Geraldine Cardwell

Every day is different. If we are working on new functionality for our sites then my team and I could be running workshops with users or sitting in a lab observing how they use the sites. Other days I work with designers to develop wireframes, prototypes and visuals. We then turn these over to the developers so they can build it. Sometimes my day is spent testing sites or apps or advising people on customer behaviour. Other times, I’m working with my team on content writing, planning social media campaigns or reading the latest blogs on usability.

What do you think are the three most important skills to succeed in your career area?
Excellent writing skills – ability to write in language that the customer can understand, avoiding industry specific language
User experience (UX) – this is about putting the customer at the heart of everything we design, making everything simple and easy to use
Most importantly a desire to keep learning about new digital technology

Was this something you planned to do or did you change direction at any point in the past? If so, what was that and was it easy to do?
The internet wasn’t even around when I was deciding what to do! I studied Education, Maths and IT at university, so my intention was to be a teacher, an accountant or to do something with computers. I just wasn’t sure. However, I loved the software side of my course so when job came up at the States of Jersey Computer Services Department as an office systems analyst I applied. I didn’t know exactly what it was but I applied anyway. It involved learning and configuring new software, designing templates, developing and delivering training, something I was more than qualified for from four years of teacher training. From that point on I’ve always been involved in IT projects e.g. building PCs and servers, supporting software and users, implementing new services such as VOIP telephony. It was through the VOIP project that I got involved with an intranet and that was the stepping-stone into websites and the job I do today.

What do you love most about this job?
I love the variety of my job, and knowing that what I do, along with other digital champions across the States, makes a difference to how people access our services online. I really enjoying working with the public, doing user research and testing out new functionality with them. That can be a real eye-opener. I love how things are always changing and it is great to see how other governments around the world are improving their services. I definitely get service envy when I look at the work of GDS (Government Digital Service) in the UK and the work they are doing.

Are there any negative aspects of working in your career area that people considering it should be aware of?
The variety and that things are changing all the time! It is hard to keep up to date. Every day brings new technology, new customer behaviour, new research which goes against what we were doing last year or last month.

What training / qualifications did you undertake for your current role or are you currently undertaking?
I have a qualification in user experience (UX), information architecture and content strategy and a diploma in writing for the web. I’ve done training in user research and testing, SharePoint, search engine optimisation, Google analytics, accessibility, usability and design interaction. The range of topics that you can cover is huge and these are just a fraction of them. I also follow a lot of professionals on twitter which keeps me informed and educated on a daily basis.

Is there any other information that would be of interest to someone thinking of this career?
Contrary to what people think, you don’t need to be a coder or a designer to work in web. There are so many other aspects and skills required for this role. We want people who can write, who can analyse or who are logical, people who enjoy testing and running research with customers. In most cases, we want people who have common sense, who can use digital technology and who are not afraid to try something new.