Last Saturday I made my annual pilgrimage to UK Gov Camp, or UKGC. This year was only my third, others have been going far longer than I including some of my colleagues though I'd not actually come across any of them before which considering past shyness, is not so surprising.
Had UKGC happened when it should have done, I would have not been in the right headspace for it. Postponement had good side effects for me. A collision of conversations with various people meant that I even had an idea for a session pitch - and stood up and pitched it which was a first for me.
How did the session go? Well, it was in the last slot of the day, none of the people who'd inspired the session idea 'digital mentoring networks' turned up, I walked past someone who commented that 'that sounds scary, I think I'll avoid' and yeah. Not the best start.
However. The best laid plans are sometimes waylaid for good reason and so it turned out. We don't need a digital mentoring network and a digital women network and 3,000 other networks besides. I shouldn't have bothered pitching and should have twigged this. But as it happens, the conversation switched to reflect a discussion which had happened in another session I hadn't attended earlier in the day where Tom Steinberg decided to throw a gauntlet down and ask a room full of digital bods when exactly they were going to step up and think about becoming the Directors and Chief Executives of the future.
ETA: We do need a Women in Digital network. I think. But that's for another post.
This then bled into my session as the discussion turned away from us acquiring mentors who could help us in our careers, to what we could do to pass on our experience and learning onto others. Clare White challenged us to go into local businesses and offer them our expertise as a form of digital volunteering. Jonathan Flowers pointed out that charities and assorted other organisations needed digital guidance and steering and Governors and Boards of Trustees were good ways of getting experience at a higher level of organisations to boot.
Inside this, an idea for a LinkedIn group were people could offer to mentor or ask to be mentored each other was raised. I'm not sure this is the answer. I'm not sure I know of a successful LinkedIn group. They all seem to die - I've yet to find a thriving one where my request to join is accepted within 48 hours. Someone suggested that LinkedIn add a tag or field for people to indicate whether they'd be happy to be approached for mentoring/questions/advice and conversely for those who were looking for a mentor and I think this would be a far more valuable implementation than a group.
So I'm going to go and talk to LinkedIn about that.
But that then leaves the gauntlet Tom threw. And that's a sticky one. Lots of people seem to think that UKGC lacked it's spark and fire and more than a few said 'that's cos GDS is doing it all'.
Well, here's a thing. Tom is right. If there's a Dep Director post in digital going, do you apply, or do you think that that's someone else's job to do? When a Head of Digital Comms job comes up, do you apply, or do you think you've not got the exact skill set, missing some of the essentials and there's just no point?
Are you happy sitting in a room, being brilliant (yes, almost down to the last, you all are) never letting anyone else actually benefit from that brilliance, or are you going to stick your head above the parapet, find out what skills and capabilities Heads of and Deputy Directors need and work on acquiring those? More to the point, are you going to ask for some help in acquiring those, do some research, send some tweets and use your network to get the help you need to lead an organisation, any organisation, into the 21st century, using all the technology, innovation, capability and knowledge that you have at your fingertips?
Because to be honest, talking strategy, vision, channels...that's fine. That's good. We're all growing up and we all should be. In maturity lives wisdom and in wisdom there is the future. But don't lose your fire and your passion. Don't wait for someone else to sort this stuff out. Don't assume someone else has it all wrapped up and you're not allowed to say anything or comment or question or aspire.
Don't let the fire go out. This isn't a game of tame the dragon. It's the long game and 20 years from now, there are at least 20 people within the corridors and rooms of UKGC who I'd be very happy to see in CEX and CEO roles across the public sector.
But that just isn't going to happen unless you use the digital embedded in your DNA to level up and learn some of the skills that leaders and managers of organisations need. I don't know what they are, I may never know what they are. But that's me and this is you and you all have the potential to be phenomenal. So. What are you waiting for?