In March 2021, the Patchwork Foundation’s Rockwell cohort were given the brilliant opportunity to attend a Masterclass taught by Sarah Healey CB, the Permanent Secretary for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The Masterclass provided us with a fantastic opportunity to learn from and spend time with one of the most senior figures within the Civil Service. The Permanent Secretary generously gave up her time to spend an evening delivering a Masterclass centred broadly around three key areas: the professional, the personal, and also broad practical advice for our future professional careers.
The Permanent Secretary provided us with a detailed description of her role and responsibilities, her vision for DCMS and the various factors which contributed to her ascent to her role as Permanent Secretary, although she specified in response to a question that there was never a blueprint or roadmap for reaching this stage of her career. Permanent Secretary Healey shared important lessons from her professional experience, including the importance of finding role models/aspirational figures within an organisation to work for and to learn from, and of the usefulness of taking on some of the qualities one admires in the successful achievers around us in the workplace. A key strap line the Permanent Secretary referred to with regards to overcoming challenges during difficult periods is ‘I could worry and panic if things go wrong but I always ask myself; would it help?’
An important part of the work carried out by the Permanent Secretary and DCMS is recognising the changing cultural landscape and power of innovation that digital technology brings to the UK. This is something which should be recognised as being a genuinely transformative force both culturally and economically; if harnessed to its full potential, the area covered by DCMS could be instrumental in spearheading the requisite powerhouse recovery from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The passion for leading from the front in this area was clear for us all to see, as the Permanent Secretary has always taken inspiration from the meaningful nature of the work she carries out with the DCMS.
The Permanent Secretary candidly discussed the importance of balancing her commitment to her family with important work commitments, and how both worlds often overlapped. What was clear from the Masterclass in the case of Permanent Secretary Healey was that, despite being a high-ranking official within an organisation as prestigious as the Civil Service, she has always ensured that her family life remains as much of a priority as her professional life. This holistic mindset was further reflected within the many personal passions that Permanent Secretary Healey holds, such as her desire to create a culture of increased diversity within the Civil Service. It was fascinating to learn of the Permanent Secretary proactively using her leadership position within a constantly rapid-growing department to enact lasting and positive change, something she has spoken of previously as being what she wishes to tackle within her role.
Advice for the future
We were also given helpful professional advice during the Masterclass, including the benefits of working in a public sector role, the importance of self-evaluation in the workplace and how feeling a sense of pride and belonging within your profession can be an invaluable tool to ensure you continually expand your vision for what you wish to ultimately achieve.
The Masterclass ended with an open Q and A, in which questions were asked directly in an open and informal manner, which the Permanent Secretary answered with great insight and detail. Overall, this was an inspiring evening for us, with time spent in the company of a leading figure within the Civil Service, who very generously shared her personal time teaching our cohort. On behalf of the entire Rockwell cohort, I would like to thank Permanent Secretary Sarah Healey CB once more for her commitment and dedication towards the Patchwork Foundation’s goal, of empowering young people to participate actively within all sections of the British political landscape.
Written by Shahroze Warraich, Patchwork Masterclass Participant 2021