What’s your background and what did you do at USDS?
For most of my career I have been a backend infrastructure engineer and manager. But fun fact: I have also written an Android app that saw over 100,000 downloads. I worked at USDS for a little over three and a half months, ending my tour of duty on December 15, 2017.
When I joined, 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.
I worked at the Digital Service at Veterans Affairs. The team is responsible for va.gov, one of the most trafficked government websites, and Caseflow, an online tool that makes the process of adjudicating veterans appeals more efficient.
What projects did you work on during your time at USDS?
I worked on two projects during my time at USDS: Uniting two devops teams into a single SRE team and improving the online experience for scheduling medical appointments.
What was your biggest challenge?
When you have worked for fast-paced companies most of your career, you develop a certain sense of urgency about getting things done. Given that I was at USDS for a relatively short stint, this was even more heightened in my case. Folks at USDS and some folks in the agencies we were helping shared this sense of urgency, but it was not shared by all the government contractors and agency personnel. It was challenging to deal with this.
What is your favorite memory?
It is difficult to think of one memory, because there are so many. I guess, having to buy a blazer in a hurry to attend a lunch meeting at the Navy Mess is up there :).
What are you up to now?
After I got back from my stint at USDS in mid-December last year, I started a company called PlanetScale. Our goal is to build a scalable multi-cloud transactional database-as-a-service based on the open source project vitess.
What would you tell someone who is thinking of doing a tour of duty?
The way USDS works is by solving an urgent issue, building credibility and then using that credibility to push for systemic changes. There is a lot of good work to be done. What we need are good people. So please consider joining USDS for however long you can. You will work with awesome people, you will have an impact, and you will improve the way our government functions. What more can you ask for as a citizen?
“Everyone I worked with at USDS brought talent, a can-do spirit and a belief that together we could make the country better.”
“I think that President Obama instilled in all of his staff the sense to do what is right, not always what is easy.”
“Honestly, it was a leap of faith more than informed decision. I packed my things and moved to DC knowing no one in the city. Turns out it was a fantastic decision.”
“There are no small wins at USDS. Whatever you help get done ... wouldn’t have happened otherwise, and will be a critical step to creating a positive impact for millions.”
“Improving the aging technology that government and its services runs on was an extremely compelling goal.”
“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.”
“Making responsible decisions about complex issues requires representation at the table where the decisions are being made.”