Being a PD Network member

By Dr. Jesse Mears, Data Strategy, Culture, and Transformation Coach and Public Digital Network member.

Being a Public Digital Network member has led me to work with fantastic people and to do some of the best work of my life.

The people are extraordinary. The work is meaningful. The culture is open. And the swimming is cold.

I’m Jesse, a freelance data strategy, service design and transformation consultant. I help organisations and teams find the joy in working together and use their information and tools to make a meaningful difference in the world. 

I’ve worked in the not-for-profit sector across charities and local government. I’ve been a Network member since summer 2023. Someone at Public Digital once said “You’re not like the other consultants, are you…?”

Three members of the team posing for a picture
Saw, Connie and Jesse before a client engagement.

The people are extraordinary

At first, it was daunting.

PD is full of brilliant people, and most inspiringly, brilliant women. It is overwhelming to see so many of the great and good of digital transformation in one place. Almost intimidating. It took a deep breath and some grit to push the imposter phenomenon aside and recognise that I can add value.

As with all freelance work, it takes a leap of faith to say yes to an engagement that might start tomorrow or might start in 3 weeks. Pinning down the exact start is hard when large organisation procurement machinery is grinding through contracts.

Then as soon as the contract is signed, you find you’re suddenly starting on a project and you realise you don’t really know anything about it, but you have to pick it up fast in order to start delivering value early. For me, that’s part of the fun. The uncertainty, followed by the rapid learning and team building necessary to get your teeth into a piece of work.

As a Network member, I have choice and flexibility. I can say no to an engagement, I choose the days and times that I work and I can put my name forward for work that interests me. As a parent of four (yup, four) and with the other clients I have, that’s important to me.

The work is meaningful

The projects I have worked on have involved working in excellent multi-disciplinary teams, including both my colleagues in PD and the clients. People are motivated, highly skilled, thoughtful and eager for change - ingredients for impactful work.
As a one-person independent consultant I would be unlikely to win a contract to develop a data strategy for the Canadian Province of Nova Scotia, but with Public Digital I get to do that kind of thing. For my career development and my exposure to interesting and varied opportunities, being a PD Network member has been fantastic.

I have worked with different people across different parts of PD - from health and care, public services in the UK, through to international engagements with global governments. This means that I’ve worked with lots of different PD people, lots of different clients in lots of different settings. In the last 6 months I have been part of small teams that have:
  • Reviewed the digital strategy of the London Borough of Greenwich.
  • Redesigned how the Nottinghamshire Safeguarding Children’s Partnership work together to better meet the needs of children and families in Nottinghamshire.
  • Supported Nova Scotia to start developing a Data Strategy.
  • Facilitated the Data Leadership Team of the NHS Business Services Authority to set their strategic vision and start leading differently.

I’m proud of all the work I’ve done.

Three members of the team pose for a picture
Saw, Audree and Jesse.

The culture is open

As a freelance consultant, dipping into the structure and community of Public Digital has been wonderful. It’s less lonely than pretending you’re part of something on LinkedIn, or squirrelling away on your own at your kitchen table. You are never working on an engagement on your own - which is a delight when the people you’re collaborating with are excellent - and ideas, templates, problems are all shared in the openfor the PD hive mind to solve together.

Public Digital is reflective and wants to learn. A few weeks after an engagement has finished, the MD speaks to the client to gather feedback. In addition, people within PD are generous with their feedback when you work with them. In that way, it’s been an amazing way to learn and grow, feel stretched and supported.

But the best thing?

I've been introduced to cold water swimming.

The team in Parliament Hill Lido
Cate, Saw, Jesse and Connie in Parliament Hill Lido for cold water swimming

Our positions

Public Digital is guided by 10 positions. In conjuction with our ethics review process, they help us decide who we partner with, and under what conditions.

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Our working culture at Public Digital

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Our positions

Our values expressed in action and outcomes.

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