This month we continued our Made Tech Team Interviews series with our Head of Design Harry to better understand his role and take a look at what he likes most about working here at Made Tech.
Our User-Centred Design team helps public sector organisations design and deliver good public services that focus specifically on outcomes for people and society at large. The team does this by conducting user research to develop a detailed understanding of user needs, designing and prototyping user-centric solutions, and considering aspects such as content and interaction design to ensure accessibility.
If you’d like to watch the full interview, you can see it here.
Q: Outside of work, what hobbies do you have?
A: I’m quite into trying to learn the trumpet at the minute. I think it’s a quite joyful instrument, and my partner got me some lessons a few years ago — so I’m just trying to keep up with that. I’ve also got this website of photographs of wheelie bins called govbins.uk, which has sort of mushroomed a bit in the last few years. People submit their own photos to it now! What was really just a silly side project turned into something else — so that takes up a bit of my time (but not too much, luckily!)
Q: So tell us about your life before you joined Made Tech. Had you worked in the public sector before?
A: Quite a lot of my professional life has been in the public sector. I worked in the NHS for a couple of years, particularly a clinic that treated people with gambling problems, and I was their first non-clinical member of the team. There was also Tim who ran reception, and he was the person I worked with most as we worked on the most common things people would come to the clinic with.
Then I went to go and work at the Government Digital Service after that for a few years. I mostly worked on design patterns on the design system — they didn’t have a name then, but we called it Patterns and Guidance. Then, I worked at my friend’s design agency — we mostly worked with tech companies like Google DeepMind.
Before I came here, I worked at the Red Cross for two years, mostly working on things like fires and floods, and a lot of stuff on the Civil Contingencies Act, which ties the Red Cross in with the government when big emergencies happen. And now I’m here!
Q: How long have you been at Made Tech? How did you find out about us?
A: This is week 5. I think it was this time last year when we were finding our feet being in lockdown. I saw a tweet about the virtual visits tool that we really quickly built for an NHS trust, and I was just really impressed with the speed and quality it got built. I thought there was something interesting there.
Tom Taylor, who’s one of the Market Principals here at Made Tech, got in touch because I’d requested one of the books. We had a coffee in Bristol and I asked him about design roles — things followed on from there really!
Q: What was your interview process like?
A: At first it was a lot of informal chats, because I didn’t know anyone at Made Tech really. I chatted with Luke, the CTO and I talked him through some of the work I’d done in the public sector. Then we had a couple more formal interviews, I met more members of the team and I came here a few months later.
Q: What does your role here involve?
A: I guess it’s three different things. One — it’s a creative role. What should public services be like? How should they achieve outcomes for people? How are we going to really make technology work for people?
Ultimately, design is the point at which humans meet technology. That’s a big part of my role — defining the creative vision for how we do public services and design them. Technology is really blurring our ideas of what institutions are, the boundaries between us, their responsibilities, and the speed at which stuff can happen.
The second one is more like team management, so spending time with people who report into me, understanding how to help them grow in their roles and what things need to happen in their teams, and create a structure for people to grow into.
The last one is operational — so pay bands, line management, the big and small stuff. I think they broadly fall into those three buckets.
Q: What do you like most about your role?
A: The variety of work Made Tech does. I love the public sector, and even just this morning in our weekly design meeting, we had people working in teams looking at support for witnesses in court cases, safety beacons at sea, a care register. As a step on from that, it’s making space for others to do really good work. I get a real buzz from making space for people to do design. It’s like the invisible bit of design — everyone sees the interesting prototypes and things we use. But actually the space that needs to be made to enable people to do really great work — that’s just as important.
Q: What are some of the most challenging things about this role?
A: I think trying to strike a balance between stuff that needs to be addressed really urgently with thinking and being strategic. I guess also design more broadly during the pandemic. There’s time away from screens when a team’s trying to get to grips with a shared understanding of a problem or idea. It’s so difficult to do that at the minute — I’ve had to make a point of turning Slack off.
Q: Do you have any advice for someone who wants to join your team?
A: First, have less things in your CV! We make a point of letting people share an example of their work — we want to understand how you work and how you think. Another one is try and have fewer words. There’s that old design idiom of ‘less is more’ and it genuinely is, especially if we’re looking at lots of applications. If someone has really spent time on describing what they’ve done and what they’re interested in really crisply, I always give a sigh of relief.
Lastly, talk about what problems you’re interested in. The public sector has so many interesting problems to work in and on, so having a curiosity about that helps us understand you’re interested in problems.
Q: What do you like most about working at Made Tech?
A: I really like the emphasis on problem-solving. I’ve worked in a couple of places where there has been an attitude that we need to have enough decisions made so we can start building stuff. I’ve seen that there is a super-appetite here that engineers want to solve problems and be involved in research. I think that’s something I’ve really enjoyed.
Q: Do you have any books or resources you’d recommend for someone interested in your team?
A: Someone who is interested in design might already be aware of this, but there’s a great book called Good Services by Lou Downe. It’s a really great grounding in what makes a good service. Most design books focus on process rather than actually talking about the thing we’re designing, and Lou really nails what actually is a good service.
For people who are more interested in the design management side of things, I’d recommend Org Design for Design Orgs by the O’Reilly house. I’d also recommend The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo, who was the first designers at Facebook — she’s got a really human way of writing, which is nice!
If you have any more questions for Harry about his role here, you can get in touch by reaching out on LinkedIn. Additionally, if you are interested in joining our team, you can view our current open positions here. Be sure to stay tuned for our next Made Tech Team Interview coming next month.