Up is not always better

I accepted a full time permanent role in Government as a Service Owner. 3 weeks later, I resigned. Here's why.

Up is not always better
Photo by Fab Lentz / Unsplash

I accepted a full time permanent role in Government as a Service Owner. 3 weeks later, I resigned. Here's why.

I'd always assumed climbing higher up in a company was better - climb the corporate ladder. I've learnt a valuable lesson, going up in an organisation is not always better.

I had been running Cluster Consulting for a year when an opportunity to join a high performing Government department presented itself. I wasn't looking for anything new - I was in an interesting contract with a great team, but the opportunity to become a Service Owner was alluring.

I applied, asked the right questions and heard the right answers during interview. I accepted the role as Service Owner for 'Security and Intelligence', the counter terrorism and intelligence gathering service area in Government.

Going from a Senior Product Manager role to a Service Owner is a big step 'up' an organisation. I went from working with, and managing, a team or two - if budgets were stretched, to having responsibility for an entire service area.

This service area contained several legacy pieces of software with active legacy migration plans, and a handful of smaller services. Big contracts had been awarded prior to me joining, although most of the managed service teams hadn't been onboarded. A major hiring frenzy was underway for full time Civil Service staff in my service area - Those roles are super interesting, and you should absolutely go check them out.

At the end of day 3, I had identified 3 red flags:

  1. Onboarding - The onboarding experience was non-existent, stakeholders were unaware of my existence, and generally it was a poor 'out of the gate' experience.
  2. Scope - There appeared to be a large discrepancy between the expected role of a Service Owner and the reality this service area needed given its current state.
  3. Bureaucracy - Checks and balances should exist, they are vital in Government. If I didn't understand the importance of a request, I'd reply with my favourite phrase I picked up whilst working at Google - "for why?". The reply "I don't know, we just need to" formed most answers.

Alongside the red flags, a bigger problem was brewing.

I get out of bed in the morning to build interesting things with interesting teams. This is a north star goal and there is always a balance between working towards this north star goal and the reality of 'everything else' which needs to happen; the meetings, approvals, board sessions, etc.

It's often necessary for there to be a balance between building interesting things with interesting teams and everything else. Unfortunately this Service Owner role was 95% of effort towards the everything else category.

Life is too short already to not pursue your goal.  

It's a great role in Government, pushing us forward in a service area that keeps us all safer but it's not the right role for me as the balance was too skewed.  

What's next?

Great question. There's two aspects to this:

  1. I'll be heading back into freelancing / contracting with renewed love and appreciation for building interesting things with interesting teams!
  2. Also, I do have a borked relationship with work - I derive most of my personal value from the work I do and I'm working to create a healthier balance. To that end, I'm also going to be picking up my camera a lot more to take photos and upload YouTube videos again too.
Get in touch if you need a Jess shaped builder in your team!

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