Daniel's move into public sector software engineering
Daniel Pomfret is a software engineer in the integration team in DWP Digital. It’s a team of around 150 people in total, spread across Manchester, Newcastle and Blackpool. Daniel’s part of a Scrum team of seven people within integration, and he spends most of his time writing code that connects systems in DWP.
“We call our team ‘The Jam’,” he says. “We’re the layer between different systems – we connect the data, the APIs, and make sure they can all speak to each other and get the information they need securely and quickly.”
“I’ve been interested in computers since I was seven or eight. My uncle was really good with computers, and he used to show me how to code little websites.
“I studied computer science at college, and studied software engineering at university. After working in the private sector for five years, I moved to DWP Digital.”
From private to public sector
What first attracted Daniel to DWP Digital was the sense of social purpose – he wanted to make a difference to people’s lives.
“I’m a scout leader, and I help in various charities,” he says. “Helping people is something I’m really passionate about. I can do that here – I can build systems and get involved in projects that help citizens access services, benefits and jobs. I feel that’s something I need to do in my career.”
“I was intimidated by the size of DWP Digital,” he says. “I’d previously only worked in small companies, where I was a big fish in a small pond. I was worried about being a cog in a big machine, but that’s not been the case, and the work I do here does make a massive difference.
“The decisions I make, and the conversations I’m involved in, have an impact on the business, and on citizens’ lives. And that’s important to me.”
Getting the most from Agile
But there were challenges for Daniel in making the leap from private to public sector – especially when it came to adapting to agile working.
“I’d never worked in the agile framework before,” he says, “so adapting to that was difficult. We do Scrum, working in two week sprints, and keeping up with the fast pace of the team was a challenge for me at first.
“I was used to being quite isolated and doing everything myself, but here I’m involved in sprint planning, retrospectives and show-and-tells, and it feels more outward-facing.
“But there’s a course in the department ‒ the Agile 101 course ‒ which is a great introduction to how agile works here in DWP Digital. I got a lot out of that, and was able to use it in my team straight away.”
Knowledge worth sharing
And Daniel’s benefited from other learning and development opportunities to support his work.
“I get a lot of time to learn and develop, go on courses, do self-development, and online courses. It’s really good to have that time to go and do that development,” he says.
“But I also have time to share my knowledge, and help other software engineers, improve their knowledge of other technologies and software languages. Being able to help others is a great opportunity, which I don’t think I’d have got in the private sector.”
Now that he’s used to agile methodology, Daniel enjoys the pace, as well as the scale of the work.
“The Scrum team includes a business analyst, tester, two software engineers, Scrum master ‒ or agile delivery manager. We work a lot on APIs, and we deliver our projects in two-week sprints.
“We’ve started taking a micro service approach ‒ so rather than creating big, monolithic services, we break a service down into chunks, with each thing having one function. We make everything reusable as well, so we can share code ‒ APIs, for example ‒ with colleagues in the department.”
Life in the Manchester hub
Being a Mancunian, it’s no surprise that Daniel likes working in his home city. And he says the Manchester hub is a great place to deliver digital projects from.
“The working environment’s really good,” he says. “We’ve got a lot of breakout spaces, whiteboards we use for sprint planning, a physical Kanban board to keep up with progress, and stand-up desks. We get together a lot as a team to work through issues.
“I’ve recently been working on a new front end for Jobseeker’s Allowance, allowing people to apply online. It’s been interesting working with legacy systems, bringing them up to date.
“It was a big challenge, working on older technologies that I’ve not used before. We all learned them together, upgraded them, and connected the front-end and back-end together.”
Daniel says working in the public sector has some unique advantages, and that life in the private sector doesn’t always match up.
“For me, it’s all about technology,” he says. “We have some of the best technologies here, but it’s also the size of the organisation. We have over 100 million customers, and we deliver over a billion pounds a day in transactions.
“As a software engineer, it’s exciting to work at this scale ‒ knowing that you’re making things work better for the end customer.
“The work I do allows customers to access services and benefits quickly, and they can do it online. I love coming to work knowing the software I’m working on will help people.”