In 2014, after almost nine years working in a variety of roles in local government, I moved into consulting and joined Methods, a significant career change for me in a number of ways. A new sector and working culture to adapt to, the possibility of travel to far-flung parts of the UK, being part of a small and fast-growing company, and a flatter, less hierarchical organisational structure to name just a few. When I made the move, I wanted to give myself two years to see how I fared before deciding what to do next. Such is the pace at which things move in the world of consultancy, I’ve just passed four years with Methods and I’ve barely paused for breath! The fact I haven’t felt the need to reconsider my move or pined for a return to my days of working directly in local government would suggest that I made the right decision.

 

 

A big part of this is that I continue to work in the public sector almost every day. As a self-confessed ‘local government geek‘, I’m passionate about public services and the role they can play in improving people’s lives and strengthening communities. I’ve also seen first-hand where public services have been poorly designed, commissioned, or delivered and the negative consequences and wasted resources this results in. I’m therefore strongly motivated by finding new and innovative approaches to delivery, which my role as a consultant gives me ample opportunity to explore.

A significant learning curve since joining Methods has been in relation to technology. Within a local government environment, I’d always thought of myself as reasonably tech savvy, I was (relatively) young, had grown up around computers, and knew my way around the Microsoft Office suite (albeit Office 2003 and Windows XP which my local authority at the time was still labouring with!). Joining a technology-focused consultancy was therefore a big shock as I realised just how little I really knew. The first few months were spent trying to understand what this mysterious entity called ‘the Cloud’ was, picking apart the difference between SCCM, SCSM, and SCOM, and clarifying whether a DMZ was part of a firewall or just somewhere in between North and South Korea. Above all that though, the role has really been about learning how technology can improve outcomes for citizens and how to expound the benefits to other ‘non-techies’ in the public sector, rather than trying to learn too much about the technology itself.

The role is not always easy. I often have to remind myself and my colleagues that if the challenge we’ve been brought into solve was a simple one or the organisation we’ve been brought in to help a highly effective one then we probably wouldn’t be there. The very fact that the challenge is significant or that previous attempts to achieve change have not fully succeeded is precisely why our support has been sought. I’m fortunate to work alongside equally motivated and passionate colleagues which helps to make these challenges surmountable and ensures that we add value to our clients in everything we do.

 

I am also often reminded of something a senior colleague said early on in my Methods career. For him, consultancy is not about being smarter than the client – instead it’s about having the following three things, some or all of which the client tends to lack or struggle to direct towards a single issue:

Focus

Without a ‘day job’ within the client organisation, we are free to focus our energies on solving a specific challenge or problem without constantly being called away to fight the latest organisational ‘fire’ (a common experience in my previous roles in local government). We can also clearly define the problem from the outset, agree a set of activities to tackle it, and focus on getting to some practical solutions quickly.

Time

With that focus comes dedicated time to apply critical thought to a problem and to find new ways to tackle issues. The pace and intensity of our work is significant so it often doesn’t feel like we have the luxury of time, but working on consultancy assignments does at least allow us to get full value from the time we do have.

Experience

It’s rare that the challenge facing an organisation is unique, but often organisations can feel that they alone are facing a ‘perfect storm’ of challenges. We can bring experience from elsewhere, both from our own past career experience (both within and outside of consultancy) and from the wealth of knowledge that exists within our colleagues in Methods and the partner companies with which we work. Applying this experience, while tailoring it to the particular context in which that client works is key. I’m pleased to say Methods aren’t about ‘one size fits all’ solutions.

 

So what’s next for me?

I remain passionate about public services and more committed than ever to seeking new and innovative ways to improve them. Having become a father for the first time a year ago, work-life balance has become more important than ever, but parenthood and consultancy can be compatible as many of my colleagues have shown. The hours can be long sometimes, but equally the ability to work with greater autonomy and flexibility than I’ve known in previous roles means that family doesn’t have to come second. I’m grateful for the new skills and experiences that the last four years in consultancy has given me, the opportunities to challenge and stretch myself, and the benefit of working across a wide variety of clients in a number of parts of the public sector. Working for a values-led consultancy with an ethos that matches my own has also been critical, so I’m confident that the future is bright and that there are lots more challenges to face in the next phase of my career.


For more information on current vacancies visit: https://methods.co.uk/careers/ or e
mail Dan Gilby at dan.gilby@methods.co.uk.