Delving into the Home Office's Single Intelligence Platform

Feb 22, 2022
hackajob Staff

We're back with another amazing episode of The DevLab Podcast, today we are joined by Anu and Sumitra from the Home Office. If you've ever wondered what it's like to work on a project that creates impact nationally as well as drives change in tech, then keep listening. Anu and Sumitra walk us through their experience creating the Single Intelligence Platform, why they chose a career in the public sector after being in the private sector and working as women in tech.

For ease of use we have outlined the chapters below:

Chapter 1 - DevLab Intro (00:12-00:37)
Chapter 2 - Home Office Intro (00:38-01"27)
Chapter 3 - Journeys into tech (01:36-05:52)
Chapter 4 - Tech stack and technologies they enjoy (06:14-08:35)
Chapter 5 - Insights from being an engineer at the Home Office (08:54-12.53)
Chapter 6 - Single Intelligence Platform (13:32-18:19)
Chapter 7 - How to deliver at scale (18:56-20:26)
Chapter 8 - Highlights of working on SIP (20:44-23:01)
Chapter 9 - Challenges of working on SIP
Chapter 10 - Working in Agile (25:25-28:12)
Chapter 11 - Women in Tech (28:58-31:25)
Chapter 12 - Tips for a career in Tech (31:52-35:41)
Chapter 13 - Why Work for the Home Office / Public Sector (36:05-37.33)
Chapter 14 - Advice for engineers looking to join the Home Office (38:09-40:23)
Chapter 15 - Outro (40:24-41.10)

You can also follow along with the podcast using the transcript below:

DevLab Podcast - Home Office.mp3

DevLab Podcast - Home Office.mp3

Phil Kell [00:00:12] Hi everyone, and welcome to the DevLab Podcast by hackajob. I'm Phil Kell, your host for today. TheDevLab Podcast is for engineers and those in tech who love what they do and are looking to level up their skills, knowledge and career. With weekly episodes, we'll invite experts to share their journeys and provide you with technical know-how, new skills, and career insights. We've got a really exciting show up ahead. Without further ado, let's get started.

Phil Kell [00:00:38] If you're wondering what life as a developer is like at the Home Office then wonder no more, you'll be at home with a culture that's inclusive and progressive and values the unique contributions everyone makes. Their tech strategy is also clear: they work in Agile, Product and User Centred teams with cloud native and interdisciplinary working as the focus. Not only will you be working with cutting edge tech, but they'll also offer a range of benefits for colleagues, including outstanding pension schemes and a serious focus on continuous, professional development. You can find out more by signing up to Fantastic, so as you'll have just heard from the introduction there, we're joined today by Sumitra and Anu from the Home Office. First of all, welcome, we're going to start the podcast by just getting to know both Anu and Sumitra a little bit better. Find out a little bit more about their journeys in tech so far.

Phil Kell [00:01:28] So Sumitra, why don't we start with you? Why don't you kind of tell us about yourself and the journey you've taken in tech so far to your current position?

Sumitra [00:01:36] Sure. So thank you. Thank you for having me on this podcast. I'll just take a step back and say how I got into tech. So I've always loved sort of solving puzzles, especially maths puzzles or anything that involves any sort of logic. Not so much word puzzles. I did most of my schooling outside the UK, so I studied in the Middle East and I studied in India. And when I was studying Computer Science, Computer Science was always about doing algorithms or doing flow charts and doing sort of basic programming. I don't know if basic is even–, yeah basic sort of gives away my age a little bit. But yeah, that's what I started off with. And then it was a natural transition to try out Information Technology at university.

Sumitra [00:02:21] And then straight after I started my first job as a Software Engineer. So it was a fairly, I suppose, uneventful start. But I have, since then, I've learnt so much. I've worked in the private sector. I've worked a little bit in– I've worked in the local council. And now, of course, quite recently, I'm at the Home Office. I joined the Home Office in 2017. I joined as a Senior Developer and my background is in Javascript. So that's, that's what I did. I started on the Single Intelligence Platform, which is what I suppose I'll be talking about in this podcast. And since then, I was sort of made the Tech Lead of the two projects, and then I got a promotion internally and now I'm a Principal Engineer, so I oversee a few more teams than that. But yeah, that's my journey, in short.

