The session saw longstanding FDA member Lawrence talk about her career to date and then take part in a Q&A session moderated by FDA General Secretary, Dave Penman, where she offered advice to fast streamers at the start of their careers on the importance of building good partnerships and developing networks.
Lawrence spoke of being inspired by a childhood neighbour, a criminologist in the civil service, and then taking summer jobs in investment banking before taking the plunge and joining the civil service fast stream. Always an activist, she advises current fast streamers to always be aware of how policy gaps can have a real, negative impact on ordinary people, something she had experience of early in her career working on the issue of personal pensions mis-selling.
Talking to nearly 40 members via Zoom, Lawrence gave an account of the changes she has seen in the civil service since her days working with Ken Clarke at the Treasury, through Gordon Brown’s tenure, before moving to the Home Office and then leaving the civil service to spend six years working under both Boris Johnson and Sadiq Khan as Chief Executive of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.
Lawrence celebrated the huge strides made over the years in areas such as diversity and inclusion, but pointed out that in her experience the civil service has often been a leader in understanding the needs of its employees, with the Treasury being an early adopter of flexible working as part of efforts to retain staff. She spoke of thirteen years spent working flexibly, in every possible working pattern, including a particularly fruitful and positive job share that successfully transferred from the Treasury to the Home Office.
In response to a question about how to reconcile activist instincts with the vital need for political impartiality, Lawrence acknowledged that this could sometimes be a challenge but that she had found an outlet for her activism in innovation and in roles where she could actively engage with communities, such as in her role at MOPAC. She also encouraged fast streamers to volunteer in their own local communities, pointing to her own experience as a school governor, and, of course, to get involved with their union, noting her own many years of activity in the FDA.
Fast Streamers, stay tuned for details of future events.