I joined the civil service in 1990 at the age of 21, after graduating from Queen Mary College, London with a degree in politics. My degree led me to think that the Civil Service would be an interesting place to work but quite honestly I had very little idea what kind of careers it offered.
I did not join the Civil Service through the Graduate Fast Stream but started at the front line, in the Department for Social Security (DSS). This was a long way away from my imagined career as a Whitehall mandarin.
However, I am so pleased that I was posted to the DSS (now DWP) as it has offered me an extraordinary range of career opportunities. I started my career in a local social security office and have progressed through jobs in pensions policy, project management and a stint in a Minister’s office. I have worked in London, the Midlands and in Newcastle for the Department.
The vast majority of my career has been in customer service delivery – mostly leading operations in ensuring we deliver an excellent service to the citizens of this country. Quite often this can be vulnerable or disadvantaged people who need our help at a difficult time in their lives. In the case of Jobcentre Plus, we also ensure we meet the needs of business who have vacancies we can help them fill.
My role is therefore akin to running a business – we have services to deliver at large scale across the country (750 locations); a budget to control and deliver increasing efficiency within (£1.5bn); and a workforce to lead, motivate and inspire (40 000 staff). I get enormous satisfaction from all of those elements of the job. My colleagues in operations are hugely driven by their dedication to customer service and making a difference to the communities they live and work within. There is no better satisfaction from a job when a customer who has been unemployed for some time finds work with your help and tells you how that will transform their life and that of their family.
I am about as far away from the stereotypical Whitehall mandarin as you can imagine. I spend more time out of London and with colleagues and customers than I do with Ministers or in the corridors of power.