Success Stories with Ed Hossell 

‘Now it doesn’t matter what my A levels were , the fact I didn’t finish Uni, all of it now is about experience in the job and evidencing certain behaviours, which is brilliant.’ 


Introduction to Ed 

Ed Hossell is a 29 year old, who works for the department of transport, and has been there for the past two and a half years. When he was 16 he was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, an eye condition that affects your central vision, and impacts the perception of detail, for example reading, and recognising faces. Here is our conversation where Ed talks about his experience of leaving university early, his current role as policy and engagement advisor, and his top tips for entering the civil service. 


Can you talk us through university, what you started studying and how you found it? 

‘I was doing civil engineering which unknown to me at the time, is a very vision heavy subject, with lots of diagrams that you need to do like technical drawings, even becoming a civil engineer it is an advantage to be able to drive, to go out on site. I think those were the kinds of concerns that I was grappling with at the time and noticed in second year I was unable to read anything in the lectures. It was a place where I was struggling to deal with the content of the course. It was interesting but there were probably things I had to miss out on and having to read textbooks was difficult.’ 

‘This was 10 years ago, so technology was definitely there, but there was a focus on physical handouts, and note-taking wasn’t all on laptops, it was written.  There was less support, and also I didn’t know what I needed, so I ended up dropping out in third year, I was trying to re-sit elements of second year, and eventually I realised I wasn’t really in the right place to be doing this. In hindsight I’m incredibly grateful for the journey that I have been on since then, at that time, it was tough getting used to the sight levels, and I think there was an expectation of do you know what you need. It was very much a case of figure it out on your own.’ 

‘Getting used to using things like Zoomtext and voiceover  was difficult, for 19 years I had taken in information by reading, and I was still trying to read, where as when I come into work now, how I take in information has completely changed, and I use voiceover and listen to information. I was in this weird spot where I do have some levels of sight, so I was trying to rely on the levels of sight that I had.  I’ve realised, use the technology, once you get used to it, its so much better, I always found that talking to other people, and trying different technologies out is really helpful.’ 


What could have made that transition period better? 

‘It would have helped talking to other visually impaired people. I didn’t know what to expect, and I was relying on someone telling me about my own experience, which in hindsight is ridiculous because they don’t know your level of vision. I play visually impaired cricket, I gained an enormous amount through that by hearing about my teammates’ experience, picking stuff up from the way they live their lives, and being part of a community is absolutely vital.’ 


Can you tell us a bit about your interactions with Blind in Business? 

‘A friend from blind cricket, suggested blind in business. I was working part-time and didn’t know what I wanted to do, he put me in touch with James, and I came along to education to employment, and it was brilliant. It gave me an enormous boost in confidence, meeting the alumni, having the assessment centre and being given feedback was so helpful. I could not speak higher of that experience and the support that blind in business have given me. A couple of times you guys brought me up from somerset and put me in an Airbnb for a week, where I would come into the office, apply for jobs and get my CV up to scratch. It was one of those times that I applied for my previous role, that got me into the job that I am in today. So without Blind in Business I don’t know what I would be, but I am certainly indebted to you guys its been brilliant.’  


What were you doing part-time, how did you find your job-seeking process? 

‘The job-seeking process was something that I felt quite lost on, I didn’t know what I was looking for or what I wanted to do, and my sight had deteriorated a fair bit, so I was completely out of practice of reading anything. I would get exhausted, I didn’t have the set up or the software. I felt quite lost. I was working in hospitality. But there were a lot of things that I couldn’t do with my sight, I was also working as a labourer in a wood working shop so again very visual. So yeah quite lost, and I think also that stemmed from not having the support in terms of motivation, confidence, but also the software was hard. Coming to you guys and having access to the software was really helpful.’  


Can you tell us a bit about your current role? 

‘I am a policy and engagement advisor. What I’ve been doing is leading on elements of the Haulier Outreach programme, which is a programme where the department for transport have tried to inform HGV drivers of upcoming changes related to customs, imports, exports, we try to communicate that to them in an easily digestible manner. We would take complex policies from other government departments like HMRC and Home Office, and we would try and condense that and send them out to these drivers and give them support on the ground. We were trying to communicate upcoming changes.  Essentially trying to deal with road freight and preventing disruption around ports and easing trade.’ 

‘Currently we are doing a bit more forecasting of what we want to do. We have a lot of meetings, a lot of collaboration across London departments, we review how that impacts us and our target audience of HGV drivers and what they need to know from that.’  


Can you tell us about your first role, and how you found the application process? 

