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BEIS heads of profession - who they are and what they do

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Communities of practice, Digital data and technology, People and Skills

Lorena Sutherland, Head of Content Design at BEIS, explains who the heads of profession (called ‘heads of community’ in some departments) are and what they do.

Lorena Sutherland, talking to her colleagues in an office

Our heads of profession recently gave a talk at an All Staff meeting about who they are and what they do. We wanted to share this on the blog too, so here’s an introduction to life as a head of profession at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

We’ve got five heads of profession here, and they are:

  • Aoife Ni Mhorain, Head of User Research
  • Darius Pocha, Head of Design
  • Lorena Sutherland, Head of Content Design
  • Mark Dalgarno, Head of Agile Delivery
  • Simon Massey, Head of Technical Architecture

The heads of profession have five main responsibilities.

Recruit and appoint the best people

The heads of profession help to find and hire the best people. They know what good looks like when it comes to hiring talent and they also look for specialists who will contribute to the wider community in their profession. Historically, the civil service hasn’t developed its own digital specialists, so a lot of the search is externally focused. There are challenges in persuading talented digital specialists that they want to work in government, but we’re getting there.

Manage and coach colleagues

A big part of being a head of profession is coaching and developing specialists. heads of profession not only monitor performance, but promote an ethos of teaching, learning, mentoring and community participation. Part of this relates to BEIS's commitment to developing more civil servants into digital specialists. More broadly, heads of profession contribute significantly to the Government Digital Service’s digital, data and technology profession’s work.

Colleagues seemingly discussing something

Support and challenge delivery teams

As well as supporting other specialists, the heads of profession help to shape delivery teams and help others understand the role of specialists in the team. They support teams so that quality is delivered at the right pace, and that the work meets the GDS Digital Service Standard. Where quality falls short, the heads of profession will work with teams to address this.

They’re also there to unblock specialists, to help delivery go faster. For example, it's often useful to connect a specialist with their wider cross-government specialist community, where the challenges they are facing may have been met and dealt with before.

Build and contribute to a thriving community

By nurturing specialist communities in BEIS, the heads of profession can support people working in their area of expertise. They encourage specialists to help and learn from one another and to play an active part in cross-government communities. The heads of profession believe that the whole of digital government is enhanced when people in different departments share what they’re working on, and learn from each other’s experiences.

They also walk the talk, by meeting regularly with colleagues across government in similar roles, but often from very different types of department. These meetups let them talk about shared issues like recruitment, capability and strategy in their professions.

Spread the word

The heads of profession are the biggest advocates for their specialisms and they want to inspire everyone in their profession to be as passionate as they are. They also help to define and share what good looks like, and they publicly represent BEIS as a place where we build great services that meet user needs.

Mark Dalgarno has been running agile workshops with teams at BEIS, and this is what one of the teams had to say:

“Our policy team felt like agile was a gimmick — or at best a foreign language that digital teams spoke. Now they understand how and why we work like this, and are using agile methods like visual management and show and tells in their everyday ways of working.”

We’re still working on it

Heads of profession are still a pretty new concept in government and we know we’re going to get some things wrong as we go along. That’s why we will keep reviewing our progress and iterating the role; we hope to tell you more about how we’re getting on in the future.

Lorena Sutherland is Head of Content Design, BEIS - @lolylena

Developing communities of practice across government is one of the priorities of the Digital, Data and Technology Profession team. If you'd like to know more please email us.

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  1. Comment by Peter Jordan posted on

    I appreciate this post is on the Digital People blog, but the post itself doesn't contextualise the Heads of Profession/Community as a digital thing.

    Heads of Profession are long established roles in the civil service in a wider context.

    • Replies to Peter Jordan>

      Comment by Lorena Sutherland posted on

      Thanks Peter. I think that having heads of profession similar to those that already exist in the civil service is part of the overall move to create recognition and structure for digital roles. It helps to build and support these newer professions in government.