Phil Kell [00:03:07] Fantastic. I think what's interesting there is actually, you know, you said maybe not as eventful an entry into software development in the world of IT as perhaps of the people. But actually, I think that is still slightly unique. I think that we when we talk to a lot of people on this podcast, they kind of never knew that they really wanted to be in tech until sometime after university because they did something else. I think it's actually quite interesting to see that you had that passion from quite a young age. You know, starting off with maths problems, more of the algorithmic side of these, wanting to get into that business of solving problems.

Sumitra [00:03:40] Yes, absolutely. I think I can see so many girls, you know, at a young age who like that and then somewhere along the way, that love of doing it just drops off and they do take that career. And that's something that I think has always intrigued me as to why they wouldn't consider... And yeah, I think the reasons for that. But I just think if you've got a love of Maths, and you've got a love of anything really solving puzzles of any sort. I think a career in tech is just so well suited.

Phil Kell [00:04:11] Yeah, agree. I think we're going to dive into some of those those issues, perhaps that you touched on there as we go through the podcast. Fantastic. And if we can come to you and get your story.

Anu [00:04:21] Hello. I'm Anu and I'm a Senior Software Developer in the Home Office at the moment. I am relatively new to all of this. I am here from October 2021, so a few months. So my journey to Tech also is something similar to Sumitra. It's just, it is also not by surprise of anything like that. So my interest towards technologies, a technology will start attending a career talk in my secondary school. Back then– so that's the time when it, oh yeah, I did my schooling in India. So that's the time it just started emerging and started developing the assets of that industry. Yeah, I really entered by the way of the transformation that can bring into the, into the world. So that brought me to pursue at university, Computer Science as my subjects and then followed by my Masters in Computer Applications. So naturally followed that interest and started a career as a Software Developer.

Anu [00:05:20] Straight after that, I worked in different countries and in different sectors, mainly private sector. And then this is, the Home Office is my first public sector job. So yeah, that's my journey and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. And that's why even after so many years, I'm still in the same industry and really glad to be part of it industry where the learning never stops. It's continuous learning that drives through every day. It's really good to be here.

Phil Kell [00:05:53] Yeah, fantastic. And I think it's it's really interesting to see that correlation that I think both are problem solvers at heart, both saw the potential of that technology, how to fix real world problems, and were keen to be a part of that. What sort of technologies have you tended to focus on Anu? Have you moved around a bit? Have you kind of stuck with one stack for most of your career?

Anu [00:06:14] Well, I– back in those days I started with C++ as we used to do, even the COBOL and Fortran and all those kind of interesting, interesting technologies at that time and then moved on to visual C++. In that part, initially, I was in and the C# world and then from there moved to a little bit of Java, and the Cloud side, the cloud technologies on the front end development, like using React and really that Cloud technologies, I'm really interested in using it in the way how it is. The things are changing the world. Yeah, that's where my main interest at the moment is.

Phil Kell [00:07:00] Fantastic. Since I picked up a lot of different technologies along the way, and obviously moved into that world of both back. And Sumitra, on your side of things, as you mentioned you started out with, with Java, was that a kind of conscious choice, was that just the Vogue language at the time and kind of how has that developed over time.

Sumitra [00:07:16] Yeah, no, I think it was a conscious choice because for me, Java again, it made sense to me. Object-oriented programming just it was something relatable. I could see the sense in doing things in that way. And so it was just a natural choice. And I think I've always stayed in the Java space. There was a point in my career when I thought, maybe, maybe I need to try something different and I did. I tried to move into frontend skills a little bit more. I don't think I enjoyed it quite as much, so I had to move back. So I tried it; being a full-stack developer really wasn't for me. Definitely more backend Java skills for me, and I think I've pretty much stayed in that space. So now I tend to just explore other things while I'm at it. But I think the core skill set still stays as Java. And as I said, I think AWS and cloud services, that's another area which I find really interesting. So when possible, that's another area I try to get into a little bit more. But otherwise I would, I would say my core skill still stays as Java.

Phil Kell [00:08:21] Great. And I think that's one of the beauties of working in tech, right? You can, you can go down a more varied route. You can specialise, you know, there's so many different options for you.

Sumitra [00:08:31] Absolutely. There's just too many out there. You just have to choose the right ones.

Anu [00:08:35] Exactly.

