Weeknotes s01e01

Pilot episode

Dan Barrett
Jan 13, 2017 · 5 min read

I committed to writing my own weeknotes in 2017, following the lead of public sector digital folk like Matt Jukes and Simon Wilson.

I’m not sure how well my work is going to translate here — my friends, family and (probably) many of my colleagues have no idea what I actually ‘do’ — but I am going to stick with it nonetheless. I’d appreciate feedback so that I can improve.

Also, much of my day to day work I can’t in good conscience put in the open on the internet [1]. So it may appear that I don’t do very much. Sorry!

To mitigate this, one thing I wanted to establish for these weeknotes was a personal, data-related thread to run over the course of the year.

After some thought, I’ve decided to track my meetings activity.


The consensus in my organisation is that high volume of meetings is a problem. People new to the organisation are surprised by the sheer amount of meetings. Personally, I feel meetings to be a problem. I think it’s a negative part of the organisational culture.

I want to try to fix this. Instead of asking advice or reading a book [2] I have decided to embark on a long-term study of my own meetings. For this, I am defining ‘meetings’ as appointments in my Microsoft Outlook calendar. Spontaneous gettings together (which I like) are exempt from the study, but things like interviews will count.

I will log my meetings activity on this sheet that I designed on Monday using a pencil, a piece of paper, and then Microsoft Word:


I will use the log to populate this spreadsheet which is open to public view.

I’m subjectively categorising meetings as Red / Amber / Green based on how I feel about them afterwards. Starting out, this strikes me as being of more importance (and potentially value) than categorising by meeting outcome alone.

I expect to iterate the process. Hopefully after a couple of months I will have gained some insight and can make positive changes. Or maybe I’ll discover that meetings aren’t a problem after all [3].

Week in brief

I didn’t make any cake for work this week, which is unusual.

On Monday there was a tube strike so I decided to have a great journey into work and back, which I did. I didn’t have any meetings which was really disconcerting. I tried to get my head down. The main highlight was starting work on a data strategy.

I also got a (sort of) professional shout out from guitar hero Matt Sweeney on Twitter, which made my day.

Tuesday started with the team weekly rally, which is when everybody gets together for 15 minutes and I talk about what’s going on and do housekeeping stuff. Topics included Slack and beards.

Michael and I pitched work we want to do with Southampton University to our Department Director which was positive. Also an opportunity to talk about wider progress and I realise we need to keep him better informed in a way that suits his needs.

I did some career coaching.

I had a catch up with Dia our product manager to review priorities. Main outcome was agreeing how Dia and Aidan would take over responsibility from me for writing the team’s fortnight notes, starting next week. A side benefit of this should be that the understanding of everything that’s happening on Data and Search won’t just be in my head.

I met David from the Research and Information team in the House of Commons for the first time. His team have data expertise and ideas and there’s clearly opportunity for future collaboration. We agreed I’d come along to his all staff meeting to speak, and also speak at a Librarians open day he’s arranging.

I met our Department Director a second time update on progress with ‘business intelligence’. At the end of last year I volunteered to bring together and lead a multidisciplinary team to deliver and iterate internal data dashboards to support management decision making in several parts of the organisation…

It’s in the early stages. I’m confident because there are lots of good people around.

Wednesday started with Matt’s Business Systems team’s fortnightly showcase. I’ve only missed a handful of these in the past four years. There’s always rapid progress on show — a steady stream of new and improved software to help the functions of Parliament.

In the afternoon I was interviewing for an Automation Developer for the team. A successful outcome, fingers crossed.

On Thursday I worked on recruitment and had several one to one meetings, with team members and my Director, Emma. I like one to one meetings.

On Friday I was interviewing for a Data Analyst. I was interviewing with Robert for the first time, he was great.

We’ve put real effort into this role. I wrote a blog post about recruitment, but that’s easy. My colleague Julie actually put some ‘product’ thinking about recruitment into practice last year. One of the things Julie’s team focused on was this Data Analyst role.

I don’t want to go crazy with assuming cause and effect, but I am pretty experienced at recruiting in this organisation. For this Data Analyst role we’ve had

  • More applicants than in my usual experience(roughly double)
  • Higher standard of applications (was very tough to put together a shortlist)
  • High standard so far from shortlisted candidates (more interviews to do)
  • A 50/50 gender split on the shortlist (this has never happened to me)

I’m sure the long game has paid off here. A really good end to the week.

[1] This is not meant to be intriguing

[2] Sometimes I need to work things out for myself

[3] If that’s the case I will move on to fix my email (which is an giant, unmitigated pile of hellish wrong)

Dan Barrett

Written by

Head of Data Science at Citizens Advice. These are my personal thoughts on work.

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