We were very pleased to be able to offer a two week internship as part of the scheme being run by the Social Mobility Foundation. Lily, who has been with us for the last 2 weeks reveals some of her preconceptions, but also how Whitehall doesn’t always look like Whitehall.
On the road to GDS
I have been on a work experience placement at GDS for the past 2 weeks as part of a programme run by the Social Mobility Foundation. There have been 60 of us placed in different departments across Whitehall, gaining work experience that would otherwise be very difficult to obtain. I travelled up from Plymouth, where I am at sixth-form, studying A-Levels in Biology, Chemistry, French and English literature. Results for my first year came through while I was here, and thankfully the news didn’t blight the rest of my experience! I will be applying to university in the next couple of months, and I hope to read French and Portuguese.
Having been placed in the Cabinet Office, I was told little else about what to expect. So I started making up all these ideas about how everyone was going to be in suits, all have a London accent, and I was going to stand out. Thankfully, I was very wrong. After a slight detour, I came to GDS, and there was a relaxed atmosphere, everyone was very busy, but looked comfortable, and it wasn’t half as intimidating as I was expecting it to be.
A whirlwind of experience
So, I began working.
I went to a variety of meetings, from Proposition Directors to Proposition Assessment, and it was interesting to hear about all of the different projects and the wide variety of work that is done by GDS. I had a go at taking notes during a meeting and comparing them with someone else, and I managed to get the gist of it, which was good. I looked at spreadsheets showing hundreds of webpage links that needed checking; looked at websites that had been changed and asked to provide user feedback on them; worked with the Inside Government team, checking site content; I met other people from the Cabinet Office, and researched information for Electoral Registration Transformation Programme and getting young people involved in politics; and my last day is being spent learning about the communications and blogging part of GDS, hence this quick blog.
I was also lucky to have a trip to Downing Street, where I met the unit working in the Prime Minister’s Office, learned about their workload and how different it was to GDS. The sheer amount of letters and emails they receive is incredible, and I would not want the job to sift through it all.
Preconceptions vs reality
A lot was packed in to my short 2 weeks here, and I have enjoyed all the experiences I have been lucky enough to have. It has been great to see the variety of work that goes on here, and I will leave with a completely different impression of Whitehall and Government to what I came with. ‘Digital by Default’ is definitely the way forward, and that has come across to me loud and clear whilst I have been here. I leave not only with sharper IT skills, but also with great experience in one of the most innovative Government departments.