On the 31 July, I will be leaving the office for the last time as a civil servant (but not the world of work). After a successful career spanning more than 35 years, I thought that it would be cathartic to carry out something akin to a retrospective. So, over the next few days, as I countdown to new challenges, I will be writing several articles looking back over my career before talking about what I am planning next. I promise to keep them mercifully short and I hope you enjoy reading them.
One of the things I am often asked is “how could you have stayed in one job for so long?” But, as I am sure any career civil servant will tell you, it isn’t like that at all. The civil service gave me the opportunity to have many very different and varied jobs.
I started my working life at the Ministry of Defence, in one of their then many office buildings in the Holborn area. All have now gone, most having moved to Bristol as part of the Procurement Executive, a bespoke trading entity, and arm’s length body, that became Defence Equipment and Support. Whilst there I held a number of different finance and procurement roles that included projects such as the Nimrod Airborne Early Warning radar, the radar system for the Tornado aircraft and maintence and overhaul contracts for Rolls-Royce aero engines. I also did my time in a Private Office as well as internal management consultancy. I had the fantastic opportunity to fly in a number of RAF aircraft and a private tour of the Lancaster and Spitfire of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
One of the roles that I enjoyed most in the MoD was working in the Office of Management and Budget. The team I worked with were responsible for the annual round of Long Term Costings which set out the department’s ten-year spending plans. Having had enough of battling ever-changing spreadhseets, I set about developing an application that was used to aggregate the costings and keep track of proposals to reduce the ten-year cost estimates back to a financial baseline as well as allow the impact of savings measures to be costed, assessed and prioritised. This was my first step into coding which, until then, had been little more than an outside interest. The application was written in a programming language called Clipper, an xBase compiler. It turned out to be a great success and was adopted across each of the individual service areas. At the time a, shall we say, full blown system that was being developed by a major government supplier was ditched in favour of my application. The reason? The other system did not meet the needs of the user, mine did!