Phil Kell [00:08:37] Fantastic. So Anu, if we could come to you first on this one. So you mentioned Home Office was your first kind of job in the public sector. So what kind of insights have you gained or taken away from being an engineer at the Home Office? What are those kind of initial differences I suppose that you've noticed?

Anu [00:08:54] Yeah, even though I joined a bit recently, I really, really, I can see is a great place to work as a Software Developer and is such a monster organisation. So it's a lot of multidisciplinary teams. We are working in a lot of amazing projects, which is making a real impact to a wide range of the population in the UK. So the domain that we are working,it's really, it's really, really interesting. So and the technology that we are using, that's all more than industry-standard technologies that we have the modern stack that we are working in at the moment. And that's really good and it is a good team. Our team is using the Agile methodologies and we do all the Agile ceremonies like daily stand-ups and planning and retrospective. All these ceremonies help us to deliver the work to the users very effectively. And the other modern technologies that we are using at the moment is, and again, if you see that all our applications are containerised and it's cloud-based, it is orchestrated through the Kubernetes and everything is hosted in either AWS or Azure. And yes, it's a good check that also it's really good to see.

Phil Kell [00:10:12] Fantastic. Excellent. So modern tech, modern processes and the opportunity to impact the lives of people all across the country. So yeah, I can definitely see that appeal to that. And Sumitra, is there anything you would like to add on to that?

Sumitra [00:10:26] I absolutely agree with everything Anu said, especially being part of that wider team trying to achieve a common goal. And then one of the really important things for me at least joining the Home Office was the tech for good aspect of the work we do at the Home Office has such a real impact on people's lives and working at the Home Office means we're developing services and products, not just for uses within the Home Office, it could be for other government departments and very often it's also for the public and this is why it's so important to get it right. So in order to do this, what we tend to do is we follow the GDS design principles in terms of what we build and where we put the user at the centre of focus, so to speak, because. We know if we don't build it right, people won't use it, and then service hasn't served its purpose fairly. So this is why when we build something we ensure the user needs are at the core of what we're trying to build and we design it right and then we need to build it right.

Sumitra [00:11:24] We need to quality test and make sure it's fit for purpose. And then we need to be able to maintain it going forward. There's a few aspects to this. Accessibility is very important to us as Home Office, the service or the product that we're building has to work for everyone, irrespective of whether people have specific access needs, etc. This is something that we look at quite a lot from in the Home Office point of view. Another very important aspect for us is the reliability of the services we provide. They need to be reliable. Users have to be able to rely that the service is going to be up and running for them to use at any point. So this is another big focus for us. There's a huge focus on SRE because of this and another one which I could bring up is the fact that we try and be open by default. We're very heavy, so GDS design principles say one of them is that we need to be open-sourced by default. There has to be a very good reason if we're not going to share our code, if we're not going to be reusing the code either within the Home Office or even outside, so open by default is another thing. And in order, I suppose, to make sure that we're doing all of this right, we try and do assessments so they might be Home Office assessments or they might be GDSs assessments. But we essentially have an independent panel of assessors looking at your service, why you've built it this way. Have you built it the right way? Have you thought of X, Y and Z to make sure that we're building it right? We believe in a consistent way and it's going to serve the user at the heart of it.

Phil Kell [00:12:54] Fantastic, really good answer, I think, you know, that's really interesting because that's obviously, you know, if we look at the commercial world or the private world again, that kind of user-centric design is just the way that things are done. But then from the Home Office perspective, your users are probably more diverse and more varied than almost any companies out there. You know, when we're talking about essentially the UK population, when when we look at demographics. So yeah, really interesting to hear those processes that you have in the background to make sure that those needs are met.

Sumitra [00:13:21] Absolutely.

Phil Kell [00:13:23] Fantastic. And yeah, if we could stick with you, Sumitra, could you let us know a little bit more about the Single Intelligence Platform and what kind of work is you're doing on it and what's it's aim.

