Head of software development

DfE Digital -

Full-time (Permanent)
Published on
14 October 2020
25 October 2020

Job description

These are exciting times at the Department for Education. We are transforming to become a more user centred organisation, delivering better outcomes for all our users through agile and iterative software development and continuous improvement.

We are seeking an innovative and creative Head of Software Development to grow and lead our Software Development profession. As a Head of Profession, you will build and maintain excellence in software development. You will work with an in-house team of Software Developers, Developers elsewhere in the department, and our suppliers.

You will lead and craft our in-house software development profession, which is spread across various cross-discipline teams and service areas, each building services to meet the needs of our users. You will identify, set, and communicate the standards, principles and good practice to help them deliver outstanding services.

You can find out more about our work, the tech stacks we are using, tooling, and our ways of working in our ?DfE Digital blog


Main Responsibilities:

Some responsibilities in this role will include:

• Providing leadership and vision as the Head of Profession for Software Development within DfE, and representing the department at cross-government and industry events;

• Collaborating with the other Heads of Profession within the department to promote multidisciplinary teams, agile ways of working, and continuous delivery;

• Improving our approach to Software Development by introducing, or adapting, ways of working and setting Software Development standards, principles and good practice;

• Building and leading a group of specialism principals/leads within the community, who will each be responsible for areas such as specific programming languages (e.g. Ruby, C#), or fields (front-end development, accessibility);

• Building a diverse and thriving community of Software Developers and cultivating a DevOps culture. Developing capability by facilitating internal mobility, crafting career paths, as well as identifying key learning and development for the profession;

• Keeping up to date with emerging and upcoming technologies and techniques, then exploring and championing their adoption within the department;

• Handling the allocation of Developers to teams, ensuring a good balance of personalities, skills and seniority, to enable the teams to deliver excellent services quickly;

• Leading on diversity and inclusion initiatives across the development community, growing awareness, inclusivity, and balance;

• Directing the resource planning and recruitment of Developers, building a more complementary team and improving the hiring process within the profession;

• Advocating user-centric agile approaches which focus on rapid and effective delivery of high quality digital services which are continuously improved;

• Supporting the sharing of methods and technologies across teams.

About You

We are looking for someone to show us the following essential criteria:

Essential criteria:

• Expertise and leadership - You will be a specialist in the field of Software Development, and have a broad knowledge of current and new technologies which you will use to bring people with you. We are looking for experience of leading a large and distributed development community across different parts of a large organisation.

• Agile and lean practices – You will have coached and led teams in agile software and have experience of working with User Researchers, User-Centred Designers, and directly with users.

Communicating between the technical and non-technical - You will be skilled at mediating and mending relationships, communicating with stakeholders at all levels, and in areas of high risk or complexity. You are also able to represent the community and speak to large audiences inside and outside of government.

The following criteria are desirable, but are not essential:

• Experience of leading a development community in a large and sophisticated organisation, setting practice and running community events, and having served as a Head of Profession.

• Making the process work – this will be experience of identifying and challenging internal processes which are unnecessarily complicated, adding value and coaching the organisation to inspect and adapt processes.

• Strategic planning– you will demonstrate ability to set software development strategy at a senior level.

• Team dynamics and collaboration– You can guide the organisation on team dynamics and conflict resolution.

Desirable criteria will only be assessed in the event of a tie break situation to make an informed decision


We'll assess you against these behaviours during the selection process:

  • Leadership
  • Changing and Improving
  • Seeing the Big Picture
  • Developing Self and Others
  • Communicating and Influencing

Technical skills

We'll assess you against these technical skills during the selection process:

  • Modern standards approach - You can use a modern standards approach to solve problems, using test driven development (TDD) techniques
  • Programming and build (software engineering) - You can write clear, concise and maintainable code using standard tools
  • Prototyping - You can use common design patterns and iterate them. You know a variety of methods of prototyping and can choose the most appropriate ones

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