Lyra is a student from north Essex and is currently studying GCSEs at secondary school. We caught up with Lyra to see how their recent work experience with the team shaped up.
I was drawn to Essex County Council and Service Transformation as an opportunity to carry out my work experience placement as I’d heard about the impactful work they do in Service Transformation, which piqued my interest to learn more about the field. When I discovered the chance to secure voluntary work experience at the council, I eagerly took it as an opportunity to gain hands-on experience and deepen my understanding of the transformative potential of service delivery in the public sector.
My week at Essex County Council was completely different from what I was used to. Working online was a new experience for me, as I was used to receiving work during lockdown rather than joining calls. Jumping straight into a whole week of learning in a format so unique to my usual routine was frightening to say the least. However, I was relieved to receive my well-anticipated and well-received schedule, which was colour-coded with designated keys and meanings to match. Without it, I would have been completely lost.
As a GCSE student studying Art, History, Religious Studies, and Health and Social Care, I can see how my subjects have a correlation with the work carried out in Service Transformation. Art and History help me develop a sense of creativity and critical thinking, which are vital for understanding how people and communities evolve and adapt over time. Religious Studies helps me appreciate and understand different beliefs and cultures, which are crucial for delivering inclusive services that meet the needs of diverse populations. Health and Social Care teaches me about the importance of patient-centred care and the significance of the healthcare workforce. Overall, these subjects have given me a broader understanding of the world and have instilled in me the values of empathy, adaptability, and innovation, which are essential for Service Transformation.
Before starting my experience with Service Transformation, I didn't have any specific expectations as it was an entirely new experience for me. I was a bit nervous and unsure about what the placement would entail, but my worries were quickly put to rest. The team was welcoming and supportive, and I was given a clear and detailed overview of what I would be doing during my time with them. As the week progressed, I was able to participate in a variety of tasks and activities that helped me gain a better understanding of the transformative potential of service delivery in the public sector. Overall, I can say that my expectations were not only met but exceeded, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such a dedicated and inspiring team.
One thing that particularly interests me about Service Transformation is their approach to involving residents in the decision-making process. It's fascinating to see how they bring in external perspectives through research, enabling residents to share their views and experiences on how public services can be improved. I think this is a crucial aspect of delivering effective and responsive services, as it ensures that the needs and preferences of local people are taken into account. It's inspiring to see how the Service Transformation team values and prioritises the voices of those who are directly impacted by the services they provide.
During my work experience at Service Transformation, I was struck by the friendly and collaborative atmosphere that I witnessed between people from different departments. It was inspiring to see how they worked together to achieve common goals and how they supported each other in their respective roles.
As someone who is interested in pursuing a career in technology, seeing the teamwork and communication skills in action was valuable for me. It gave me insight into the importance of effective communication and the benefits of working collaboratively in a professional setting. Below are the disciplines that I touched based with and what I learnt about each of them.
- Product management is the process of overseeing the development and delivery of a product. It involves identifying customer needs, conducting market research, working with cross-functional teams, and ensuring the product meets business goals.
- Interaction design is about making things easy and enjoyable for people to use, which could include designing a game or a website that people will like to play or visit. It involves creating buttons, menus, and other things that make it easy to use the product. This job also involves understanding how people interact with the product, so that it can be designed in a way that makes it easy to use.
- Service design is about making services better for people to use. It considers all the components that make up a service to optimise the user experience.
- Continuous improvement means making things better and better over time. It's like trying to be better at playing video games, you keep practicing and making small changes until you get really good at it. In a work setting, continuous improvement involves finding ways to make things more efficient, faster, or cheaper. The goal is to keep getting better and to keep finding ways to make things even better than before.
- Organisational design is the process of setting up a company's structure so that everyone knows what they are supposed to do and how to work together effectively.
- User research is a process of learning about the users of a product or service. It involves talking to people, observing their behaviour, and gathering information to better understand their needs and preferences.
- Content design is about creating information that people can read and understand easily using data and user research to make decisions about what and how it should be presented. It's not just writing articles, it's about helping everyone to get the information they need and to complete the tasks they need to do.
I was also fortunate to see how a project team was made up and how they functioned. Although the project team was made up of individuals with different skills and expertise, they used clear communication to make sure everyone is working towards the same goal. Team members communicate regularly through stand-up meetings, sprint reviews, and retrospectives. They use tools like Miro project boards to make sure everyone on the team is aware of what each person in the project team is doing and any issues that need to be addressed. Each person had different interests and ways of looking at things, but what connected everyone was a common goal ‘to create something that would be easy and enjoyable to use’. They are passionate about creating experiences that make a positive impact on people's lives, and they are driven by a desire to continuously improve the user experience.
Looking back on my week of work experience, the most enjoyable moment for me was the call I had with a user researcher on the last day. As someone who loves coding, it was exciting to discuss coding platforms with someone who was so knowledgeable about the topic. Despite it not being their exact area of expertise, the user researcher went out of their way to help me find the information I needed. Their willingness to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for their work made the conversation both productive and enjoyable. This experience reinforced my passion for coding and showed me the importance of collaboration and knowledge-sharing in achieving common goals.
Having work experience with the Service Transformation team has been an incredibly valuable opportunity for me, particularly as someone who is interested in pursuing a career in technology. During my time with the team, I gained hands-on experience working with different technologies and software, which I know will be transferable to future careers in tech. Additionally, I had the chance to work with a diverse and talented group of professionals who were passionate about using technology to improve public services.
This experience has given me a unique perspective on the ways that technology can be used to drive positive change and has sparked my interest in exploring different areas and uses of technology. Overall, I believe that the skills and knowledge I gained during my work experience placement will be invaluable as I move forward in my career.
From my personal experience, I had a great time doing work experience at Essex County Council's Service Transformation team. They provided me with a structured and engaging week where I had the opportunity to learn about service transformation, work on real projects and collaborate with the team. I found the team to be friendly, supportive and passionate about what they do, and they gave me a chance to be involved in meaningful work.
If you're interested in learning about the public sector, gaining hands-on experience, and working in a team environment, I would definitely recommend ECC's Service Transformation team for your work experience placement. In just a short space of time, I learnt about so many new things and have taken away knowledge I couldn't have gained anywhere else. I'm grateful to everyone who took time out of their week to teach me about their work and professions. It was really valuable and I'm sure I'll be able to use some of the things I was shown in the future.