Sumitra [00:13:32] The Single Intelligence Platform is a web platform. It enables the Home Office to easily create, access, and share actionable intelligence. So that's intelligence that can actually be actioned by the users. And in very simple terms, it just means Home Office users across various departments working together to keep our country safe by sharing this sort of intelligence information in a secure way, in a user-controlled or access-controlled way and in a timely manner. And there are various features, depending on the user roles, so different users try and achieve different things using the platform, and the platform enables this by providing specific features, depending on the role. It also helps to link up intelligence information to make it possible to see the wider picture of what's happening. So currently, we have thousands of users across various Home Office departments, possibly spread across the world, using the platform and the platform, as you can imagine, is up and running 24/7.

Sumitra [00:14:26] The meaning is to keep us all safe, and it does this by feeding other Home Office systems as well, which can link up this intelligence information. And we have to do this by providing a platform that's safe, secure and intuitive to use. And another thing, while we're doing all of this, we also want to save taxpayer money, so we need to make sure that we are building this right. We're getting it right the first time, we want to make sure it's quality assured so that it's going to provide that the service that it's intended to do so, we design it right, we build it with that in mind, we engineer it the way it wants it to. And yeah, that's essentially what the single intelligence platform is.

Sumitra [00:15:07] And in terms of what the team do. I suppose we do a lot, but never, ever short of work to do. To be honest, a lot of work has been done on accessibility to make sure the platform is accessible to the users, and a lot of work has been done to continuously improve the platform. Some of it might be improving sort of existing features, and some of it might be introducing new features. So an example, if I can give you that is a search monitor feature that we added to the platform recently. Users tend to use the search feature quite a lot on the platform, and they would put in search criteria do a search, and if they don't get results, they would come back again to repeat that search. So we made it easier by allowing them to stage the searches so that those criteria wouldn't have to be keyed in again and they could just repeat the search. And then when they started using that, they realised, well, actually, that's really useful. But what if something could tell me when those search criteria were found? So then we would need a save search monitor feature, which would actually monitor those saved searches and say, if we found a fit for your search criteria we'll pop an alert to the user to say your criteria have been fixed. You want to go and do your search again because you're going to find results. So that's that's how we sort of continuously improve on what we've got in order to provide what the users need.

Sumitra [00:16:27] And Anu, is there anything at all that you would like to add on the intelligence platform?

Anu [00:16:32] Yeah, I can add on some of the things which we do at the moment. Yes, we have lots of, well, what's always happening at the moment. What we are doing is migration of the ElasticSearch to a latest version, and another one is the automation of extraction of the data that we send across to different Home Office departments, as it was already said. So yeah, you do the enhancement of the functionality, but at the same time, we adjust the tech as well. So that to constantly improve the platform. So this is proving to be the right thing to do because even though the platform was live for the last five years, we are still going strong.

Sumitra [00:17:15] Awesome. Thank you very much. And you mentioned some of the tech stacks, but before, were they the stacks specifically that you were using on this this project? And could you just remind our listeners what stack it is that you're kind of using at the moment?

Anu [00:17:26] In this project, in Single Intelligence Platform, we use Java as a backend along with ElasticSearch and Redis and other technologies along with that. And we use React as a front end technology and obviously the database, aside from using a secure example and all these applications are containerised. As I mentioned earlier and using the communities and hosted in the AWS, this is managed by our platform called FCP, and we believe in the testimony and development and so automated testing is a part of it. So this helps us to deploy and developed applications faster. And again, making sure that there are no defects that have slipped through the cracks.

Phil Kell [00:18:20] Excellent. Again, you know, using modern technologies, solving modern problems. And I think, you know, for any engineers out there that are particularly passionate about security in particular, it sounds like an incredibly interesting and engaging challenge to to deal with, you know, a system that is sharing such sensitive information. I'm sure that the kind of dependencies and the various different things you have to factor in on the security side of things are very complex and therefore very interesting. Sumitra, as the users of the platform continue to grow, how will you kind of continue to deliver this service at scale?

Sumitra [00:18:56] As Anu mentioned, we use containerised services. We use Docker. We use Kubernetes for deployment. So to be honest scaling up is really easy. We just can't afford. We just have to update our pipelines to say we're going to bring up upwards and we tend to do this. If we, if we know that there's a peak of activity that's going to come up or we, for example, have a quiet and busier time coming up and we just scale up the codes and it's it's all done with no impact to the users. The users don't even know that something's changed, but in the background, which just cut the number of pods and everything's fine and when needed, we'll bring it back down so as not to waste any resources. In terms of the number of uses it has grown a lot. When the single intelligence platform went live we had users in the hundreds, and now we're looking at users well into the thousands, well over 5000 users. But we have an active automated user management process by which users who haven't logged in to the platform or haven't been using it are either disabled. Initially, they're disabled, and if they don't still don't use it, they're removed from their platform. This just means that we can control the number of users on the platform, and it's not. It's not growing because someone's forgotten to take them off, etc. But yes, we also have the standard sort of industry-standard of authentication authorisation. I won't go into too much detail on that for security reasons. But yes, we can scale up fairly easily and scale down as needed, and the users are also actively managed.

