Five years ago this weekend, I packed up my things at BIS, waved goodbye to the Civil Service and set up Helpful Technology as a freelance business.
As with so much in life, I think former Friends star Jennifer Aniston says it best:
When you accept a role in a pilot, you automatically sign up for five years. You think it’s scary to walk down the aisle? Try signing a five-year contract for a show you may not want to be part of down the road.
— Jennifer Aniston
There have been a few times over the last five years when I’ve wondered if I’d picked the right show, particularly watching old friends set up the highly impressive Government Digital Service, seeing the mainstreaming of social media in Departments, and following the exciting work of people like Matt at the ONS. Sometimes I miss having my own ‘thing’.
Then I watch Kelly, Mark, Phil, Luke and Anthony crafting a new client’s website, or Tim, Al and Claire pushing leaders of a Comms team to be bolder and braver with their digital, or Chris, Howard and Justine inflicting the wrath of social media on major charity or global FMCG firm – then I realise just how far we’ve come.
The Helpful/Social Simulator crew is ten strong now, plus friends. We have role descriptions and staff handbooks, Zendesk tickets and planning meetings, a lovely mezzanine office in Clerkenwell, a fridge stocked with beer and mini Magnums.
It feels like I’m still just figuring out what my job actually is, not least because it’s different every day.
This is my thing, and it’s the most fun I’ve had in my career so far.
Even the Zendesk tickets.