In 2003 I landed my first proper, full time, web job – working at a council. I never meant to stay for nearly a decade.
As I write this I stand on the cusp of finally escaping local government’s comforting bosom. After investing nearly a decade of my life to delivering web products for a local government authority it’s only right that I jot a few words down to mark the occasion.
Why did it take so long?
I have often felt a little looked down upon from some of my peers for where I have worked. I have nearly always felt the need to be a little bit apologetic when the “where do you work” question inevitably came up at conferences.
I really shouldn’t have, there’s a reason I stayed for nine and a half years.
There are many people in the web industry who rarely get to work on sites of the complexity and wide ranging reach of a council site. It’s fairly unusual in that respect, and it has taught me a lot about the real world of web usage. Something that often gets forgotten about by a lot of people in the wider web producing community. The work I have been involved with has been hugely rewarding on many different levels.
The early years of my local government career were the best. I worked for the smaller version of the mammoth authority I currently plough my trade for. We had a very small team (basically 2) and we did some pretty forward thinking work – and we did it very successfully. It was fun, and very rewarding. I learnt my trade in those years. We heaved web standards and accessibility into the local government arena.
I felt I was providing something very tangible. I will always be very grateful (thanks Martin!) for being given the chance to work there.
I feel very proud of some of the work I have produced over the years. It’s an environment that the people in our industry should be able to add real value too. It’s not something that should be looked down on. Just look at the groundbreaking work being done by the GDS team.
I just wish, as I found later in my time in local government, that our skills were more appreciated.
Why change now?
The council changed. The last few years have been … challenging. Our council merged with two and half other authorities to become a ‘more streamlined service to the tax payers’.
I used to to get a lot of satisfaction from knowing what I was producing was actually helping people in their day-to-day lives.
The key phrase there is ‘used to’.
Since becoming the massive council it is today the influence of the web team has become less and less. In a time where the web’s importance has grown and grown.
More politics, more vested interests, more people who think they know better than the people employed to do that job. Along with less interest in providing the best service for the public, and more about keeping people internally happy. Job satisfaction was steadily diluted to nothing, replaced with a sense of numbing apathy.
I care too much about what I do, about the web as a enabling technology to keep quiet and let things happen when they are just plain wrong.
I tried to speak up on a number of occasions. It didn’t work. (Part of that, admittedly, was my own fault. But that’s a completely different and complex story.)
This is all despite being continually told in massive rally meetings about how we are valued as staff, about how our ideas are more important than anyone elses…
It was getting me down. Properly down. My overall personality was being changed by it.
I had to leave.
It wasn’t an easy decision.
I’m leaving the relative security (very relative at the moment) that a council job provides. Not to mention the reasonable pay, the decent pension, the very generous annual leave allocation, the flexitime etc etc etc
And all this just a few weeks after the birth of our second child.
I am battling the uneasy pangs of leaving things unfinished, and knowing I could change things for the better given half a chance.
But I had to leave. Some battles just aren’t worth the fight.
I am moving on to be a web designing person at Interconnect/it in Liverpool. A small, but perfectly formed team that specialises in wringing out every last drop of potential from WordPress.
I will be cutting my commuting time down from about an hour door-to-door, to probably about 20 minutes. With only 3 minutes of that on the train under the Mersey. I can just about see my new office from the living room.
Not insignificantly, the cost of travelling will be more than halved too.
Over the years I’ve whittled the council dress code to an absolute bare minimum, but finally I can go to work in comfortable clothes. Every day is dress down day, and I don’t have to pay Pudsey bear a pound for the privilege.
Most of all I will be looking forward to working with a group of dedicated, wonderfully talented and passionate web people.
I couldn’t be happier to be joining them and working on some really interesting projects.
It will be great to get my day-to-day job satisfaction back.