Get To Know: Natalie Jones OBE, Director for Digital Identity, Government Digital Service

Get To Know: Natalie Jones OBE, Director for Digital Identity, Government Digital Service

The Government Digital Service in the UK was established to make digital government simpler, clearer and faster for everyone. Natalie Jones is the Director for Digital Identity at the Government Digital Service and leads a team of around 600 people who are building a new way for citizens in the UK to log into and access all government services. She told us more about her most memorable achievement and what advice she would offer to someone aspiring to obtain a C-level position.

Describe your current job role.

I’m the Director for Digital Identity in the Cabinet Office and the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) for the GOV.UK One Login programme. I lead a team of around 600 people who are building a new way for citizens in the UK to log into and access all government services. 

What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?

In my previous role with the Home Office, I worked on Brexit, more specifically I built and delivered all the tech that was required for the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). When the Brexit vote happened, all the Europeans who lived and worked in the UK suddenly found themselves in uncertain times, as the freedom to travel and work here as part of the EU was going to end. I led a brilliantly talented and dedicated team of people to build and run the first fully digital end-to-end immigration route so that the 6 million Europeans who were resident in the UK could formalise their status and stay forever. The tech we delivered was a first for the UK Government and won a number of awards for innovation and I remain extremely proud of what we achieved in challenging circumstances. 

What style of management philosophy do you employ in your current position?

I’m not sure I employ any single management philosophy in my role, I think I bring a collection of ideas and leadership principles and apply them in different contexts. I’m very lucky to have a brilliant and talented team with deep technical expertise, so it’s my role to enable them to be their best selves and to support and encourage them. Equally, as the SRO for one of the government’s major programmes, I’m accountable for success so a number of key decisions rest with me and I’m someone who relies on both data and experience when I’m faced with tough choices. 

What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?

I think the tech industry is currently majoring in AI and automation. We’re making use of both as we build a single front door for all government services. It’s a really exciting time to be working in tech. 

If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?

This is such an interesting question – I immediately leapt to some of my ‘I’ll never do this again’ moments. But when I think about it – as a delivery person, it’s what doesn’t go so well that I think you learn the most from. If I’d never made a mistake or wished for a do-over from time to time then I wouldn’t be the person I am today… so on balance, I’d keep it as is. 

What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain a C-level position in your industry?

Be yourself, be confident. Learn what you can about your strengths and what makes you unique and adds value and then double down on those things. Be a good person and show integrity. Keep your ego in check, everyone makes mistakes and when you make your next one you want your colleagues to be leaning down to help you up, not pushing you under a bus so invest in your relationships with your peers and colleagues. 

What behaviour or personality trait do you most attribute your success to and why?

I have an unusual ability to work at a strategic level as well as understand all the details. I think my need for detail initially unnerves people when they first meet me, but I need to understand how all the pieces of a complex puzzle come together to make the picture. This helps me spot gaps and patterns as well as help complex organisations to focus on the right goals. It’s been hugely helpful in the sorts of projects and programmes I’ve worked on. 

What’s your go-to productivity trick?

Ahem – somewhat ironically for a digital delivery professional, my go-to trick is my notebook and pen. I’ve never managed to adjust to the digital alternatives and there is something about making a list and ticking things off that I love. 

What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?

GOV.UK One Login is building a new way for everyone in the UK to sign into and access all government digital services. Like a lot of Digital Transformation programmes of this type, it goes in phases. Initially, we were scoping and testing ideas, over the past year or so we’ve been in what I called ‘big build mode’ where all our software teams have been building and deploying the features we need to make our product work. Right now we’re pivoting into a broader adoption phase as we roll out to more government services and see our user numbers climb into the tens of millions. Each phase has needed a slightly different version of me based on what we’re doing. Right now I’m focused on making sure our roll-out plan is as quiet and calm as these things can possibly be and that teams are looking after themselves, ensuring they’re resilient as we work through the next phases of the programme. 

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