Being a Developer at DWP Digital is unlike any other Developer role you can think of. Forget your initial idea of what being a Civil Servant might entail, we’re going to get straight into what it’s really like working with cutting-edge tech on exciting projects that impact users nationally. If you’ve ever wanted to make a difference whilst doing the work you enjoy, then read on!
We spent some time with Shivangi, a Software Engineer at DWP Digital. She first started working in consultancy services in India, but after joining a startup that specialised in AI-based security and building software, she developed a keen interest in AI. This led her to pursue a Masters in this field, which she finds handy in her current role as a Software Engineer. Let’s find out what about her latest work on digitising the National Insurance application.
Tell us about the project you’re working on and the impact it has
Before 2019, applying for a National Insurance number was a completely offline process, so you had to physically call someone, go to an appointment and then go through a lot of face-to-face contact. We wanted to cut this out and make it easier so we started working on this project and it went live in July 2021. Now, you can open the application, fill in the form and that’s it - super simple. A lot of frontend and backend work went into this.
It’s hard to believe it wasn’t like this before, you must have used some interesting technologies. Which tech stack do you use at DWP Digital?
I had to learn Typescript – which is more secure – but DWP provided a lot of time to get to grips with it and also a lot of training too. This makes it very accessible, and you can become a full stack developer knowing just one language.
What insights have you gained or taken away from working as a Software Engineer, especially at DWP?
At DWP Digital, we like to work with the latest versions of everything so contrary to popular belief, we’re the people pioneering technologies which is exciting. We focus a lot on security and accessibility and have dedicated teams for that as we store a lot of personal information data. So from the point we get it to the point it’s stored, everything is encrypted and access is strictly limited. We also pay a lot of attention to accessibility, so not assuming that every user can use a site or has all the facilities to use our site.
Was working during COVID challenging for the application?
Because I started during the pandemic, it could seem like it would be challenging but actually, in DWP Digital it’s very easy for us to stay at home and work. Of course, face-to-face meetings and communication are great but we are still able to pair program on calls.
What have been your highlights of working with DWP?
Firstly the people are really smart which motivates me to work every day. I know that if there is a challenge there are people around me that are able to help with it, that’s one of the best things of working at DWP Digital.
One of the highlights of this particular project has been being responsible for the document upload feature which proved a very big deal when we released it. Basically, now you can just upload your identity documents as the click of a button rather than send them individually so it saves time and money.
Have you had any mentors whilst working, and if so what did they help you with?
When it comes to mentors, in DWP, there’s an option also for ethnic minorities to get a mentor. I’m not in that programme yet but for me, my mentors have been my managers and my team leads. We usually have 1:1 meetings every month which I started to use for my progression and I’ve seen a huge difference. With my previous line manager we were talking about which direction I should progress in; should I stay in software engineering or go into a more managerial role. Because he was a manager he helped me with that. Now my team lead is my manager, so with him, I ask how I can prepare for a promotion and things I can be focussing on too.
How does DWP Digital support you with training and development and perks?
DWP Digital has lists of qualifications required for any role within the company. For example, I’m trying to go from a Software Engineer to Senior Software Engineer and I know exactly which skills I need to work on to get there. There’s training we can take for improving skills too, you can get subscriptions to Plural Sight, Udemy etc. Even if you’re not preparing for a promotion, you also need these generally to upskill for a new feature you might have to implement.
What advice would you give to women who want to progress in tech? How is the DWP helping with this?
Women tend to only apply for roles they feel 100% qualified for, but actually, we should just go for roles that we maybe aren’t fully qualified for. We should challenge ourselves. In DWP, we have a lot of networks for women, Women in Digital, DWP Women’s network, Digital Voices, etc. Once you come into the company you’ll feel pretty supported in that way. Because there are so many women around, you won’t feel discriminated against. It’s a really good environment to work in.
There’s also flexible working. If you work more hours in a certain day you can take it back the next day. You’re also allowed to work at times that can suit you and your situation as well. It’s really considerate.
We have a really diverse workforce and that’s because we have anonymised applications. There’s nothing to connect your application with your identity, so it’s more of a level playing field. Also, DWP Digital has this great thing where if you are part of the Commonwealth, you can apply for their roles. For example:
- UK nationals
- nationals of Commonwealth countries who have the right to work in the UK
- nationals of the Republic of Ireland
- nationals from the EU, EEA or Switzerland with settled or pre-settled status or who apply for either status by the deadline of the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS)
- relevant EU, EEA, Swiss or Turkish nationals working in the Civil Service
- relevant EU, EEA, Swiss or Turkish nationals who have built up the right to work in the Civil Service
- certain family members of the relevant EU, EEA, Swiss or Turkish nationals
Lastly, do you have any tips or learnings that you would like to share with us?
One of the things that I’ve noticed in my day-to-day work is that when we start off working in tech we’re so focused on getting things done by ourselves. But when you start working in a company on such an awesome team, being individualistic isn’t important anymore. Now I know there’s a whole excellent team to support me, I tend to ask more questions which has proved to not only speed up the process but gives more options around how to do things. So that’s one thing I’d like to share; ask people for help.