Mark Langdale felt lucky that his civil service career had provided him with so much stimulation. He had moved from taking a leading role in public service reform in the Cabinet Office, through running a ministerial private office, to the position of director of the criminal justice IT programme in the Home Office. But in 2004, he felt that he was ready for a change. “There was a nagging sense that for all the interesting and worthwhile things I was doing, my experience was narrow because I had only worked in the civil service,” he recalls.
After considering a secondment to the private sector, he became convinced that he needed to fully immerse himself in a new challenge. His Home Office team had included a mix of civil servants and contractors, and conversations with one of them led him to discussing a role with Syntegra. He says: “It was doing a lot of work across public sector, and I knew one of the things I wanted to do was keep a link with that world.”
On his appointment, he says, the main challenge was getting to grips quickly with the technical language of the telecoms world: “I was moving from being a generalist to a specialist.”
The lexicon of job titles within his new organisation also took some getting used to. “My experience in the civil service is that people are able to rely on their job title to convey the sense of both responsibility and seniority within the organisation,” he comments. “At Syntegra, people were much quicker to define their role in terms of the budget they controlled or sales they had achieved or were delivering.”
Now ensconced as the lead for UK central government at EC Harris, Langdale says that the decision to leave the civil service was tough – but the ultimate result has been increased self-confidence and a detailed understanding of how the private sector works. And whatever happens next, he says, he’ll continue working in or closely with the public sector. “Having worked on both sides of the fence, I readily recognise where failure to align aims can occur – on both sides,” he says. “But if you get that harnessing right, then the results can be brilliant.”