So, my last week at Data Cymru has arrived. As my retirement (early!!) becomes a reality, I have found myself reflecting on my time at Data Cymru and my career more generally.
What has struck me most, is how quick the time has gone. Does time go by increasingly faster as you get older? As a maths and science graduate, I want to say it cannot. However, my 18 years in Data Cymru have certainly flown by. As has my 40 years in public service. Younger colleagues beware!
I’ve been reflecting on how fortunate I have been to have had a career with so many differing roles in broadly the same field, all of which of which I’ve really enjoyed.
While statistical roles in public sector are by no means glamorous, I’ve even managed a few foreign trips. A fantastic trip to Ottawa and Toronto (and Niagara Falls!) to look at innovative Canadian data collection methods, including a great lunch at a French restaurant in Québec. A great conference trip to Stockholm with a memorable dinner at the Vasa museum. And not forgetting the magnificent antipasti provided by the Italian statistical service in Milan. Some great foody memories! Less glamorous, I can still recall the horror and panic of arriving at my first European meeting only to find my luggage had not. And of walking the streets of Luxemburg at dawn the next morning on the off chance that a clothes store might be open.
And what of my time at Data Cymru?
There have been many highlights during my time here. However, the memories I’ll take with me will largely revolve around the people I’ve worked with, both within Data Cymru and across the local government and statistical communities. One of the most rewarding things for me has been to see staff who have joined Data Cymru flourish and progress within the organisation, and often go on to achieve further success in other organisations.
I have also reflected on the opportunities my role has given me personally to learn and develop, including the learning I’ve gained from the people I’ve met and worked with. I am certainly not the shy and retiring civil servant who turned up at the Cardiff office back in 2003. More’s the pity some would say!
I’m a bit of a hoarder, and when clearing out my desk, I came across a report I wrote prior to joining Data Cymru. I was assessing the likely technological and related developments that might impact on society and the world of work in 2025. While we’re not there yet, several elements have become a reality. Others remain fanciful. Reading it reminded me of how much technology has influenced and changed our work with data and dissemination. How we’ve moved on from my early days in the Office for National Statistics (ONS), when my team spent weeks working on the annual business monitor on the UK motor trade. Only those who were prepared to pay for the hard copy monitor got the data. How access to and the way we consume data has changed.
So, what of data and its role?
What a terrible time to be leaving the arena of data and insight. The pandemic has shone a light on data like nothing I’ve experienced in the decades I’ve worked in this field. Almost overnight we saw the emergence of a nation of armchair consumers of COVID-19 data, many of whom soon became self-appointed ‘expert’ analysts. At the same time, decision makers and service providers have wanted new and more up to date data to support them. Data providers have risen to the challenge, but now need to build on this momentum. There has never been a better time to reinforce the need for using data, or to make the case for the resources necessary to produce data and associated insights. Very exciting times. I’ll be sorry not to be part of it.
As I sign off, I’ll finish by reiterating that I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to lead Data Cymru for an extended period, and to have worked with such a fantastic team of people. I have had a great time. I know I am leaving the organisation in good hands and that its future is bright and exciting. I wish it and the wider local government family every success.
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