Learn about my public technology work. So far, my focus has been on government, healthcare, and education.
I believe the American people deserve a government that is agile, efficient, and responsive to their needs. Government should provide digital-by-default public services in the 21st century, designed with the people they’re intended to serve at the center, and not the bureaucracy. Furthermore, these digital services should work seamlessly, just as well as those we’ve come to expect in the consumer space. If we are to create and maintain an effective democracy and equitable society, it is essential that we leverage modern technologies and practices.
Since 2013, I’ve been in the federal government helping build and grow our digital coalition, serving first as a Presidential Innovation Fellow at the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, and now as a product strategist and consultant with 18F, a digital services team within the new Technology Transformation Service at the U.S. General Services Administration. From 2002 to 2011, I served in the U.S. Navy, both active and reserve, as an Information Systems Technician at the Naval War College, aboard the USNS SUPPLY (T-AOE-6), and with the International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office.
After my year as a Presidential Innovation Fellow (PIF) at the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, I learned a lot about what worked, and more importantly what didn’t when attempting to deliver modern digital services within the vast bureaucracy of the federal government. When exploring what to do next after the fellowship, I considered many different options and opportunities, but ultimately decided to stay in government and build on our momentum establishing modern digital practices and create a permanent home for this kind of work. I wanted to make sure this movement wasn’t a fluke or fad, but rather a substantive, lasting shift in culture and attitudes, something that would survive the political winds and gain broad support. On November 3rd, 2014, I started at 18F.
Over the past two years, I’ve been fortunate to get to work with dozens of agencies and on many projects and initiatives. I’ve helped recruit, hire, and grow 18F, the U.S. Digital Service, and PIF. Our digital coalition is now nearly 500 strong, full of incredible individuals who have dropped everything to serve, often making personal and financial sacrifices to do so. In May 2016, GSA announced the creation of the Technology Transformation Service and in October selected a commissioner, further demonstrating our digital efforts are on a path to permanence. I feel incredibly proud to have largely completed what I set out to accomplish when I decided to stay in government and join 18F.
Here are the agency projects I’ve worked on at 18F…
login.gov agency integration, Nov 2016–Present
Leading technical adoption and integration of login.gov across all agencies of the federal executive branch. As a joint 18F and USDS project, login.gov aims to provide Americans with a single identity and sign-on experience when interacting with their government and the many services it provides. This means a simpler, more secure experience for the public, while also introducing new opportunities for government to be more collaborative, proactive, and efficient in delivering services.
Product strategy and design research with the Consumer eHealth Program at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Apr–Oct 2016
Led business development and engagement management. As billions of dollars have been spent nationally to modernize health records, we sought to understand whether health IT was actually benefitting consumers of healthcare (patients, caregivers, etc.), particularly when information is needed from medical records. We conducted user research with a broad set of stakeholders to deeply understand the role of personal health information, how it flowed through healthcare settings, and ultimately the impact it had on the patient or caregiver. Our findings and recommendation were used by ONC to inform strategy for existing products and resources, and to guide policy decisions.
Transformation discovery with the Office of Personnel Management, Aug–Oct 2016
Member of a team conducting a discovery sprint with their Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) to understand how OPM can more quickly recover from the 2015 breaches and effectively support its core mission areas, including recruiting, retaining, and honoring a world-class workforce for the American people. We interviewed a broad set of stakeholders, synthesized our findings, and delivered recommendations to their OCIO.
Product strategy consulting with the office of the Chief of Naval Personnel / N1, May–Sept 2016
At the request of Naval Personnel, and in collaboration with the Sea Warrior Program (PMW 240), we assessed My Navy Portal, a new product intended to consolidate the Navy’s vast human resource portals, knowledge, and applications into a unified, simple user experience. We provided an outside perspective on the state of the product and whether it was meeting sailor needs, along with recommendations to facilitate better product management, agile development practices, and human-centered design methods.
Product strategy workshop with the Chief of Naval Operations’ Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC), Dec 2015
The CRIC contacted us about an initiative to rethink career management and progression for all sailors. We organized a two-day workshop to explore user needs, design concepts, and product strategy. After the workshop, we synthesized findings and insights to deliver an initial product vision, value propositions, user personas, a product road map, UI mockups, sample epics and user stories, and a recommendation on team structure and skill sets needed to build out the product. Watch the workshop video on Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson’s Facebook page.