Phil Kell [00:20:27] Yeah, I think that the common answer is cloud computing and the impact it's had on availability of redundancy in all of these things in the past would have been a lot more challenging to kind of deal with. What's been your highlights whilst working on this platform?

Sumitra [00:20:44] There have been many highlights. To be honest, I would probably struggle to pick just one. So I'm going to pick a couple, actually. The first one I recall is when we did our 100th release. This happened last year and it was certainly one. It was an amazing, amazing moment for the team to have successfully completed 100 releases. Our releases don't always have huge fanfare around them. We tend to work methodically towards release, make sure things are in place. Things are usually in place well before the release date and then it just goes out. Users don't know about it because all they get is the improved versions. They don't. There's no downtime, no impact to them. And we just let them know by email saying: You've got a new release, you've now got a new feature set. So it was probably a highlight that could have easily been missed, except for the fact that it's a big thing to have a platform of this scale and then to be able to successfully do the 100th release and that was last April, so we're still going strong since then. Another highlight, I suppose, and this this happens quite often is when a user actually tells you how, how they enjoy using the platform. So this could be a two user research session, which might be after releasing a new feature. When we're prototyping a new feature, we go out, meet the users and they tell us this has been fantastic and it's made my job so much easier. And that is a definite highlight for the whole team because it's always a massive team effort to get anything done. And when a user says this is made their job easier, then that's sort of, yeah, that that's that's a highlight for us.

Phil Kell [00:22:19] Fantastic. You actually answered my follow up question to your first point before I'd asked it. So if you are releasing without fanfare, how do you then collect that feedback? How do you then get that understanding, but sounds like you've already got those processes in place to conduct those interviews and get that information right?

Sumitra [00:22:34] We do. Yeah, we also have another feature on our platform, which allows users to email us directly. So it's sort of, it's an open invitation for them to tell us, Do you like the system? Can we change anything? Can we improve anything? And it's essentially a feedback mailbox that we monitor quite often to see what we can do to further help users. So they have been direct way to tell us that they don't like something or they do like something and we can act on it.

Phil Kell [00:23:02] Fantastic. Thank you very much. So again, Anu, I appreciate you've not been working on this project for too long. So again, it might be one just for symmetry, but please do jump in if you have anything to add on this question. So have there been any challenges to your work? And if so, how did you kind of how do you overcome these? So we'll go to you first on this Sumitra.

Sumitra [00:23:20] When the platform is as large as the Single Intelligence Platform and when the rules are as varied as they are on our platform, there are always challenges. So I could give you sort of a specific example of a design challenge we had, which was our search feature. So our search, which is very important to users (users need that in order to be able to search for intelligence information). However, when doing user research, it became quite apparent that there were different needs for users. We had one set of users that needed a concise set of results based on their search criteria, so they could immediately go, wait and take action based on what they got back. There is another set of uses wanted a much broader search results set so that they could do more investigatory work on those results. So it was incredibly hard to create a design that would satisfy both users of both sets of users. We did do it, we managed to do it, and the feedback was fantastic. And that is is a fantastic feeling, but that was definitely one of the sort of challenges that we had. I'll handover to Anu [to see] if she's probably have the challenges of a technical nature.

Anu [00:24:28] Thanks. So yeah, I can say that ElasticSearch migration also is a challenge because the version we are moving into, we have to deploy that functionality to the user without any disruption to them and to mitigate this kind of risk. So we are doing a huge amount of clarity. As always, we are doing and we have the deployment device. We are planning to do a global deployment. And on top of that, the users and the stakeholders are always well informed about what is happening. A related advantage. So that's that's one thing which I can see it as a challenge, which I am facing at the moment.

