I was a civil servant, now I’m a… consultant in the Middle East

Written by Andrew Morley on 17 May 2019 in Feature
Feature

In the latest instalment of our series on civil service leavers, we meet Andrew Morley, who after a working on policing and justice policy in the civil service, is now a consultant on public safety in the Middle East. He explains how he has used the skills he learnt as civil servant in a new environment

A view of busy illuminated streets around the high-rises of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Photo: PA

I was a civil servant for 20 years starting as an executive officer with the Immigration and Nationality Department ending up as chief executive (director equivalent) of the London Criminal Justice Board with stints in youth justice, mental health and policing policy in between.

Much of my career was around facilitating multi-agency delivery of difficult things intended to make people and communities safer.

This included rolling out fast-tracking arrangements for persistent young offenders, developing high secure prison and hospital services for dangerous offenders and setting up the Independent Police Complaints Commission. 


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However, the highlight was the work we did at the London Criminal Justice Board to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and experience of criminal justice across the capital. During my tenure confidence in the criminal justice service in London went from the worst of any area in England and Wales to the best. That meant something to me as a Londoner.

For me the best thing about working for the service was feeling part of something that was bigger than you, and doing work that you could relate back to individuals and communities. The line between what you did and making a difference felt real and that inspired me on an almost daily basis. 

As important to me was the opportunity the service provided me. Disappointing A-levels and a lack of confidence common amongst many from working class backgrounds undermined any ambitions to go to university. However, a tangible commitment to diversity, a succession of supportive bosses and a departmental nomination for the fast stream provided a route for me into the Senior Civil Service. A case study in social mobility before the concept attracted the attention it rightly does now.

Further down the line this provided the route through to my becoming what I describe as an ‘accidental consultant’. An offer to join the United Arab Emirates Government as an adviser that subsequently fell through led me to my current role with PwC here in Abu Dhabi where I work on projects related to public safety.

I was not overly sure what to expect when I joined consultancy. I had some preconceptions. That I would be working with some very clever colleagues – I do; that the private sector would be free of bureaucracy - it is not; and probably the most commonly held one, that consultancy is all about making money – it is a consideration but not as all-consuming as I had expected.

What I had not appreciated, and have since realized, is how much consultancy and the civil service have in common. 

Both industries are strongly focused on problem resolution. PwC’s stated purpose is that we exist to solve important problems. Both have to approach this through a filter. The civil service does this in the context of the policies of the Government of the day, whilst consultancy has to consider its help in the context of whether the financials work. Whilst the civil service focuses primarily on the macro and consultancy includes the micro as well both require pragmatism and as I have discovered provide for the application of values to those decisions.

This means the skills you learn in government are transferrable. Analytical skills to identify and assess issues. Interpersonal skills to build the relationships necessary to implement any solutions. The constant desire to innovate and bring forward genuinely creative solutions. All are these are common and working on a consultancy project often feels very familiar to what I would do in the civil service.

As is the relationship with clients. We are in my part of the business about providing advice and the motto ‘civil servants advise; ministers decide’ easily translates to ‘consultants advise; clients decide’.

There are two differences. One industry, the other geography.

The sales part of the business was, for me at least, hard at the beginning. Attaching a cost to doing something that we – us and the client - all considered important was uncomfortable especially as you have to acknowledge a ‘for profit’ element. However, I soon realised that clients cared much less about this recognizing a value in what we do and willing to pay for it.

The other which is specific to my situation is around living and operating in a different region. Something I had never really entertained before and the single thing that has been the source of greatest challenge and satisfaction. Establishing credibility in meetings without the comfort of rank or grade and primarily conducted in another language that you cannot speak is an experience but one that delivers real satisfaction when you pierce through and have an impact.

I hope in reading this you get a sense of my pride of having been a civil servant and my immense gratitude for what I learnt and experienced in my time there. 

The skills we learn as civil servants are transferrable to a range of occupations and industries, and operating outside of government deepens skills, broadens experience and allows you to look at issues from a different perspective.

In my case these are skills I fully intend to bring home and to the public sector, but I do see benefit for those who wish to contribute through a different industry. Prior to my leaving I intuitively thought of the public sector as being the only route through which you could really deliver public good. I now know that not to be true and impact can be delivered wherever you work if you have the skills, clarity of mission and opportunity.

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