What’s your background?
What inspired you to join USDS?
Although I’ve been in the DC area for most of my life, I never worked for any government agency or contractors before this. I’m at a point in my career where I’m financially secure and want to focus on how I can make the world a better place. I already knew two other USDSers, Andrew Nacin and Jordan Kasper. After looking at what the USDS accomplishes I decided to apply.
What has been your biggest challenge?
The government seems to move in extreme slow motion. For example, it took me two and a half months to get security credentials for the Veteran’s Administration so that I wouldn’t need to go through the metal detectors and be escorted in the building each time. So many times a project is waiting for some decision maker before it can move ahead. I want to stay busy and productive so my coping mechanism is to have several projects in progress.
How does your work make an impact?
In talking with the career civil servants in several agencies, the thing that strikes me is that most of them realize that things need to be improved. Sometimes they even know exactly what needs to be improved. Yet for a variety of reasons they don’t feel empowered to actually fix things. That’s where USDS can help.
Our value comes from a combination of new perspectives and the authority to make changes. Most USDSers are coming from outside the government where we’ve seen technology do incredible things. Government systems and processes are, as we say, a “target-rich environment” where even small changes can make big improvements. Those improvements make it possible for government agencies to serve the public better, which is extremely rewarding.
My work in particular has focused on solving the problem of electronic forms. The federal government still does too much of its work on paper. By moving to electronic forms, the government can deliver services faster.
What do you want to do after USDS?
Probably more of the same, if not for the federal government then maybe for a state or local one. Perhaps I’ll work for a non-profit. I definitely want to keep hacking the bureaucracy and there are lots of opportunities in DC.
What will you miss most about USDS when you leave?
Most of all, I’ll miss USDSers! Everyone is here because they care about people and they want to change things for the better. They’re not just coming for a paycheck and that makes a huge difference in the work environment. I’ll also miss Jackson Place, working in a historic building just steps away from the White House.
“It’s not about how can we maximize digital ad space or make conversion rates better, but how we can use technology to really make a difference in someone’s life.”
“It is a rare, one of a kind opportunity. It is the ability to work at the highest level of government in the United States to impact people at a scale that is unrivaled.”
“Making responsible decisions about complex issues requires representation at the table where the decisions are being made.”
“Making sure we can improve, design, and iterate on a printed piece of paper, while explaining policy in a more human-centered way was a challenge I wasn’t expecting.”
“Serving a tour of duty with USDS is not only good for the country but also a great opportunity for you as a technologist.”
“If you are thinking about totally disrupting your comfortable lifestyle and moving to Washington, D.C., for a family adventure like we did...”
“Everyone I worked with at USDS brought talent, a can-do spirit and a belief that together we could make the country better.”
“Improving the aging technology that government and its services runs on was an extremely compelling goal.”