There is a common perception that work in the government can be slow paced, bureaucratic, and less progressive than work in private companies. Speller International works with a number of Government departments so I took some time to speak to one of our most senior consultants to get an inside view on what he feels are the main differences and if it is all doom and gloom!
Prathap Thamilselvan has worked with the DHS since 2015 and has previously worked with Auckland Council in New Zealand. In the private sector he has worked with Leaseplan, SAP labs, as well as other private companies overseas. I spent some time with Prathap to get an understanding of what he feels are the main differences between working in the government and the private sector.
What in your opinion are the main differences between working in government and private sector company?
The type of work is generally quite different and the aim of that work. Often in private companies the focus is more around selling a product or making money from its customer base or attracting new customers. In the government, the focus is around trying to improve a service or offering the government provides. In the DHS this is something that could potentially benefit every Australian at some point in their life. Being an Australian citizen myself, I also have the benefit of being able to look at some situations as also a “user”, and I find it rewarding to think of the work in this way which isn’t always a feeling I got when working in the private sector. I would also say that there is a difference in the complexity of the solution, in the DHS you are dealing with huge amounts of CRM data and complexity which is not something I have been exposed to in the private sector.
What skills have you had to learn or improve to make you successful in a government department?
I think you have to be open minded and flexible when working in the government as things can change at short notice and the structure can be quite different to a private company. I would say I’ve had to learn a little more patience and be flexible with my skillset and be happy to pick up and learn new skills to make sure that I can add the most value to the DHS.
What in your opinion are the main positives of working in the government?
I personally find the work rewarding in that, the changes we make can make a difference to our community and society as a whole. As a contractor in the private world you can sometimes end up working on products or services that you may not find necessary or rewarding. The main positive I see in my work is when we go to service centres and can see the benefits of the work we have delivered.
What are the main challenges?
Things can change on very short notice, timelines can also be very aggressive at times and there is pressure to deliver. There can also be changes such as legislation or changes in policy that have a knock-on effect which can sometimes be a little demoralising.
How would you describe the differences in work environment?
The environment in the DHS is an extremely dynamic project environment. Business needs can change quickly and at short notice and you have to adapt to that quickly. Sometimes reporting lines are not always clear and it can be difficult to be able to get straight to the problem. It is important to have a patient and self-driven approach to ensure you are still able to deliver valuable solutions.
So, in summary, it is not all doom and gloom! There are difficulties that you will have to work through and obviously every Government department is different, however there are interesting complex and rewarding government roles out there. Prathap has worked on a number of complex fast paced government IT projects that have progressed his career. He has learnt multiple new skills and technologies and developed into a consultative and highly technical skilled developer working on major IT projects that can potentially benefit every single Australian.