Joining USDS


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I've been asked by the White House to join the United States Digital Service, as one of the first product managers in the effort to modernize Social Security, the main federal social insurance program.

The Digital Service was created by [http:/ Office of Management and Budget] to bring Silicon Valley ways of working to the Federal Government. In the darkest days of, some experts were brought in from Silicon Valley to rapidly repair in time for the grand opening. Many have now stayed on to fix longer scale problems. USDS is trying to bring a new Playbook to government IT. Projects are run by experts in both business and tech - not MBAs pushing contracts. Teams are more self-contained. They build code, not write mountains of paperwork. Sections are build and tested bit by bit. The latest technology is used, including Amazon Web Services (we don't even use that at Yahoo).

There is huge scale for improvement to IT in Government. If only the IRS would process W2s from employers in real time (or a day or two), I think the government could save $5 billion a year in fraud. That is what Yahoo pulls in in a year!

I believe that our government needs to run efficiently. More and more, organizations are defined by their IT systems. A (retail) bank is just a computer system with different interfaces: website, mobile app, tellers, ATMs, call centers. Many humans you meet there only input data into systems and take the action it performs. So many people rely on Government services. These are programs that have been put in place by Congress. The executive branch should faithfully execute those programs. People's faith in government has been failing. I don't think government is always harmful, nor do I think it is always the answer. In certain market failures and "corner cases" the Government is the provider of last resort. I think our economy would be more healthy if processes could be improved. Improving our Government should be a bi-partisan issue. Thankfully, both parties agreed to fully fund the effort last year.

I had always watched Government IT from the sidelines. I wondered what made the projects fail. I was even thinking of using this if I ever pursued an advanced degree in Management.

I want to give back to my country. People often do public service. I've talked about volunteering- where I can use my unique skills to have a big impact. Many people only help out in an unskilled way (serving food at a shelter). This is a good photo opportunity, but I think people can have a bigger impact by using their special skills. In addition, improvements in software pay dividends forward.

Of course many such efforts to reform government IT have failed in the past. This is not just an attempt to digitize existing processes. Instead, the effort is looking at what is the core process which may need to be redesigned to work better. And since it is at the White House level, it can coordinate between agencies. Hopefully, we can also get reusable APIs for key pieces (ie. identity, verification). And finally, ever since, this is an issue Obama is personally invested in. It's not just about efficiency. Many people in this country rely on the government. Avoidable paperwork hassles can make a big difference.

I have been assigned to the Social Security Administration. I will be the first USDS product person, reporting to the CTO. Everyone pays into Social Security. If you need it, you should have access to the benefits you are entitled to in a timely manner. Paperwork should not be lost. Processing should be swift. Social Security amount to about 5% of US GDP. It has $2.7 trillion under management, larger than any Sovereign Wealth Fund or Bank. Simply put, it is the world's largest money store. It transfers about $700 billion a year from taxpayers, and pays out to 65 million people. [1][2]

This will be my most difficult challenge yet. Strict government rules, in place to limit bad actors, limit good actors as well. The scale of my responsibilities will be larger than ever. I need to take what I learned in Industry and create a paradigm shift. I hope I am up for it!

Thanks to Yahoo for past 2 years in the Associate Product Manager (APM) program. I worked on Geo, Aviate, and Mobile Search. I learned a ton and was part of the foundational efforts of the company's most impactful products. It was a very valuable experience. My last day with Yahoo will be 7/1/2015 and my first day in the government will be 7/6/2015.