Civil servants championing inclusion: Mahbubul Isam

Written by Beckie Smith on 27 September 2018 in Interview
Interview

"There are plenty of positive professional role models in the technology industry, but getting access to them is not easy"

To mark National Inclusion Week 2018, CSW speaks to civil servants who are championing inclusion in their organisation. Mahbubul Islam, head of secure design at the Department for Work and Pensions, shares how the civil service supported him after a life changing situation and the imporatnce of BAME role models in the tech sector.

How did you come to be involved in championing diversity and inclusion in the civil service?
I got involved in diversity activities during my time at the Passport Office. Returning to work from a long term and life changing situation, I was supported by several colleagues, managers and the PCS union. The support I received as part of my return to work meant that I never felt excluded, and I was able to fulfil my role as an administrative officer and also complete my rehabilitation on becoming a below-knee amputee.

Through this positive experience, I got involved in helping colleagues to become aware of the various diversity initiatives within the Passport Office and at the PCS. As I progressed through my career, I got involved in various working groups and was always seeking positive role models.

I now am proactively involved in focus groups to share my experience of being a civil servant of black and minority ethnic (BAME) background, and how things have changed in my security profession.

"There are plenty of positive professional role models in the technology industry, but getting access to them is not easy"

How has being on the civil service Future Leaders Scheme and the Minority Ethnic Pathway affected your career?
The application process for the Future Leaders Scheme (FLS) and the Minority Ethnic Pathway was definitely challenging. However, being successful has opened up networking opportunities with a set of colleagues that I had no previous engagement with in the civil service. It has also made me more aware of how the diversity within the civil service has changed in a positive way. I have also been able to build and strengthen areas that I was not naturally experienced in.

Tell us about the projects you’re involved in at the moment. 
I'm involved in many activities, but one I am very passionate about is the BAME IT society, which will be not for profit. There are plenty of positive professional role models in the technology industry, but getting access to them is not easy. The aim is to ensure that those who wish to get involved are able to reach out to potential mentors and mentees and obtain valuable support to progress in their career. The idea of the platform being agnostic to existing brands and bodies is one of the key drivers, as it aims to bring everyone together.

The civil service has evolved significantly in the area of technology, including a lot of financial investments in staff development. The BAME IT Society will help and facilitate discussions and so that everyone can build on everyone’s experience.

What’s the most exciting initiative you’ve come across in the civil service, aside from the projects you’re involved in?
I have come across many civil service events that colleagues can take part in, but the most positive for me was the civil service sports day. Being disabled I was not able to compete, but I was able to attend the event and be involved.

What one thing could our readers do to support inclusion in their own teams this week?
Celebrate the occasion with a team lunch. I have always supported and been involved in doing lunches to celebrate Eid, Christmas, Diwali and other religious and non-religious events. I would follow that up with finding out what events and focus groups are already available in the civil service and signing up to them and getting involved. There are also events outside of the civil service, so do keep an eye out for them.   

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