I’ve missed a couple of week notes. One because I was on holiday, and one because I forgot (oops!). I’m back on it now though, and seeing as its been three weeks since the last week note, here’s three updates.

The digital service is taking shape

This week was the end of our latest sprint delivering our upcoming digital service. We’re about half-way through private beta now, and the service is actually starting to look like a service. Things work. We have entire journeys built out. It’s really taking shape.

We’re also finding lots of avenues for deep user research and, potentially, opportunities to contribute back to the GOV.UK Design System.

For example, as part of the service we’re building an administrative interface so that staff working in the team can review applications there, instead of doing it manually in an inbox. That system needs a secure log in system and we’re building it with multi-factor authentication.

There’s no pattern for this. There’s plenty of prior art, across the whole of the web, on how to do this kind of thing, but no established cross-government pattern for it.

It’s imperative that this system is highly secure, so I’m pushing the team heavily in the direction of one-time passwords generated in an app, rather than relying on insecure SMS and email.

Making a secure multi-factor authentication flow is one thing, but making that flow accessible is another.

The system needs to work for people with disabilities. I really care about that, because I was one of the people that worked on the legislation that made it a requirement.

Is there a way to have a system that is highly secure and highly accessible? We don’t know yet, but we’re doing more accessibility testing on this next week so I guess we’ll find out soon.

Sharing what I know about legislation

I appear to have gotten to that point in my Civil Service career where people come to me to say “you know stuff, can you come teach my team about that stuff?” Which I am always happy to do; it’s nice to be wanted!

This week I’ve done not one, but two teach-ins for two different teams in two different departments, focused on my experience working with legislation. It was great fun, and people asked some interesting questions about the process.

I have been pondering lately that working on legislation is actually a pretty special thing and it’s a very unique opportunity. So few people get to do it, let alone do it repeatedly like I have. I reckon I might spin up a new side project to share what I’ve learnt.

Watch this space.

My mentee and I are clicking

For the past few years, I’ve been mentoring some LGBT+ young people through a charity called Just Like Us. They have “ambassadors” that go out into schools to talk about what it’s like growing up LGBT+ and how people can support their LGBT+ peers. Those ambassadors then get paired up with people from industry for career mentoring. I’m “from industry”, so apparently I’m useful to be mentored by!

I met my mentee for this cohort yesterday for our first proper session. It was great! They were switched on, were completely prepared, and generally it felt like we were clicking. I think I’m going to be able to help them a lot over the course of the next year.

One thing I’ve done (as I did with my previous two mentees on the scheme) is buy them a copy of this book: StrengthsFinder 2.0. I’ve found it to be a really interesting way to open up a conversation with new mentees. Instead of talking to them about what they are ‘bad’ at, it gives me a tool to talk to them about what they are ‘great’ at and how we can use that to their advantage.

We’ll see how well they get on with it when I meet them next time.