What’s it like to be a Software Developer in the Government Communication Service?

young man standing in from og the black door at number 10
James Reaver

When I graduated, all I wanted was to help the government with its communication efforts, which are some of the most exciting in this sector. This is why I joined GCS.

Over the last two years, I’ve been writing software on a number of projects that support the work my colleagues do every day. From aggregating and visualising geographical data, to monitoring articles and generating trend reports, to building platforms that streamline our internal processes, the work has been extremely diverse. I even published open-source pieces of software that solve problems like load testing and website authentication.

We dedicate a lot of our attention to two aspects of a programmer’s job: accessibility — the ability for people of any means to use our services — and scalability, which allows us to manage large and unexpected numbers of users and data.

A dynamic workplace, which moves at a constant pace

The workplace does not lack its challenges. Working in central government during the Brexit and Coronavirus months has proven to be the greatest test for my ability to respond to change. Priorities may get reshuffled, and requirements must adapt. It is key to work in iterations to ensure products and services add value even when they do not get to their final stage. With this in place, stress becomes manageable and the work varied and exciting.

In many ways the team resembles that of a startup. We are small but ambitious in our desire to innovate. Sometimes, to accomplish this effectively, we have to go the extra mile in understanding our users’ needs and provide them with a workable, accessible solution, not simply a piece of code or an algorithm. You’re not just a programmer, you’re a solution architect, a user interface designer, a product owner, a service tester.

People embody the values we strive to represent

An extraordinary aspect of the job is the environment of which you are a part. Every team I’ve come in contact with is full of incredible people, talented communicators who are open, unreserved and collaborative. Every colleague is friendly, thankful and highly respectful. Together, they make the Cabinet Office values of respect, trust and collaboration come to life.

The opportunities for personal development and growth are as many as you are willing and able to grab. Over the months I participated in professional training, volunteering initiatives and development conferences, and I was given several chances to take ownership of projects and pioneer ideas and technologies that required me to learn and expand my technical and communication skills.

These are some of the aspects that make the Government Communication Service a unique place to be. Whether you are a communicator, an analyst, a content designer, or an engineer, the mix of people you find, the set of values you uphold, and the feeling of contributing to end-goals that extend beyond your organisation are what make it so rewarding, and they are the reasons why I will always remember my time here.