I recently left the UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS). I’m really happy with my time there. It felt like a special moment, so I guess Tom Loosemore was right when he talked to people in 2012 about carpe diem1.

There are lots of amazing memories, which I’m writing down whilst I can still remember them.

Oh you arsehole, you’re leaving!Louise Downe

My interview

I turned up early one morning in February, ready to meet Mat Wall. He was running a bit late, and wanted to have a quick fag. I’d previously met him at a MongoDB Skillsmatter talk he’d done — we’d had a reasonably sensible conversation. Pretty soon after, he’d left the Guardian to join GDS.

I was pretty much shitting myself, not having had to interview for a job for 8 or 9 years. I’d interviewed for my first 2 jobs in web, and then followed friends via word of mouth for later gigs.

Next Paul Downey arrived. I read a lot; I’d read most of his stuff and liked what I’d read. That didn’t really help me relax.

But then we sat down, and we talked and I drew stuff. I could switch into answering the questions and exploring the problems. I must have done something right though. They offered me a job as Technical Architect rather than Developer.

Launching GOV.UK

This was pretty special. Still pinching myself over this one, we got it over the line and kept improving it. It saved millions of pounds for the taxpayer. Lots of people said it couldn’t be done. Apparently some people didn’t want us to do it. We got agile service delivery and service design firmly at the heart of central government. The strategy was delivery.

One day someone will write a detailed account about that time, but this isn’t that tale.

The Government Service Manual

NB the Government Service Manual, not the GDS Service Manual.

I think this is one of the things I’m happiest about. Publishing a description of how to make good, user-centred services on the central government website. Showing all the things that go into making that happen.

It’s also brilliant to see a team iterating on this now, and I know they’re going to take this to the next level.

Being the much-copied originator

Since we started, we’ve seen similar initiatives in:

  • New Zealand
  • the USA
  • Australia

It is fantastic to see others going on that journey. We now have a global community delivering public services, learning together.

Don’t talk to him, he’s leaving.Martyn Inglis

Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia

I now know a little about more things in the world. My opinion of the media has adjusted accordingly.

The people

Far too many names to list. I love you all, I learned so much from you, and had so much fun doing it. I’ve made some great friends. Talented, passionate people working on stuff that matters. People that blew apart my ridiculous preconceptions about the quality of people in the public sector. I have a burning desire to go back at some point and do more things with these people.



  1. Obviously, Tom didn’t say this. More like “We’re on a mission from God”