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Me and my DRAGON

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Working at HM Land Registry

Wendy Hayton sitting at a computer screen displaying DRAGON software, with a cartoon dragon superimposed.

My goodness, how far I have come on my HM Land Registry journey!

Just recently, a group of my colleagues and I were discussing how we came to work at HM Land Registry. Lots of different reasons were discussed, but we didn't set out to join HM Land Registry. For me personally, I was about to become a single mother of two young children and needed a way to support them and myself. I was also following my Dad's example. He had been a Civil Servant, albeit in a different department, all of my life and I had seen what a rewarding career it could be.

I look back at that time with a smile, as even then as a new starter there was support all around me, much as there is today. We became family and we have seen each other through marriages, births, divorces, and deaths. Personally, I've been through all of those, but like the famous words of Eric Morecambe, just not necessarily in that order.

When I was asked to write this, I agreed, but then realised I wouldn't be writing it, but rather speaking it. Through my time in HM Land Registry, along with a number of other people, I have faced many health issues which have seen my hearing deteriorate (for which I blame my Dad, as it's inherited), mental health issues following our son's death and more and more musculoskeletal issues. This has led me to become a DRAGON user (a speech recognition software). So now you know why I mentioned speaking instead of writing. I've reached the stage where I sit in a corner and talk to myself. Luckily, while my computer doesn't answer back, it does type things for me.

As a technophobe, I've started to rely on the support of a different sort of family, our information system (IS) staff based in Plymouth. They've become my lifeline as they support me in my working day, every day!

These members of staff are continually working on new systems to support the way we work and always thinking about where the future might go. I certainly never thought I would be talking to my computer and that it would make sense of my words. Although, it seems that bothering them so much in the past has given me a higher profile than I might have liked. Well, now it's payback time! With more staff using DRAGON, they now come to me with questions like – have I encountered this before, what I do if X happens or how do I solve the issue?

It's great to know that in the last 12 months I have come so far as to be considered a superuser or a champion (or should that be super DRAGON champion). At the start of my DRAGON journey, I didn't ever think we would get this far. "Window" and "computer out of it" sometimes fell into the same sentence. Also, as part of our equality proofing, I'm being asked to test the new systems as they're being developed to check their compatibility with DRAGON.

This work will help other new users and also ensure that it works for our customers too. I'm also involved in looking at the diversity impacts of our new systems. How did I get involved in this?  Quite by accident really.

A number of years ago I was delving into our HR pages and I spotted a link to a Disability Network and thought "oohhh that looks interesting". What you have to realise is that at this stage my confidence was completely shot. My mental health was at a stage where it was affecting me in all aspects of my life and at times I wasn't even sure where I was going.

But my interest was piqued enough to take that huge step and ping off an email saying "Would you have me, could I join?"

That email was the best thing I ever did in my career here, even better than getting a law degree three years before! It's led me to do things I never thought I would be capable of.

Realising that you're not alone and that there are others just like you is an enlightening experience. In my time with the network, I've been given a mentor, reverse-mentored a member of the Board to HM Land Registry, prepared and delivered PowerPoint presentations. I've also designed posters, with the help of our graphics department and I'm now a small part of our digital journey. All things that I never dreamed I would be doing. I still have wobbles, but I know there are others there who will watch my back.

I have gained so much respect for myself that when the opportunity came to self-nominate for the role of Co-chair of our Disabled Employees Network – I did it!  To find that my peers had voted for me and I had the role was a great honour and I finally realised that people did want me!

As a disabled person, I often looked at job applications and opportunities and would tell myself I couldn't do it. Well look at me now – I'm doing it.

HM Land Registry, as a very diverse employer, has many things in place to support its staff- all 4,500 of us. HM Land Registry uses its policies and objectives to ensure that we are all on a level playing field. They also make sure that if you go for it, you can lift yourself above that playing field.

So if you spot an opportunity to join us or to move forward – I say GO FOR IT. The only thing stopping you is yourself.

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