Phil Kell [00:25:12] Fantastic. And that might bring us on nicely to our next question. So can you tell us a bit more about how the Home Office works in Agile? And I guess, do those processes and the agile way of working? Does that help with the challenge that you've just described?

Sumitra [00:25:25] As Anu just said, the Home Office is large organisation and teams do vary across portfolios and departments, so it's very difficult to talk about all the teams and how we work across. Even though the idea of the general thing is that we try and work in a product-centric way and a user-centred way that doesn't change, but different team compositions vary, I suppose. And so speaking about SIP team or Single Intelligence Platform team specifically, we have a product manager who works very closely with the business product owner and drives the vision of the platform. We have a delivery manager who keeps an eye on the actual delivery aspect while we work towards that vision. We have a principal engineer that's myself who oversees the engineering side of things. Make sure we're heading in the right technical direction. Then we have a business analyst who does the analysis work again, works very closely with our user researcher who reaches out to the users to understand what the users need to help the product manager and the product owner to prioritise. We have developers ranging from associate developers, apprentice developers to senior developers like Anu. We have a QA team who work very closely with the devs to ensure that anything we do, anything we put out is thoroughly quality, assured and tested, and also to ensure that we have all those automated testing in the pipeline that's needed in order to ensure this. When needed, we also do bring on sort of content designers or interaction designers if we need to work on specific features within the platform. As we are a live service, we tend to get support requests. So alongside all the continuous improvement work we do, we also get support for tickets or incidents. So we find a scrum band approach works best for us. Rather than trying to do a Kanban approach or a scrum approach, we tend to mostly follow the scrum band so we can marry up the support instance and the continuous improvement work in all our releases. That's how we work on the SIP team.

Phil Kell [00:27:26] Fantastic work, and I think that that plays into something that I'm hearing a lot talked about these days, which is making agile work for you rather than doing agile as just a set of instructions. You know what you done know is your pick the best from scrum. You pick the best from Kanban. You've crafted your own system that works best for your teams, right?

Sumitra [00:27:47] Yeah, absolutely, we've tried, so this is the best part about working at the Home Office. You have the guidelines, you have our guidelines and this is how you're supposed to work, but you work what's best for that team. So for the team, we tried different approaches and we found actually scrum and Kanban both don't quite suit us so scrum ban has been the way to go. We used your boards, et cetera, at all, as usual, but with the scrum ban approach.

Phil Kell [00:28:13] Great. Awesome. Yeah, I think some really good insight into how intricate and interesting that work is at the Home Office at the moment. See anyone out there listening, but is intrigued that that does think this sounds interesting. Please do get in touch with the Home Office's recruitment team will include some links in the description below, or you can also apply via the hackajob system as well. So what I want to touch on now is something that you kind of touched on a little bit earlier Sumitra, when you were talking about girls and getting into tech and perhaps initially having that passion. And then perhaps that passion kind of fades and kind of why is that? But I think from a personal standpoint, being a woman in tech, have you ever faced any particular barriers do you feel because of your gender?

Sumitra [00:28:58] I've spent most of my career in the private sector, and funnily enough, I can't say I have faced any specific barriers. I've never felt that I could not get something because I was a woman developer. However, that said, there have been many places when I felt that I didn't quite belong. And it could be because before joining the Home Office, I was always, always the only female developer in the team, and the Home Office was the first place that I joined and actually found another female developer and it was a refreshing change to be not the only female dev in the team. I'm not saying that that's the case everywhere, but it was the case in my journey and there were times when there was a bit of a, I suppose, a bit of a brutal feel about the teams that I was with. And I think this is one thing that does need to change for more women to sort of join the tech workforce. As women, we need to belong to the tech space just as much as men. And for this, we need more women to join so that we have more role models and more mentors and more people sort of getting those women developers in. So I think we're making the right steps towards this, but I also feel there's a long way to go. So barriers for me specifically, not too many, but I think I've always felt things could have been better.

Phil Kell [00:30:18] Fantastic. And I think that that applies to diversity across the board, whether we're talking gender or ethnicity and also different elements of diversity that we're looking for diverse opinions and teams we're looking for, people feel comfortable in that environment and not have kind of homogenous opinions and homogenous culture. So yeah, I think that definitely speaks to the problem in a wider sense. So we're going to come on just maybe some tips or some things that you could some advice you could perhaps give to young women who are potentially thinking about going on this journey. But first, it's great to come to you Anu, is this something that you've kind of faced or anything that you've you've experienced yourself?

