You previously worked on communications and public engagement at USDS. What are you up to now?
I currently lead Product & Brand Marketing for Building 8 at Facebook. Building 8 is a relatively new team, working on creating consumer hardware products that bring us closer to loved ones.
What kind of projects did you work on while at USDS?
At USDS I worked on a wide range of projects, but my primary focus was on building the U.S. Digital Service’s brand, communicating our impact to the outside world, and working to build a tradition of public service in the tech industry. A few projects I’m particularly proud to have worked on include re-launching and optimizing usds.gov, producing a set of recruiting films narrated by the late Steve Jobs, co-authoring the team’s values, working with journalists to secure coverage about USDS, and launching our blog.
What was your biggest challenge?
Prior to joining USDS, I had worked at a neuroscience startup and at Google. My experience in anything related to government was limited to having previously voted and watched The West Wing on Netflix. It was a huge challenge learning the inner workings of the White House and the processes for getting things done. The learning curve was steep, but I thankfully had amazing colleagues to learn from.
What is your favorite memory of your time at USDS?
My time at USDS produced a very long list of memories, but two days in particular stand out.
First, finalizing and publishing a formal set of team values was a special day. It was one of the shortest Medium posts we wrote in my time at USDS, but it definitely took the longest to write, and was arguably the most important. This work codified a big part of USDS’s ‘special sauce’ and I hope it will influence the way USDS works five, 15, and 50 years from now. I’ll never forget sitting outside USDS HQ with the team who authored the values talking about the future of the U.S. Digital Service. It was a special moment in time.
The second memory that stands out is when our entire team met with President Obama. It was an unbelievable experience to hear him talk about why he founded the team, the early days of USDS, his reflections of what we had accomplished, and his hopes for the future of the organization. That was truly a ‘one day I’ll tell my grandkids about this’ kind of moment.
What would you tell someone who is thinking of doing a tour of duty?
If you’re thinking about doing a tour of duty with the U.S. Digital Service, I’ll be honest with you. Working at USDS is difficult, at some point in the job you will likely shed a few tears, and at least once you’ll question if you were crazy for moving to Washington. But when you serve at USDS, you wake up every day, serve your country, and have the opportunity to change the lives of millions of Americans. I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who has been a part of the team—past or present—who regrets their decision to join or found it to be anything less than an absolute honor to have contributed in even the smallest way. I don’t think that’s something you’ll find in any other office in the country.
“USDS’ value is in delivery and building capacity. We’re able to work on projects to take an idea to implementation, and guide teams on best practices for how to continue this momentum even after we’re gone.”
“I love that USDS is intentional about selecting projects and is dedicated to helping underrepresented communities, such as veterans and immigrants.”
“I was a little concerned about whether I could make a difference in three months, but after my experience here, I wholeheartedly recommend that you should consider doing it for as long or short a duration as you can.”
“My friends here inspire me. When the work demands 110% from us, we lean on each other until we get “all the things” done.”
“I was inspired to join USDS because technology can do more than entertain and amaze us. Combined with good government, it can be a force for good in people’s lives.”
“The biggest challenge for me has been to face my own imposter syndrome.”
“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.”