This is forty

This is forty, spelt out in white letters on a black peg board

I'm turning 40 this month, so I thought it was worth marking it with a blog post

Lots has happened since I turned 30. 10 years ago, I was still working at a design agency, and struggling to find a fit for my skills, which were a mix UX (user experience), HTML/CSS and graphic design.

Switching jobs a lot

I took a big risk, giving up a stable job to go freelance (with no clients lined up – big thanks to my friends and old colleauges who stepped in with lots of work for me).

A couple of years later I landed my first UX role with a Finnish service design agency (called Leadin) who were working with DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency). This gave me my first taste of UCD (user-centered design) in government. Something I'd been keen to break into for a while.

2 things have been pretty constant since then. All of my jobs have been in UCD in government in some shape or form (Office for National Statistics, Swirrl, UK Health Security Agency, Made Tech). And I've switched jobs a lot. It's become a running joke in my family. But it's always paid off, either by giving me a great experience, or by getting a pay rise. Often both.

In some ways I wish I'd taken more risks sooner. But I also recognise that I've been privileged and lucky to be able to take these chances. Especially when I have a mortgage to pay and a family to help support.


My family has also grown. We had another kid in 2016. We moved into our third (and hopefully last) home. Although I said this last time so who knows. We've got a dog. And 2 cars. We're a living breathing stereotype now.


My latest and maybe biggest risk has been going contracting. The nature of contracting and the length of my previous notice period, meant that I had to quit my job before securing a contract to work on. But thanks to some excellent advice from a bunch of people I know, meant that I was able to get work lined up pretty quickly.

I have a theory that my previous experience as a freelance graphic designer means that I quite like the thrill of living contract-to-contract, and never quite knowing what's around the corner. Case in point, my current contract is due to end in a couple of weeks. I fully trust and expect it to be renewed, but I think part of contracting is being able to trust in the process.

So overall, it's going really well. Although I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a teensy bit worried by the constant news about AI (artificial intelligence) and tech layoffs.

Birthday party(s)

Anyway, on to the celebrations. Although my birthday isn't until later in the month. I've already thrown myself a couple of parties. We had a big house party with lots of family, friends and neighbours. Then I dragged my close family (about 25 people) to a campsite in Tenby and around all the tiny craft beer bars.

Highly recommend Tap & Tân, and Tenby in general. Even though it's only about 1 hour from Swansea, I havent visited there much, as we usually go to Gower, or further west to St Davids.

Here's a photo of me living my best life. Taken by my brother-in-law Tariq.

White man with beard and cap, smiling and looking very happy, carrying a wooden flight with 3 beers on it

Here's to the next 10.