Research shows that by learning new skills, you can improve your wellbeing. I always block out 20% of my time every week for learning and development. Learning makes me feel better about myself, gives me a sense of purpose and gives me greater self confidence in my abilities.
That’s why when I saw that Civil Service Live was going online this year, I felt I should still try and take part, even if that meant taking part ‘virtually’. I’ve attended ‘in person’ several of these events over the years. They offer a great opportunity to get out and meet other civil servants and develop my network. The sessions are always varied, and you can pick and choose what suits you.
This year was obviously very different, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Beforehand I’d ‘enrolled’ in several sessions – some on leadership, and another on wellbeing. The agenda of the event was designed to ‘educate, engage and inspire’ and was firmly focused on the themes of the Civil Service vision ‘A Brilliant Civil Service’. There was plenty of choice in terms of what you could sign up for.
I was pleasantly surprised that each session was easily accessible, with transcription running along the bottom. As the sessions were spaced out and online I was able to get some of the day job done at the same time. Some of the sessions I attended were really inspirational and it was nice to hear a focus on user centred design. The Physical Intelligence session was interesting and if you missed it you can still do your own physical intelligence quiz.
What I really missed this year though was the networking, and the chance to chat to colleagues about the sessions. For me, being there in person helps to embed the learning as you can often chat about sessions after they’ve taken place. They tried an online chat forum after each session, but it was very difficult to engage with.
I recently learned that I have dyslexia, dyspraxia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as well as high functioning autism - which presents itself in poor working memory and an inclination to race ahead to the next thing. As a female with these conditions I have learned to mask, camouflage and fit in. I am extremely clumsy and forgetful. For example, in a virtual training session, I usually struggle to stay focussed and absorb the information.
To overcome this, I have requested copies of each of the Civil Service Live sessions which I joined (along with transcripts) so I can review and reflect on the content at my own pace. It was encouraging to see that the organisers were strongly committed to ensuring the event was as accessible as possible for people.
Investing in my future is so important to me. I am now receiving workplace strategy coaching to help me understand my neurodiversity, and in turn make things a little easier for myself. To me, every day is a learning day, an opportunity to grow my knowledge. One of the NHS five ways to wellbeing is to 'Keep Learning’ - embrace new experiences, see opportunities and surprise yourself.
I began my career in Defra 14 years ago as a graphic designer within a communications team. Nowadays, as a senior user researcher my role involves me supporting the content design team. My main aim is to make things easy for people, keeping individuals at the heart of the service. I speak to our users to try and understand them and the challenges they face, and I work closely with digital colleagues to design a solution to meet those user needs. Growing up I was obsessed with the Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland. I think this reflects in my personality today - tenaciously curious and always trying to help others, and perhaps a little obsessed with shoes (who wouldn’t want a pair of magical ruby slippers?)