‘I applied to join the civil service policy advisor apprenticeship scheme, where for 80% of the time you are on the job and get randomly assigned to different departments, and then 20% off the job. For the actual application it was an online form, much like the other civil service applications, there are loads of resources about it online, but it is called the civil service success profiles which includes your behaviours, strengths and a situational judgement test. For the behaviours in the success profiles you have to give examples of certain practices that the civil service are looking for, like working together, seeing the big picture or communicating and influencing, working collaboratively, there are lots that you can use. Once you get through that process, there was an assessment centre, where there was a written exercise, a verbal exercise, and then an interview in a day, which is quite a long day. Then you come in at a certain grade, and then you can apply for other jobs whilst you are still doing the apprenticeship. So that is what I did, I was on temporary promotion before I finished my apprenticeship.’  


With the application process did you need any reasonable adjustments? 

‘I had some extra time if there was a written exercise online, on the assessment day, I had reasonable adjustments. It is important that you communicate these things ahead of time, and are as specific as possible, so I said I needed access to Zoomtext and had extra time. I would recommend to request to take your laptop in because I was on a computer that I was not familiar with, which had a tiny screen and was quite slow and clunky, so it wasn’t ideal. The civil service puts a lot of emphasis on ensuring reasonable adjustments, which is a good incentive to work at the civil service, be as open as possible with it and if you can be clear about what you need, people will respond very well to that. I think there are options where you can call someone and speak to them on the phone for guidance on what the day will look like, that is worthwhile as well. They are fast with responding and everything is prepared well ahead of time.’  


What are the different routes into the civil service?  

‘There are lots of great apprenticeships and schemes, there is the fast stream, that is a really good scheme to apply to, because even if you don’t get it, if you score high enough on it you can then get direct appointments and can be appointed a role. So even if you are not able to make the fast stream, they know that you are good enough to fill this level of role. A lot of people I knew were direct appointments, and once you’re in the job, you’re in the job.‘ 

‘You could also just straight up apply for jobs, coming out of university, I recommend you apply for positions either at HEO level (Higher Executive Officer) or EO level (Executive Officer) and you can quickly move up to HEO. If you apply for the apprenticeship scheme, you go in at EO level, or you can apply for the fast track apprenticeship which is the graduate programme where you enter at HEO level. Those are three good ways to apply.‘ 


How did you go from your apprenticeship to your current role? 

‘This is the great thing about the apprenticeship, the majority of it is just working, and so it is that experience in the job that I found most valuable. You can just apply for roles, there is nothing stopping you from that, and every civil service job was on there. Every department will have their internal EOIs which are expression of interest, which are roles that they want to be filled a bit more quickly, so they are temporary promotions, which is what I was promoted initially on, and that was advertised within our department. There is so much scope for moving around, working on different elements, support from the line manager saying you’re clearly working on a higher level, lets support you with your application, so success profiles is really well-known in the civil service, and so building examples is something line managers take really seriously. I have had a great experience of people supporting my development.’ 

‘The apprenticeship was 18 months to 2 years, the qualification isn’t so important, it’s the actual experience that you get on the job. Now it doesn’t matter what my A  levels were , the fact I didn’t finish Uni, all of it now is about experience in the job and evidencing certain behaviours, which is brilliant. This is why I really recommend this process, because you can develop and move up quite quickly.’ 


What do you think would make an application stand out? 

‘I would say, having more than just standard behaviours. If they ask what behaviours did you have, and you answer with something about university or A levels, they might think there is not so much about you. So if you have extra-curricular activities, or other things, or you could even use your disability to an advantage. For communicating and influencing, you could talk about a time where you have had to communicate and influence around needing reasonable adjustments for example, which evidences some skills and outcomes. I would also say the STAR method: Situation, Task, Action, Result, is really important and is recommended throughout the civil service application process.’  


Where do you see yourself in the future? 

‘At the civil service the career progression is very clear, patterned out and encouraged. Each department has grades and then you move up the grades. I certainly see myself in the civil service, I might like to move away from the department for transport, and into decarbonisation, or potentially accessibility on public transport. I know someone who heads up that team, and that is something that is great about the civil service, is that you build up a network of people, and they move on to different jobs, you can speak to them, and they will tell you about job opportunities. People move around all the time. You can move from like me HGV driver to energy to prison reform, all very impactful and fulfilling.’  


What attributes are beneficial to be successful within the Civil Service? 

‘There is lots of space for different types of personalities, but bringing it back to what people in blind in business might be, is being confident around your disability and being willing to  not see it as an issue, rather see it in terms of finding reasonable adjustments and what you need to succeed. You also need to be willing to learn and adapt along the way. In the civil service drafting skills are quite important, so writing. There is scope to improve on that, so before joining my skills weren’t very good but I have got much better since joining. Being a team player being able to work as a team and contribute. The civil service is a great place to work, I think you can get a lot of fulfilment out of it.’