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How to hit the ground running in a pandemic

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Our Culture, Our People

I wasn't actively seeking a new opportunity before joining BPDTS as Head of Hybrid Cloud Services Operations. I had dipped my toe in the water following approaches from two private sector organisations, but I was keen to remain in government where I had spent much of my career.

In my most recent role as Technical Operations Manager, I led technical resources across 7 teams responsible for data centre facility management, storage and compute infrastructure, end-user computing, and application delivery. After spending 20 years working in different roles at Manchester City Council, I was ready for a change of pace and scale.

I had taken Manchester City Council through a significant transformation, removing legacy infrastructure and replacing it with an enterprise cloud computing platform, adopting a hybrid cloud approach. The opportunity to join BPDTS was timely and ticked all the boxes, I’d read great things about the organisation and the scale of transformation they were driving at DWP, it was an opportunity I had to take.

The same but different

I'm in my wheelhouse with infrastructure operations in the public sector, where there is opportunity to lead on projects which ultimately enable the delivery of critical 24x7 services to internal users and citizens – that's where I want to be.

At BPDTS, my focus remains on the operational support and delivery of new resilient, and robust services. What's different is the scale of operations, greater emphasis on cloud adoption, the pace of change, and the level of influence I have as a member of DWP's Hybrid Cloud Services Senior Leadership Team.

BPDTS gives me the best of both worlds, delivering and improving services for citizens through digital transformation, using enterprise-class tools and infrastructure.

Mike Farrington, Head of Hybrid Cloud Services Operations at BPDTS, presenting at a conference

Increased visibility in a flatter model

As a public servant, I'm no stranger to managing projects across a complex matrix of communities. However, I wasn't sure what the new role would bring, given the size of DWP and the scale of its operations.

I started in January of 2020 and only managed to get my feet under the table when the pandemic hit. Any apprehension I felt about the size of DWP dissipated quickly. BPDTS operates a simpler business model based on a flat hierarchy. Fewer layers make decision making less cumbersome and increases visibility across the organisation.

Engaged leadership

The new starter conference is an excellent example of how engaged the BPDTS leadership team is. Onboarding events are designed to deliver a lot of information in a short period. How people engage with each other, understanding the business plan and objectives, seeing how everyone plays a part in the organisation and how it delivers are essential to getting off on the right foot.

Usually, the event is a face-to-face conference; but, with COVID, that wasn't possible. Instead, new starters had to meet virtually using video conference, with the challenge being how to recreate that sense of community and connection.

We were introduced to the executive team through a series of presentations and interactive discussions. The new employees had the entire executive team at their disposal for 4 or 5 hours, at a time when the team is under immense pressure due to the current circumstances; this really says a lot about the culture at BPDTS, particularly the emphasis on engagement.

Bonding with colleagues

These events are also meant to instil a sense of belonging and kinship. Ordinarily, some people might not have a lot to say about themselves or want to share with a roomful of 40 or 50 people. The leaders on the call put people at ease, going out of their way to create an atmosphere of belonging. We left the event feeling like we were part of a 'class' of graduates united with a common purpose.

Committed and capable

I've been extremely fortunate to inherit a team of highly skilled engineers. The group I manage is geographically dispersed. I'm based in Manchester, and a lot of the team are located in Newcastle and Blackpool. The individuals all operate in a way that demonstrates their personal and professional commitment to deliver and support services in a rapidly changing environment.

Peel Park, Blackpool
Peel Park, Blackpool

Working in the infrastructure area requires a level of flexibility. We can't always work from 9 to 5 pm. Some things can't be done during business hours and need to be done at the weekend or in the middle of the night. It's vitally important that we have the commitment and flexibility to operate in this way.

Trust at the heart

BPDTS relies heavily on personal accountability. We are expected to moderate our work habits, manage our obligations, and deliver outcomes, whether working from home or on-site.

As a manager, I entrust my team to work the hours they need to see a job through to the conclusion. As long as people are delivering outcomes, BPDTS is very accommodating.

I've worked remotely in other jobs. When lockdown hit, I wasn't as impacted as other colleagues. However, settling into an organisation as a manager has its challenges when everyone is working from home.

When every meeting is virtual, it can be exhausting. Establishing work-life balance when routines are disrupted can be difficult. It's easy to carry on working all hours while working from home.

BPDTS has taken significant steps to ensure the wellbeing of its people is maintained. Interacting with my team, establishing project priorities, coping with conditions outside of our control were areas we worked through as an organisation.

BPDTS also supports volunteering. I've been a primary school governor for a number of years, something I really enjoy. Designated volunteering time and Smart Working enables me to balance the activities I value personally with the work I'm doing professionally.

Empowering cultural transformation

At BPDTS, managers and employees are encouraged to take ownership and actively participate in shaping how the company operates. The policies and programmes developed to support employees are not driven top-down, they're evolved through employee input and built by employees working across different cultural work streams.

These work streams are open for anyone to join. For example, if I'm passionate or have expertise in an area connected to a work stream, performance management, or tooling evaluation, I can join the team working on the projects in these areas.

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