big events, such as Civil Service Live and Civil Service Local, and become a role model for women in digital roles.

In DWP Digital everyone is aligned to a practice, which encourages career progression, targeted learning and community involvement. Emma benefits from being involved with two professional communities at DWP Digital.

“Being a member of both the Infrastructure Engineering and Business Analyst communities, I have been fortunate to be exposed to a wealth of development and collaboration opportunities such as technical knowledge, roadshows and lightening talks to name a few,” says Emma.

“I feel more inspired than ever to be a role model for DWP Digital. I’m using my new confidence to strive for the career I want, and to support others in reaching theirs,” she says. “I’m now looking for a new challenge as a Product Owner to develop my technical skills.”

Are you looking for a new challenge? DWP Digital are currently recruiting into various roles, including business analysts, interaction designers and more. Visit the DWP Digital Careers site today or simply subscribe to their newsletter to be kept up to date with the latest vacancies.

Emma Murray featured

Inspirational Woman: Emma Murray | Product Owner, DWP Digital

Emma Murray

Emma is a Product Owner for one of the Department for Work and Pensions’ key enterprise tools that serves the department’s 90,000 users.

She’s passionate about understanding new technologies and working out how they can be used to help manage and deliver services. As a founding member of DWP Digital’s Women in Digital group, she actively seeks to raise the profile of women in digital roles and empower them to take ownership of their careers.

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

I've been a civil servant for almost 29 years now. I joined the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in 1992 working on the benefit Income Support, and when the department started to embrace new technologies I took the opportunity to get involved. I was supported to complete an NVQ in IT and I went on to study for a degree in the Science of Computing.

Not only did I enjoy learning about and using IT, but I was actually quite good at it. I grabbed every opportunity to progress my career down the technology route. I really enjoy understanding how exploiting new technologies can improve services for both colleagues and customers.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not originally, no. When I left school I wanted to work in a bank, but there were no roles available so I started to look at Civil Service opportunities, as the job security really appealed to me.

As a mum of three, my career took somewhat of a back seat for a number of years. However, as the children grew I wanted to focus more on my career again and so started looking at other opportunities.

After settling into a new role in 2018 on promotion, I started to think about where I wanted to be in the next 5 years and what skills I needed.

So when I heard about the Digital Voices programme, which aims to build confidence and engagement skills for women working in DWP Digital, I knew I had to apply.

It seemed like a great opportunity to develop my confidence and overcome my fear of social media so that I could learn how to create content that would inspire more women into digital roles.

Over the course of the programme I learned how to be confident at presenting, taking the lead role at events and meetings and how to tell my own story and the story of DWP Digital. It also gave me the opportunity to learn from other inspiring women and expand my professional network.

Digital Voices was definitely a turning point for me in terms of my career. It left me feeling more inspired than ever to continue my aspiration to be a role model for DWP Digital, and to use my new found confidence to strive for both the career I want and to support others in reaching theirs.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Working as a female in a technology environment is definitely challenging as it’s still a male-dominated industry. It’s easy to sometimes be blinded with technology terms.

I feel like I suffered quite a lot from trying to progress and being stopped by my manager who had their own idea on whether I was ready to move forward. And I found it quite hard to influence that person. But in the end I decided to take control of my own career and push myself to find new opportunities.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My most significant achievement was supporting the implementation of the flagship welfare reform benefit, Universal Credit. With over 90,000 people currently working in DWP, the scale of this task was huge and required meticulous planning, implementation and testing to ensure success.

Universal Credit is supported by a variety of existing DWP applications as well a brand new software application unfamiliar to our IT administrators. I volunteered to be part of the North West pilot expansion, quickly becoming an expert in the new application. I realised there was a need to provide my IT administration colleagues with suitable guidance and training to ensure they were up speed to deal with the pace of the national implementation.

Over a five month period I went all over the country delivering training to front line colleagues on using the brand new applications. I designed the courses and training material and delivered everything ahead of time. It was a really big achievement.

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

I believe success comes from having a network of people around you. It’s really important to accept that you don’t necessarily have to know everything about everything. However, if you surround yourself with people that support you, that can develop you, that you can develop, it makes a huge difference.

It’s important to have that positivity and belief that you get from a strong network.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology or business?

Reflecting on everything I’ve learned and done over the last few years, some of the key takeaways have been:

  • Experience doesn’t just have to come from a job
  • Networking is about giving as well as receiving
  • Don’t be afraid to ask
  • Support and promote others
  • You don’t need to be good at everything
  • Leadership is not about a job title or a role
  • Proceed until apprehended
  • Keep learning

I try and encourage everyone to be brave, step forward, take opportunities and believe you can do it.

Another tip is to take a few minutes to visualise where you hope to be in the next 2 to 5 years. Consider creating yourself a postcard from the future. And then think about what the journey might look like to get there, and start to identify any career moves or learning you might need to reach your destination.

Do you believe there are still barriers for successful women working in tech? And if so, how can they be barriers be overcome?

From my point of view, the main barrier is the lack of understanding of what working in digital is. There’s still a perception that it means coding all day long, when actually there is a wide range of roles in digital, from product owners to business analysts, data analysts, content designers.

It’s also not clear that it can actually be a creative career. If you take a closer look at some of the women working in tech roles, many have actually come from a creative background, because working in Digital can be as creative as it is technical.

For example, a lot of people don't understand that English language can be a really big part of technology. A content designer focuses on the language used to get the wording to the right level so that digital service users can easily move through their user journey.

So I think that educating young women at an early point in their career decision making process about the diverse range of opportunities in tech will really help.

WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here.