Building confidence in the DWP Digital data practice community

Last month DWP Digital held our first ever Data community of practice virtual event.   The 3-day event also featured a range of guests from other communities of practices, including engineering and architecture.

The Data practice within DWP Digital is responsible for how the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) model, transform, manage and securely use data across the organisation and wider government departments. We recognise that our data specialists are key to achieving this and therefore it’s important we invest time into developing these skills and capabilities to empower our teams through our practice community events.

Learning, networking and workshops

The theme of the event was ‘confidence’. We wanted our digital specialists to leave feeling confident and empowered to continue with their self-driven learning, having gained experience and knowledge from the variety of hands-on workshops at the event.

The virtual experience worked really well and was as close to actually attending an event in person as you can get, with networking tables and signposted workshop rooms, just like a real conference in the good old days!

Our team worked closely with our vendors to produce three days of interactive, hands-on workshops, which would enable community members to get stuck in and learn something totally new or gain more confidence in an area of interest to them.

Read more to hear how our data specialists found the community event…

Gemma Elsworth – Head of Role for Digital Performance Analysts

I was looking forward to the practice conference this year. It was going to be different to any conference I’d been to before, mainly because it was fully online.

The tool, Remo, was great. I really had that feeling of looking around the room and seeing who was available to talk to. The first thing I did was exactly what I would do at a conference and gravitated to the table full of my teammates. I found the need for camera and microphone all the time a little hard, but once we were chatting on a table it was great. As the conference progressed, I did end up just sitting on a table with my camera on so people knew I was up for a chat.

The mix of presentations, videos and hands on demos that the vendors used made for interesting variety in the sessions. My favourite by far was the Confluent session where I actually wrote and ran some confluent code. I’m not particularly technical, so it felt like a real achievement.

It’s great to know we can get that conference feel while we’re all still locked down and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next for the practice.

 

Chris Phillipson – Data Engineer

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a digital conference, but after 3 days I was left feeling really impressed with what was offered and achieved. The ability to incorporate the workshops into my normal working day was a big plus, and I think this was a great way of delivering such an event.

I attended a mix of the GitLab, Qlik and Microsoft offerings, and was really challenged to think about alternative strategic architectural concepts such as data meshes and forward-thinking automated data pipelines. Events such as this help us to challenge existing preconceptions and look at fresh approaches to current and future use cases. The workshops have helped stimulate wider thoughts and conversations around areas that will have a real positive impact on our day job

 

Jim Montgomery – Digital Performance Analyst

It was great to be able to experience a conference at a time when we’re not able to get together in the same room. Holding the conference remotely was really convenient and allowed for greater flexibility to pick sessions of interest across the 3 days. It will be interesting to see to what extent we keep this approach when we’re all able to meet in person.

I asked my Digital Performance Analytics colleagues for their favourite sessions. We particularly enjoyed the Kong session on APIs. It’s not something we’ve used before and started off the session knowing little to nothing, but learned a lot without being lost along the way.

A clear theme for me is how valuable our practice’s skills and people are to the department and how our problems are not totally unique but are occurring across other sectors.

 

Victoria Hodgkinson – Data Manager

It was surprising how like a real conference this was. I felt just as nervous at the tables, surrounded by strangers. But I had nothing to worry about, everyone was friendly!

Some of the workshops were a bit beyond me, but I managed to get a high-level understanding of what they were about, which will be useful if we do adopt any of these new applications.

I enjoyed wearing my slippers but I missed the cookies and Danish pastries …

 

Michael Horan – Lead Data Engineer

I really enjoyed the conference. Having never attended a virtual conference before I was a little sceptical. It turns out the platform was great, really interactive and simple to use. Being able to move tables and chat with people was great, the ease of attending breakout sessions was also a big plus.

The suppliers themselves deserve thanks for delivering engaging sessions and providing some really good learning experiences. I think it really showcased some of the technologies out there, and also where these vendors see the future of data products and services.

The conference drove home the importance of data, and to see how vendor products integrate to deliver the best experience was really interesting.

We’re recruiting for specialists to join our Data Community practice across a variety of roles, including data engineers and more. Visit our careers site today or subscribe to our newsletter to find out more about DWP Digital.

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