Workforce

U.S. Digital Service team makes recruitment pitch at SXSW

Shutterstock image (by art4all): broken colorful idea.

The Obama administration has taken its IT recruitment pitch to South by Southwest to woo tech specialists to new federal programs.

U.S. CTO Megan Smith and U.S. Digital Service Director Haley Van Dyck described to a SXSW audience their efforts to modernize federal agencies and use USDS to "fundamentally disrupt the way government does business."

The already limited IT talent pool's first professional instinct may not be to work for the government, but Haley Van Dyck emphasized that USDS, whose workforce is over 50 percent women, is a "radical departure from the status quo."

Van Dyck, described the USDS as "a network of startups that is embedded within the White House" that includes "the highest concentration of badasses I could ever imagine working with." The talent, she said, has come "from all the big names" of the private sector.  

At this time last year, USDS had just launched and consisted of tens of people. Today, the team has expanded to over 140 people and overflows its current office space.

Smith, meanwhile, noted that President Barack Obama's administration has invested greatly in other federal initiatives, such as Computer Science for All, Code for America and Civic Tech, to encourage IT education by making it "much more fun and engaging, like the way we teach art, music and gym."

And both women stressed that the various initiatives also seek to change the culture and perception surrounding working for the federal government.

"We don't care about politics," said Van Dyck. "We are having so much fun because we get to use our skills and our talents to make government better."

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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