Anu [00:30:53] It's funny enough, it is a similar similar story I have to say, as far as I have to say to Sumitra's. So yeah, many times when the teams, I was only female developer, at least in the early as an earlier career, earlier stage of my career and one of the companies, I was the only one female developer, the company itself. So, yeah, but now things are changing and really, really surprised and really is a good surprise to see that the Home Office is a different place. It's it. It is a lot of diversity and inclusion I can see in the Home Office. It's a really good thing.

Phil Kell [00:31:26] And I think that there has been some progress, definitely. I think the numbers show that I think it's perhaps not anywhere near as quick as we would like, and I think there's more to be done. But but yeah, I think it's it's nice to hear that at least the Home Office, you are experiencing a different environment. So yeah, I suppose any tips from either of you or advice, like I said, that you would give it to young women that are potentially thinking about a career in technology?

Sumitra [00:31:52] Absolutely. I think the first thing is we need to start them young. We need to get that love of analysing problems and trying to use their skills to to solve this problems at a young age. And I think girls out there who do enjoy that sort of thing and we need to encourage them into that tech career. But also, I think if there's someone that is considering a technical career but they're not sure about it. I would say the first thing I would say is don't hold yourself back. One of the things that we tend to do is women tend to overthink things a little bit and we sort of analyse and we would probably take that first step if we were really, really sure of success. And I think we tend to slightly be critical of ourselves. So I would say my first tip would be definitely, don't hold yourself back. Don't be over critical of yourself. If you know you've got gaps in your skill set or you want to learn something, work towards that, work towards closing those gaps and your skillset. If you've already started in your career, perhaps you might have technical gaps or you might have soft skill gaps, but you need to sort of work towards closing them. If it's a technical skill to read up about it, go to meetups, go to sessions and find out a little bit more. If it's soft skills, perhaps you don't have the confidence to do public speaking, start small. You know it might be a show and tell in your team, it might be a lunch and learn in your department, but start small and then you'll be able, but definitely work on those skills and build hold yourself back. So that's definitely my top tip. And I think as we get more women into the tech space automatically, we'll have more mentors and will have more role models for people wanting to enter the tech force. And I think that's definitely where we have to look to close the digital skills shortage.

Phil Kell [00:33:43] Great Sumitra, I couldn't agree more. I think it starts, in a way we've gone beyond universities and it starts at a school level, certainly and actually inspiring people that to get into it. And then you're right, then at that snowball effect that the overtime starts to filter in. But certainly there are more initiatives needed, I think, to inspire people at that young age so that then, you know, you just start people off on that journey. And in five, 10, 15 years time, we start to see those impact. But yes, certainly anything we can do in the short term as well to try and fix this problem and accelerate that needs to be done.

Sumitra [00:34:17] Can I jump in? Can I just bring in something that we do at the Home Office, which I think is really quite important for not just women, but for anyone who's really thinking of a career in tech and starting off. And so we do a lot of digital development programmes. So we have apprentices and we have interns join us every year and they are supported by the devs within the Home Office in order to grow their career. So there's a proper mechanism there in order for them to learn and grow while with us. And then eventually they can apply for sort of a substantive role with us. But there's a lot of programmes out there. So to anyone who is potentially thinking of progressing in their tech career, we do do programmes that might help to get that first step in.

Phil Kell [00:35:03] Yeah, I agree 100 percent and the work that the Home Office is doing sounds fantastic. There's also a lot of online learning free courses. There are so many ways to engage with that world of tech, so many communities you can get involved in online as well. So for anyone, that is. curious or maybe worrying about the financial side of it, there are lots of free options to get that information. I think there's also a fantastic organisation out there called Tech Returners, which focuses on helping people get back into work, who may be out of work, often maternity leave and things like this. So there are a lot of organisations out there doing fantastic work to try and fix these problems. But certainly the work at the Home Office is doing some also. Fantastic.

Phil Kell [00:35:42] So I guess second last question and then we'll open up anything else either of you want to raise. We can we can dive into. You may have already kind of answered this to an extent, so if so, don't worry, we can move on. But having previously worked in the private sector, why did you choose to continue your tech career at the Home Office and either you are welcome to take up?

