DTO sets up in grungy Ultimo

James Riley
Editorial Director

Australia’s shiny new Digital Transformation Office is getting down and dirty in the hipster heartland. The nation’s newest agency is to set up shop inside a bunker-style co-location workspace at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the DTO’s new chief executive Paul Shetler have fired the starter’s gun on the agencies first recruitment drive to find a crack multi-disciplinary digital team to start shaping the agency’s culture – and to start work on its first “exemplar” project.

It is understood that The Hatchery – the work-space where UTS’ best and brightest go to start companies and be fabulous in one of the university’s less fashionable buildings on Harris Street – is one of two co-located venues on the campus being considered to house the team.

We want you: the DTO will house a crack team of digital warriors at UTS

Like most workspaces in StartupLand, The Hatchery is no oil painting to look at – and it’s a long way from the corridors of power and mundacity in Canberra – but its supercool on the inside. Recruits can gaze upon the nearby Frank Gehrig building for inspiration.

The recruitment campaign wants to attract around 20 developers and designers, researchers and product managers. And to keep things real Mr Shetler is promising not to pay these superstar recruits at a level that would embarrassment them in their new workspace (and that they would command in big end of town employment.)

“We are not competing on the basis of price. We are not competing on salary,” Mr Shelter said. “We are competing on the basis that we think this is the best digital challenge going around right now.”

“You have a chance to work on agile teams, to work on meaningful projects that make a difference. You get the chance to do the right thing. And that’s exciting. It’s exactly the kind of thing that gets people out of bed in the morning, and these are the people that we want,” he says.

Mr Shetler has already hired UK wunderkind Jordan Hatch who he worked with at the Government Digital Service (and who arrived in Sydney this morning), as well as UTS graduate Leisa Reichelt, a user experience research leader also from the GDS.

But the next 20 in this first DTO team will come from its Australia-focused recruitment drive. The DTO clearly thinks it can compete for Australia’s best talent with the big brands and big pay-packets of private sector digital leaders.

Mr Turnbull said the experience in the UK at the GDS was that the best and brightest minds were drawn to government work, adding that public service no longer carried a life sentence.

“They may not work [for government] forever,” Mr Turnbull said. “But they may work there, make their contribution and then go off and do other great things. It’s a great place to make a contribution and to learn.”

“We are not asking people to sign up to 40 years in the public service. This is going to be a thoroughly agile, dynamic operation, as it has to be.”

“Government writ large – federal, tate and local – makes up more than one-third of the economy. So making government more efficient, making it engage with citizens in a more meaning way and more effective way doesn’t just save money. It makes the whole economy [more efficient,] Mr Turnbull said.

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