A Day in the Life of: Sue Garrard

“I’ve done bras to booze to drink driving! In my early days in ads, I worked on Heinz beans – still my favourite brand. And the launch of congestion charging, which nearly ended my social life.”

Sue%20GarrardName: Sue Garrard

Company: Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)

Job title: Customer Champion and Director of Communications

What keeps you busy all day?
Trying to keep one step ahead of 500 people (the comms team at DWP), on behalf of 100,000 people (our workforce) to help 25 million people (our customer base)

What keeps you awake at night?

My puppy is the most common cause of sleeplessness. I’ve trained myself to sleep using a yoga technique which works 90% of the time. It’s always people issues that keep me awake.

Describe your working day:

I’m a bad ad for work life balance. The commute doesn’t help, but I’ve no one else to blame for that! I’m usually in meetings from 9 until 6, and do the rest of my work either side. I have two golden rules: never leave unread emails for more than 24 hours, and answer all you possibly can yourself.

What’s your busiest time of day?

6pm is a crunch point. I clear all work that goes to Ministers, and people always leave it to the last minute. On Friday at 6pm, my inbox is like a holding pattern over Gatwick.

What brands/accounts have you worked on?

I’ve done bras to booze to drink driving! In my early days in ads, I worked on Heinz beans – still my favourite brand. And the launch of congestion charging, which nearly ended my social life.

Best day at work:

Welcoming back James Purnell, our Secretary of State, a great man to work with – and generating a week of DWP in the headlines with all the media commenting sensibly on radical reform of welfare. Ground breaking in so many ways…

Worst day at work:

Saying goodbye to Peter Hain after only six months, and seeing at first hand how cruel the world of politics is to talented people’s careers.

Name one thing you’ve achieved that has made your bosses sit up and take notice:

Taking brave decisions


1. Spend time with my horse (no, really)
2. Be a role model for aspiring women in the civil service
3. Make comms at DWP an irresistible career choice for good people in the private sector

Advice to other rising stars:

Be yourself but nicer. Do as you would be done by. And remember it’s a marathon not a sprint.

Quote from the boss:

Show me the chocolate bars! (the Permanent Secretary’s mantra to focus people on results)

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