Agile acquisition strategy and consulting with Child Welfare Services, California Department of Social Services, Dec 2015
In cooperation with the Administration for Children and Families, Department of Health & Human Services, we traveled to Sacramento to assist California’s Child Welfare Services rethink their monolithic procurement strategy for a new case management system. Read more about this engagement:
We helped MC&FP award an agile and design-centric contract (five-year, $101M BPA) to build an all-new digital platform to better serve the needs of a changing military community. Following a successful two-day agile acquisition workshop in April 2015, which resulted in a viable acquisition strategy and request for quotation (RFQ) ghostwritten by the 18F team, I served as the technical advisor to the MC&FP evaluation panel making the final award decision. The awarded vendor team’s first call order (of five total) was $1.4M less than the Independent Government Cost Estimate (IGCE). The new Military OneSource is currently in beta.
President Obama signed the Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act into law on October 5, 2012, which authorized EPA to implement a national electronic hazardous waste reporting and tracking system. At the request of EPA’s Chief Technology Officer, we partnered with the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response to help them devise a product strategy for the system, favoring human-centered design and agile methods. We conducted user research with industry and developed low-fidelity prototypes to validate user needs, and worked in the open throughout for ultimate transparency with state, industry, and other stakeholders. As we validated needs and gained confidence in our direction, we created functional prototypes (code) and further tested with stakeholders. We helped change the paradigm for how software was designed and development at EPA, as evident by the testimony given to the House Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, where Pennsylvania Congressman Tim Murphy said the strategy was “a great idea” and hoped that other agencies would do the same.
Product strategy consulting with the office of the Chief of Navy Reserve, Nov 2014–Aug 2015
Led the engagement, working with the Navy Reserve’s Chief Information Officer to strategize, research, design, and prototype the Ready-2-Serve mobile application, which is now live in the Google and Apple app stores.
Product discovery and agile coaching with the Social Security Administration on their Disability Case Processing System, Dec 2014
Despite a $288M investment over 6 years, the system delivered limited functionality and faced schedule delays and increasing stakeholder concerns (see the inspector general report). We conducted discovery activities in an attempt to learn root causes for the agency to address, and held an agile workshop to expose them to alternative methods for development and procurement. Read about our workshop with SSA and how the agency has since embraced agile.
In May 2013, I was invited to join the 2nd class of Presidential Innovation Fellows, a program organized by the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House pairing top innovators with career public servants to reimagine how government can better meet the needs of the American people in the 21st century. Each of us joined an executive federal agency with a mandate to think big and bold, discover new possibilities, and ship products, initiatives, and culture change.
I joined the Veterans/Consumers Health Informatics Office, part of the Veterans Health Administration that is responsible for My HealtheVet, the patient portal available to all nine-million veterans who receive healthcare services each year. Working across the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA), I helped advance the Blue Button initiative to empower veterans with access and use of their personal health data (read my white paper to learn more). As connected health initiatives were emerging at VA, I provided input and direction to ensure our efforts bridging care delivery and technology were consistent with the overall goal of providing exceptional veteran-centric health care, when and where they need it. I also coordinated an interagency and interdisciplinary team across VA and HHS to drive consensus on technologies, standards, policies, and the patient experience in viewing, downloading, sending, and connecting their health data to applications and services, and successfully rallied private-sector healthcare organizations to adopt the same. Along with two other fellows at HHS, we also designed and developed the Blue Button Connector to help patients across the U.S. find and access their health records, especially veterans through promoting My HealtheVet and sharing VA success stories.
I also found opportunities to contribute to other important veteran’s issues, such as education. Supporting the Principles of Excellence Executive Order, I designed and built the GI Bill Comparison Tool (view original codebase), allowing veterans, service members, survivors, and eligible dependents to quickly and easily calculate their GI Bill benefits at more than 32,000 approved schools and job training programs. The tool was featured by the First Lady’s Joining Forces initiative and on the Today Show with Dr. Jill Biden. In the first year since its launch in February 2014, more than a million unique visitors have researched just as many educational programs. Through the use of agile and modern development practices, VA saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in initially proposed software development and infrastructure costs. Reception by veterans service organizations was also very positive (see reactions from Student Veterans of America and The American Legion). The success of the tool helped provide VA the latitude needed to reimagine the veteran digital experience, and was one of the first applications to get adopted by Vets.gov, which has now been completely redesigned by the USDS team at VA.
