Recruiting in the Service Design space, I'm lucky to get to spend my days talking with really interesting folks.

To that end, a few months ago, we launched FFS. Otherwise known as Futureheads Five Stories, this is a regular interview series where we speak to people who have interesting stories to tell. We aim to find out more about their career in the digital world, and the lessons they've learnt along the way.

And we couldn’t resist the acronym.

For this edition of FFS, we're joined by Principal Service Designer Paul Batterham.

What’s the story of your career so far?

Typically complicated, from what I can tell. I graduated in 1999, having studied illustration for children’s books. Making a living doing that back then was nigh on impossible unless you took a job at a greetings card company, or in-house at somewhere like Walker books, replicating someone else’s artwork. I landed a job managing an art supplies shop, and eventually landed a job in a small print design agency in Hove.

We shared our studio with a chap who was making websites in Dreamweaver and CD ROMS using Director, and I started doing production-y bits for him – chopping up assets, that kind of thing.

That was enough to get a foot in the door of ‘digital’ and I spent the next few years working my way through a number of agencies, each one more digital and less print than the one before until I wound up at LBi (RIP).

After three years working on some massive accounts, I found myself disillusioned with creating services and sites for commercial companies and wanted to use my skills to do some good, or ‘pay my emotional salary’ as a friend put it.

So I left and started my own agency with a friend who came from a third sector innovation background. We saw a gap in the market to use digital-led agile delivery methods to explore innovation opportunities for charities, not-for-profit organisations and other organisations that were Doing Good.

When you run a company, you end up doing everything, from schmoozing clients to changing the loo roll. And I had the chance to expand my skill-set from mainly UX and design to new areas such as strategy, research and behavioural sciences. I took on the role of Managing Director and got on to a business management course being run at UCL by Goldman Sachs, so I began to develop a whole new set of skills.

In the three years that the agency ran for, we created some career-defining products looking at alcoholism, childhood literacy and charity fundraising, but ultimately cash-flow and burnout got us and the company folded. But the reputation we had from the work we’d done allowed us to step into new roles.

A few years of freelancing at various places let me take stock and understand what my role is now and what I want from a job. I’ve recently joined Kainos as a Service Designer, working with a very talented team of 45 experience designers across a wealth of Government projects including the new NHS app and a complete reimagining of the conveyancing process for HM Land Registry.

What advice would you give to yourself when you were just starting out?

Trust your hunch, and be vocal about it.

I think junior and middleweight designers struggle to get their voices heard, and are judged by age, not ability. I’ve worked with some incredible designers in their early 20s and some truly awful creative directors in their 40s.

We need to respect and reward ability and understanding as much as experience – instead of imposing fake horizons on people’s careers based on age.

What do you love most about what you do?

The chance to work on real problems as opposed to madey-uppy marketing bullshit. No one ever died from a microsite not going live on a day that makes a Marketing Manager happy, but if you’re creating services that help alcoholics get a handle on their drinking, then you can literally save lives.

That’s what keeps me coming back.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?

Always check there’s water before using the soap.

And don’t be afraid to step outside of what you know. Things generally work out.

What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge in our industry over the next twelve months?

Finding enough of the right people and convincing them to go perm.

Kainos is going through extraordinary growth, and the work we are doing needs extraordinary people to do it. The market is great for freelancers right now, especially if you have Government experience so it’s imperative for companies like Kainos to be able to put together a compelling offer. The work we’re doing is making a significant impact across the UK in all sorts of ways, and I believe that’s a pretty good reason to get involved.

A little bit about Paul

I am an end-to-end service designer, product innovator and entrepreneur working across the spectrum of digital creativity from strategy and research, through user experience and information architecture to fully realised user interface design, brought to life through iterative prototyping. 

I have built and run large and small teams, created products from scratch as well as from best-guess standing starts. I have also built and grown my own creative agency and studied business management at UCL, funded by Goldman Sachs. I have deep knowledge of web accessibility and designing for mass population.

I’m particularly interested in creating products and services that encourage behaviour change for good.

You can connect with Paul on LinkedIn.

Want to take part in our FFS series – or fancy a chat about service design? I'm all ears. Say hello at ciaran@wearefutureheads.co.uk.

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