Meet Matthew Pugh, Dev Ops manager in the Data + Digital Labs team
What do you do at Social Finance?
I do a little bit of everything techie! Mainly, I work on backend and frontend development, infrastructure planning and serverless design. I love the fact that no two days are the same, plus every day a new project with a technological angle could be thrown at me. It’s great for me to keep on learning. Every project may be focused on a different area – education, housing, social care – so I get to dip my toes in to all sorts of fields and learn about each one.
Why did you want to work for Social Finance?
The whole reason I went into tech was to help people. I used to be a maths teacher, then later moved into developing systems that help teachers use technology more effectively and make better use of the student data they collect.
When I saw Social Finance was hiring, I knew working for them would be ideal. There are so many people here from different backgrounds that it almost doesn’t matter what you did before – it’s what you bring to the job. There are a few former teachers, so perhaps we all have that urge to help people in common.
What project are you most proud of working on?
I’m proud of every project but there are two I think will have a real impact.
The first was developing the Leaving Well tool. This allows young people leaving care to stay in contact with their case worker and gives them more control over their future. The tool also gives case workers and managers access to data they can use to help care leavers. So, if the young person is experiencing housing problems, that information is quickly fed back to local authorities who can target their support more accurately.
The Leaving Well tool has the potential to make a huge difference to people’s lives, so I’m really proud I was involved in that project.
The whole reason I went into tech was to help people, so I knew working for Social Finance would be ideal. There are so many people here from different backgrounds that it almost doesn’t matter what you did before – it’s what you bring to the job.
The other project is one I’m currently working on with Wales social care, trying to digitise things. If, for example, your mother needed a handrail installed in her house, you’d call the department to put in a request but may wait months for a response. Then you might call to find out what was happening but if everyone does that, the team could get overwhelmed. So we’ve developed an automated response: you get a text message saying they’ve received your request and when they can look at it. This frees up the social care team to get on with their jobs.
Where will tech have the biggest social impact in the next few years?
A lot of social care teams are struggling to modernise. Many are still transferring paper-based information to computers, which takes a lot of time, or the systems they use are clunky and the data within them hard to access. Using technology that integrates services between local authorities, or even teams within the same local authority, will be really helpful.
At the moment, teachers might notice that a child is experiencing difficulties in the classroom, but they don’t know what’s going on outside of school. Social services may know what’s happening within the family and the police may know about any arrests, but the different departments are not communicating with each other. Building systems where they can talk to each other and share information is a big deal.
It’s not just about seeing the bigger picture but keeping everyone informed about how the bigger picture is changing too. If we don’t start using that data and technology, the situation for social care teams may only get worse.
What would you be doing if you weren’t working in tech?
I might have stayed in teaching or gone to work for children’s services. But I’d love to do something more creative, like become a children’s author. In fact, I’ve already started writing books. They’re mainly adventure stories, similar to the ones I used to read when I was little, with a little bit of sci-fi; once a techie, always a techie!
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