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Summer anniversaries

I’ve not been blogging much this year. My focus has been on publishing and promoting Multiplied, and then getting out to speak as much as possible in order to share ideas from the book more widely.

Since the books publication in March I’ve delivered 12 talks for a range of in person and online conferences, leadership programmes, and as part of some closed team events. It’s been especially great being back out on the road for some of the talks. The last 3 weeks alone I’ve spoken at events in London, Leeds, Falmouth (Cornwall) and Glasgow. Almost a mini-book tour! All of this has been fun after 2 years of lockdown and the much harder process of writing a book last summer.

10 years of public speaking

My timehop reminded me today that it’s almost exactly 10 years since I did my first public talk at a small event in Edinburgh (when I was working in the city for FreeAgent). It was a big deal for me at the time and I was speaking alongside a fairly well known design speaker in Simon Collison. Overall it was a great experience once I got over my nerves, and I’ve never really looked back from there. I remember preparing for months for that talk, and in the end I had so much material and so many ideas I wanted to share (you can still watch the talk back here).

I’ve since written and delivered many talks in the following 10 years exploring a range of ideas and themes from design and research to digital transformation. I’ve got better at public speaking, but mostly it’s been about building confidence in myself as a communicator, being myself, and being comfortable with my own voice and speaking style. All of this has helped me develop and share my ideas and thinking more widely as part of my work.

NUX3 in Manchester is still a speaking highlight for me (the video for this one is also still online from 2014). This was a talk that really helped my career as I’d just moved to DWP from the Government Digital Service and was leading and growing a design team for the first time. There are also many other highlights to look back on, from keynoting Service Design in Government in 2016, to my trip to Australia to speak in Canberra in 2017.

It’s worth pointing out that I was 33 when I got that first speaking opportunity. 12 years into my design career. It’s something I’ve had to build up to and work hard on. As many people know I’m really an introvert, and I’ve had to learn to be a confident communicator. I really do believe that anyone can speak about their work, and that everyone should consider sharing their ideas in this way. I can’t emphasise enough what an important part of my work and career to date speaking has turned out to be.

15 years of consultancy and digital transformation work

Another anniversary recently was passing 15 years since I moved to work for a small digital agency called Tincan in 2007. This was my first agency/consultancy gig. I spent over 4 years there, learning to work directly with clients, to sell and deliver projects, manage budgets, and also doing hands on design and development work throughout.

For a tiny agency we did great work, launching multiple sites for clients including the National Theatre, and with highlights of mine including the ICA gallery in London. I realise now I learned so much here from having to account manage, write proposals and cost work, and in dealing with our customers and a range of organisations directly every day. This is everything that feeds into my work today as a more commercially minded design leader in a growing business.

5 years at FutureGov and TPXimpact

And finally, it’s 5 years next month since I joined FutureGov in 2017. The company or brand is now no more, having merged with a number of other like-minded companies to become TPXimpact earlier this year.

It’s strange to think it’s been 5 years – the longest I’ve ever stayed in one job. FutureGov was a small agency when I joined (around 30 people I think). I wanted that change at the time, and to move back to working more hands on with a small design team and smaller projects after working at a much larger scale in the civil service for over 4 years.

It’s even stranger to think that TPXimpact is now around 600 people, and I’m responsible for multiple design and research teams again. Over the years my role has evolved here, and in reality I feel like I’ve worked at 3 or 4 distinctly different companies during this time. While I’ve never stayed anywhere longer than 4 or 5 years before, the reinvention of the company this year has made it feel like a fresh start and a new opportunity to build something that matters.

To mark this final anniversary I’m signing off for an extended summer break until mid-August. After spending long hours writing a book last summer it’s a proper break that I need. It’s good to reflect and look back, but while doing so I hope there’s still plenty of important work and ideas worth sharing to come. Thanks especially to everyone that’s supported the book and that has come to hear me speak this year.

Hello, I’m Ben Holliday. This is my blog where I’ve been writing for 15 years. You can follow all of my blog posts by subscribing to this RSS feed. You can also follow my regular updates on Twitter.