Anu [00:36:05] Recently, when I was looking out for new opportunities, I came across this job opening in a Home Office and it was the first thing was I was impressed with the modern technologies that we just used here. And I already mentioned that the domain seems to be really, really attractive. So the how much impact we're going to give it back to the impact on the society and how much we can give back to the society that really drives me. And then it seems like there is a place where we can learn and develop the skills they already have now and the benefits like flexible working. They're just really appealing, which will give us a good work-life balance, which is very much needed nowadays.

Phil Kell [00:36:48] Great, awesome. Thank you very much, and Sumitra?

Sumitra [00:36:53] I did enjoy working in the private sector when I was there. I have no complaints, but I had also reached a point where I couldn't really see the value that I was bringing. So my work was appreciated, but not in a way that I could not directly relate to. So working for the Home Office meant I'd be working on projects that deliver greater impact and reach a much wider number of people. For me, that was a very important reason to consider the Home Office. Alongside that, like I said, that the perks of working in the civil service, the flexible working, the pensions, et cetera, and the fact that Work-Life Balance is actually really important to everyone. So those were my main reasons for choosing a tech career as a home office.

Phil Kell [00:37:34] Great, and I think what really stands out is it I think there's sometimes maybe a perception that public sector, you're not going to be working with the coolest tech. You may be not going to be learning quite so much, but actually, you know, you can blend that impact across the whole of the UK and the fact you can touch so many people's lives in different ways while also continuing to use cool modern tech. However, we want to describe it and learn new tech as well at the same time. So it's a really nice thing to do. So final question of the podcast. What advice would you give to engineers looking to join the Home Office?

Sumitra [00:38:09] I'd say go for it. If you'd like to join us, we'd love to hear from you. So the Home Office, well the Home Office Digital, we are in a phase where we are building our in-house capability, and this is just a really exciting time to be joining us. Our roles are advertised on Civil Service jobs. The recruitment processes tend to be long, but they are long for a reason. And part of it is because we have to ensure things are done right. For example, security clearance takes time, but we have to make sure that people are security clear so that they get the widest possible range of projects to work on. Our applications are anonymous, so we ask for a lot of detail to be taken out, and that's just to make sure that it's open and it's fair and there's nothing in there that could possibly be used to discriminate against one after the other. So it's so that everyone has a fair opportunity to their job. So the recruiting processes might look a bit long, a bit onerous, but they're there for a reason and they really do work. So you don't have tobe put off by them. If after hearing this, you'd you'd like to know more about what we do. We'd love to hear from you.

Sumitra [00:39:17] Great, fantastic and Anu, anything you'd like to add?

Anu [00:39:19] Yeah, we do hold regular online events so that we can get one of the teams, you can meet up with the teams and ask questions if you have any. So that would be an opportunity to find out more about us. And you can find us in Indeed and hackajob pages. Yeah, if you are interested then join us.

Phil Kell [00:39:38] Lovely. Thank you very much and yet couldn't agree more. It sounds like a fantastic opportunity. As mentioned earlier, to anyone listening check out the description. We'd have included some links and some easy ways for you to get in touch and get an application in, or at least start a conversation with the Home Office, which is obviously where it where it all starts. Fantastic. Thank you very much for joining us today, both Anu and Sumitra. Is there anything you wanted to discuss that we didn't get around to discussing any of the points you'd like to raise? If so, the floor is yours.

Sumitra [00:40:07] So if you are interested in knowing more to reach out to to our recruitment team and you'll find them on LinkedIn. And we probably put the links in in the comments, but just reach out directly to one of us to have a chat about what it's like and what the next recruitment events are going to happen.

Phil Kell [00:40:24] Thank you very much, Sumitra. Awesome. So thank you to Sumitra and Anu for joining us today. Some really, really great insight into the Home Office, as well as some great tips for women looking to get into to tech on some useful insights into their journey into tech in general. So thank you to both Anna and Sumitra. Thank you to everyone out there who's been listening. Hope you enjoyed today's podcast. I'm sure you did. And of course, like and subscribe and keep an eye out for the next one that drops. Thank you very much.

Anu [00:40:53] Thank you.

Sumitra [00:40:54] Thank you for having us.

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