Why did you join USDS?
The driving factor was a combination of my drive to do something where my technology experience could be used for the common good and the feeling that the country had turned a page in January 2021 and that help was going to be needed. For a number of years I have been teaching coding to students via MOOC platforms on my spare time but I felt that was not enough.
On inauguration day, an article came into my feed mentioning that there was a an “Easter egg” in the HTML code of the newly updated White House website that said “If you’re reading this, we need your help building back better,” pointing to USDS.gov. I immediately went to the USDS careers page and without thinking too much about it, applied to the engineering opening, without ever thinking I would be called back. To my surprise, a week later, I got a call with a Washington, D.C. area code and it was the beginning of the application process that ended in my joining in May of 2021.
What inspires you about the mission?
What’s the most inspiring is that we’re thrown to solve some of the most complex problems that the government faces and are given full support from USDS to use our previous experience and apply it to solve them. Sometimes the problems are technical, sometimes they lie in the process or the underlying data or lack of data. It is scary at the beginning, specially since government work is surrounded by regulations and security considerations that are not really what you’re used to in the private sector. But surprisingly you quickly adapt and start seeing solutions to these problems, and most often these solutions will improve the lives millions of citizens, which is the most amazing reward you can feel ever in your career.
What’s your career story?
I started my career in web technology when I immigrated to the United States in 1998 after spending several years as a 3D Animator/Designer and video editor. I created my own startup and shortly after that I was working as a Technical Product Manager at Yahoo! en Español. Over the years I evolved from an individual contributor to Engineering Manager, Architect and Director positions at MongoDB, Venmo, and Knewton, but always keeping my coding skills up to date.
What’s your superpower?
I think my superpower is to be able to bring unexpected technical solutions to complex problems, thanks to my unending thirst of trying new things to teach to others. I don’t just read about things, I try to make things all the time. But I also think that my ability to explain technical concepts to non-technical audiences has helped me a lot in my career and it’s a skill every engineer should practice.
What do you love most about USDS?
Hands down, and you’ll hear this over and over again from USDSers, what I love the most is the people working here. It’s like a collection of weird, wonderful, and empathetic people that are there to help each other through the thick and the thin. I have never felt at home so quickly anywhere else in my career, and this is over Zoom thanks to the pandemic. I can only imagine how wonderful it would be if we were all physically next to each other! I have had the chance to travel to D.C. a few times and meet other USDSers and it feels like a really special club you belong to.
What television show or movie can you watch repeatedly?
Anything directed by Edgar Wright is on repeat for me, specially Scott Pilgrim. I’ve probably watched that movie more than any other.
How did you survive the quarantine?
I decided I wanted to learn how to cook really good comfort food. It started with bread, which was super hard, and then moving to pastas, cakes, and everything in between. That and a lot of streaming. This is truly the golden age of TV.
What’s your go-to comfort food? Why do you love it?
I can’t survive without the Venezuelan specialties that I’ve learned to cook and even shared a live cooking class for fellow USDSers teaching them how to make arepas.
“The actual project work is important, but where I see the biggest potential is in the culture change and new ways of working that we can bring to agencies.”
“I've always looked for work that sits at the intersection of my personal desire to create a more empathetic world and my career aspirations to tell great stories that matter.”
“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.”
“I have never met such a passionate group of individuals who show up for one another to provide help on projects and emotionally support each other during difficult times.”
“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.”
“I’ve been involved with so many things I am proud of, but probably the most meaningful contribution is making the civil service stronger.”