This week I started a new position at Transport Canada! Last year when I was a Code for Canada fellow, my team posted weeknotes summarizing our work. I decided to start that again. The level of detail in these notes may vary, but I think it’s worthwhile to share.
Starting a new job during a pandemic is.. interesting. Thankfully I live close to Transport Canada headquarters, so I headed over Monday morning to pick up my equipment. The building was practically deserted. IT was set up in a room in the basement, with a setup so that techs could help you set up your equipment while maintaining 2m of distance.
I was handed a Dell Latitude 2-in-1 tablet, keyboard and stylus. No mac, but a pretty sweet device nonetheless! And then I headed back home and got it set up in my home office. When we bought our condo two years ago, I worked from home so we built in a nice home office with a great chair, monitor and bookshelf. Honestly, I prefer my home office to some office spaces I’ve had in the past, so this was a nice start. (I also get furry coworkers to sit on my lap while I work!)
I started to review some of the product strategy and UX research that had been done in the past. This is going to be fun!
Today I got a chance to sync up with my friend Robyn, who is the Product Lead on the team: we had worked together before, and she was the one who’d let me know about the team. Starting a new position (especially remote) is so much easier when you already know someone! I was able to ask her all these random questions to help get up to speed. I’m really looking forward to working with her.
Another of the reasons I was so excited about joining Transport Canada is because I know quite a few UX Designers and Researchers who work here. I managed to find a few threads of conversations happening on MS Teams. It’s actually quite interesting: I know a lot of the designers physically sit (sat) together in the office. My team is in a whole different building. But for now, their conversations are taking place via Teams, so I can ‘listen in’ in a way I wouldn’t have been able to if everyone were actually IN the office. Interesting!
Today I started to really dig into previous research, and start to work on a research plan. There was a plan before I started: initially the team was going to do a cross-country tour from Jan — March. Then that became April — June. (I had initially hoped to join the team early April).
Obviously, covid-19 happened, which threw off the travel plans, as well as my paperwork to start work. So here we are late May, trying to get our feet beneath us. One unexpected outcome, though, is that inspectors aren’t on the ground, so they may actually be more available to speak with us for research. So I’m looking at how we can make up for the lost time.
One consideration is where to start. On one hand, we have an existing product: myTCOversight. There are opportunities to improve the product. To refer to the pace layers from this great article on Leveling up your Ops and Research, we could be start with some evaluative research. What opportunities are there at the level of the product/interface.
Or, we could dig in and go deeper, and do some more generative work. What does the world of an inspector look like? What are their values, fears, expectations? This discovery could help break us away from product- or feature-driven enhancements, but I know that sometimes it can be a tough sell for a team if they feel they already have a serious backlog and an understanding of what they need to do.
Of course, I’m looking at things from a JTBD lens and seeing this as an opportunity to establish a standard way of speaking about user needs :-)
Wednesday afternoon there was an All Hands meeting for Transport Canada. They apparently had over 3700 people on the call! The discussion was primarily about covid-19, mental health and work location stuff. There was definitely a sense that working from home will be the default for most employees for the foreseeable future. This wasn’t a big surprise for me, but I think it was pretty shocking for a lot of public servants :-) Personally, I’d like it if there were a balance: co-location when it makes sense explicitly for collaboration, but an opportunity to have a nice quiet work environment for focus work :-)
Thursday morning I pitched in to help out with a strategy communications workshop with some other members of my team. This was a great way for me to become more familiar with some proposed business architecture changes, and also learn a few new names. Afterwards, I drafted a quick survey for us to send out to respondents. My manager Simon provided translations for most of the questions. When we made a few edits to questions, I tried my hand at translating the others (with the help of linguee.fr and reverso.net, bien sur!) It wasn’t perfect, but it apparently wasn’t too bad, either. I’d love it if I got the opportunity to become more comfortable in French at work!
The team uses MS Teams, so there’s been a bit of a learning curve from Slack. Since people can communicate via Teams without hitting the VPN, a LOT of ‘things that could have been emails’ are just quick chats in teams. I dig it! There’s definitely a speed of communication that I .. um… wouldn’t necessarily expect from a government department. I don’t know whether that was the case before everyone went home-based, but I hope that the benefits of rapid collaboration are seen (without the backlash of “no one can concentrate on anything”).
Friday was pretty meeting-heavy. I had the chance to meet some leads from other teams, had a check-in with my manager, had a good meeting with the other UX designer on the team, and then chatted with another product team about measurement and results. And now I’m writing these notes!
I’ve joked with a few folks today that working full-time is tiring! It had been 2 months since my contract with Code for Canada / PSPC had come to an end, so for the first time in a long time, I definitely felt the call of the weekend!
I’m SO excited about the opportunity here at Transport. The team seems great, and getting some exposure to the business architecture tickles some parts of my brain I haven’t had to use in awhile. Everyone seems very open and excited about digging into research. It seems it’s really just a matter of documenting the plan and getting things going. As I told someone today, the scheduling and recruitment is often the most tedious and time-consuming part of research, and it appears that door is wide open to me. I’m looking forward to going through it next week!