Interview: Isabella Wallington, Manager Innovation Business Development & Innovation, NSW Department of Primary Industries

Tell us about the journey to your current role and what it this role entails?

I’m currently managing an Innovation program at Department of Primary Industries based in Orange. My journey to this role is an interesting one. I’m actually an anthropologist by degree and began my career in federal government working in Indigenous affairs, mostly in health and welfare – a real passion area for me. I then wanted to get out of government to get some experience consulting. Given my experience in ethnographic research and user-centred design I took a role with FutureGov Australia where I went on to lead their awesome Australian team of designers and digital experts on a mission to design public services fit for the digital age. And so began my second great career passion area – digital transformation and user-centred design for government. After a time I wanted to move out of the city to be with family and as luck would have it the Department of Primary Industries was looking for an Innovation Manager focussed on digital transformation, design & data. I’ve now been with the Department just under a year and since then we’ve set up a internal consultancy-type function where we work with teams across the department to solve problems differently. I also get the chance to work on really interesting things like exploring the adoption of blockchain for food traceability and food safety.

Can you describe a project you are working on/recently completed, and any key challenges you have faced along the way?

I’ve been leading a project looking at whether blockchain technology is the right technology to help solve market failures around food safety, food traceability and market access. It’s been a really interesting project where we’ve been able to work across a number of use cases to understand the current supply chain and investigate how a digital supply chain solution may help alleviate known problems, or not. A key challenge with this project has always been around the role of government and we’ve spent a lot of time thinking carefully about that. We want to make sure that we are involved where there us a community / public / industry benefit, but where there isn’t that we let private industry do their thing. It’s a complicated balance and essentially all about focussing in closely on our customers and what is the ‘service’ or range of services we need to offer them.

What did you learn from this project? What did it achieve?

I’ve learnt a whole lot of interesting things about digital supply chains. I’ve learnt about seeing past the hype of something like ‘blockchain’ to critically interrogate whether it has something to offer to a particular challenge or industry.

What excites you most about the future?

In my work at the moment I’m thinking a lot about data and the opportunity that we have in government to drive some really exciting progress. It’s such a complicated space but we have a real responsibility to make sure we are drawing as much value as we can from the data that we own, without ever compromising on privacy and security.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone looking to further their career in government, what would it be?

As a young female leader I see that the opportunity for women to bring their critical thought to the table is so important and adds an incredibly valuable perspective. Government is a fantastic place to work to make a difference and I’d love to see more young women continuing to be bold in presenting their own view and challenging some of the established ways of doing things.

Where do you look to for further education? E.g. articles, podcasts, news sources, courses – University, Coursera, internal?

I’m an avid reader of blogs through medium, I sign up for loads of daily/weekly newsletters and pick out articles from them every day including newsletters by clever companies like FutureGov. I do quite a bit of driving around NSW in my role now so podcasts have also become a great source of learning for me.

What are you most looking forward to, about the Public Sector Innovation Show 2019?

The opportunity to meet more interesting, smart and inspiring people doing great stuff across the public sector!