How we work
USDS deploys small, responsive groups of technology experts to work with and empower civil servants. These multi-disciplinary teams bring best practices and new approaches to untangle some of our nation’s most important problems.
Recruiting the country’s best technologists for ‘tours of service’
Our staff comes from all corners of the technology industry, nonprofit world, and government to serve ‘tours’ of service, bringing a steady influx of fresh perspectives into government. Tours typically last between six months and two years, with a maximum length of four years.
Most of our staff have backgrounds in design, engineering, or product management. We also hire strategists, recruiters, procurement experts, attorneys, communications specialists and others, so if you don’t see yourself described below, you should still apply! For more info on USDS recruitment, read our Hiring FAQ.
Design and user experience
Our designers are seasoned practitioners with a range of expertise and skills from user research and content strategy to interaction, information, visual and service design. We all know that getting services and benefits from the government isn’t easy, but unfortunately, it’s not the only obstacle our users face. That’s why it’s our job to do the hard work to make it simple.
Understanding the range of contexts our users come from is key to designing quality government digital experiences. The sixth USDS value is to “design with users, not for them.” What’s implicit in that is that designing with users means all users regardless of their ability, context, or demographics. We’re designing technology for a diverse population so our research participants should be equally diverse. Our objective is to make content easily understandable and design for simplicity, consistency, and ease of use.
Our engineers think about the big picture, which doesn’t always involve writing code, and adapt to constraints to be effective on high-impact projects. Our engineers are mission-driven and span the full range of service delivery including frontend, backend, full-stack, site reliability, security, and data. We are not your typical software engineering shop. Successful engineers at USDS come from all over America—in every sense of the phrase. We promise you will work on something meaningful and important and invite you to hold us to that.
Expertise in legacy technologies is not necessary, but an ability to adapt to whatever you find under the covers is. Engineering at USDS involves a willingness to lead, in both delivery and mentorship. We iterate on a system and adapt to feedback and changing needs, rather than get locked in to what was decided in a 3-year-old design phase. To get to frequent releases, we build and leverage the capabilities we get with modern infrastructure and automation, like continuous integration and testing. Large 3 or 6-month releases change many things at once, which means a release is a high-risk event. So, we work hard to build confidence in an infrastructure that does small releases more frequently.
Product, strategy, and operations
Our product managers and strategists come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but all of us are experts in getting things done while keeping quality high. Some are industry-hardened PMs from Silicon Valley, some are savvy and clever government specialists, others bring their own special blend of skills and experience.
Just like in private industry, every project at USDS has its own needs and quirks that change over time—flexibility and keeping a cool head in the face of ambiguity are some of the most important skills. We keep the focus on data to make product decisions based on reality, not politics. We write tickets and prioritise backlogs as well as negotiate contracts and present to high-level stakeholders. We do whatever needs to be done—we are the glue that holds everything else together.
Bringing private sector best practices to the Federal Government
Private industry knows how to work fast, lean, and keep the focus on the user. Now government does too.
Going where the work is
USDS embeds teams within federal agencies and their in-house digital technology divisions. Team engagements typically last between six months and two years. Agencies we’ve partnered with include:
Prioritizing the greatest good for the greatest number of people in the greatest need
We select critical projects based on what makes the greatest impact on everyday people.
Eight million lines of COBOL and 2.5 million lines of assembly running on 15 mainframes. Four percent of the entire American economy is fueled by Medicare payments and 57 million people depend on it for their healthcare.
A customized, plain language tool gives Veterans step-by-step guidance for submitting a strong application to upgrade their discharge status.
We worked with CMS to build an API that enables beneficiaries with different needs to grant access to developers that can help them monitor for drug conflicts, refill prescriptions, and track progress towards desired healthcare outcomes.
The Quality Payment Program API makes it easy for clinicians to submit quality metrics to CMS and for the government to review and return feedback promptly, which leads to greater health outcomes for patients and a more positive experience with value-based care for providers.
Since kicking off in 2016, the Hack the Pentagon program has engaged ethical hackers across the globe to help the Department of Defense identify and remedy thousands of security vulnerabilities.
Our defense team spent 18 weeks building a critical software system with small teams on rotation to Afghanistan, working directly with NATO advisors and leadership.