On August 17, 2015, President Obama signed an executive order making the Presidential Innovation Fellows program a permanent feature of the federal government. (Read the White House Medium post, “Meet the Presidential Innovation Fellows”.) I was honored to be mentioned by name in the fact sheet accompanying the executive order, along with the two projects I personally worked on: the Blue Button initiative and the GI Bill Comparison Tool.
On Friday, January 20, 2017, President Obama signed into law H.R. 39, the TALENT Act, or “Tested Ability to Leverage Exceptional National Talent Act of 2017,” which codifies the Presidential Innovation Fellows Program to “enable exceptional individuals with proven track records to serve time-limited appointments in executive agencies to address some of the Nation’s most significant challenges.”
After graduating high school in 2002, I joined the U.S. Navy to be an Information Systems Technician, serving four years on active duty, rising to rank of Petty Officer 2nd Class (E-5), and continuing as a reservist until June 2011.
During my service, I was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for outstanding professional achievement at the Naval War College by President Rear Admiral Jacob L. Shuford, and received a Flag Letter of Commendation and three Flag Letters of Appreciation from presidents Rear Admiral Jacob L. Shuford and Rear Admiral Ronald A. Route. For providing disaster relief during Hurricane Katrina and Rita aboard the USNS SUPPLY, I was awarded the Humanitarian Service Medal and Meritorious Unit Commendation. From 2003 to 2005 while at Naval Station Newport, I also served on the funeral honor guard, rendering honors to veterans of WWII, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Here’s a summary of the commands I was attached to and activities performed…
International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office (ISMERLO), U.S. Navy Reserve
December 2009—June 2011
ISMERLO assists in the global coordination of submarine search and rescue operations.
Maintained a web-based international coordination tool used by participating NATO submarine operating nations to respond with rescue resources and systems in the event of a submarine incident or disaster.
USNS SUPPLY (T-AOE-6), Military Sealift Command
May 2005—June 2006
Activated and maintained tactical voice and data circuits used during replenishment-at-sea events, CVN ammunition transfers, and tactical maneuvering exercises. Handled Top Secret communications security material with zero discrepancies. Provided aid during Hurricane Katrina and Rita.
U.S. Naval War College, Newport, RI
January 2003—May 2005
Provided mid-career level officers of all services, civilian federal agencies, and international naval officers with technical resources and training for their postgraduate programs.
Our healthcare system in the United States is far from what it could be in delivery, outcomes, and cost. I believe design thinking and the proper application of digital technologies will be critical in creating the human-centered and value-based system we all envision.
Since 2010, I’ve been a healthcare entrepreneur, consultant, software developer, and designer. While working in government, I’ve been an advisor to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT at the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS), most recently leading a product strategy and design research engagement with the Consumer eHealth Program and as a reviewer for the Provider User Experience Challenge.
As a Presidential Innovation Fellow, I joined the Veterans/Consumers Health Informatics Office, part of the Veterans Health Administration that is responsible for My HealtheVet, the patient portal available to all nine-million veterans who receive healthcare services each year. Working across the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA), I helped advance the Blue Button initiative to empower veterans with access and use of their personal health data (read my white paper to learn more). As connected health initiatives were emerging at VA, I provided input and direction to ensure our efforts bridging care delivery and technology were consistent with the overall goal of providing exceptional veteran-centric health care, when and where they need it. I also coordinated an interagency and interdisciplinary team across VA and HHS to drive consensus on technologies, standards, policies, and the patient experience in viewing, downloading, sending, and connecting their health data to applications and services, and successfully rallied private-sector healthcare organizations to adopt the same. Along with two other fellows at HHS, we also designed and developed the Blue Button Connector to help patients across the U.S. find and access their health records, especially veterans through promoting My HealtheVet and sharing VA success stories.
Previously, I’ve also been…
Technology is rapidly shaping the world around us, and I believe everyone should have access to these digital technologies and the opportunity to learn how they work, so they can benefit from them both economically and socially. I continually look for opportunities to teach and contribute in order to close the gap.
Most recently, I helped launch the White House’s TechHire initiative with the National Economic Council and Office of Science and Technology Policy. I also had the honor of co-organizing the 2015 #HourOfCode at the White House.
While living in New York City, I was a spring 2013 volunteer with ScriptEd at Harlem Village Academy High School, teaching web development and mentoring students. In 2012, I was part of the team at General Assembly to pilot the very first Web Development Immersive course in partnership with Incline, a startup bringing programming and computer science skills to veterans, and connecting them with employers eager to find candidates with the qualities gained through military service combined with their newly acquired technical skills. I also once gave a guest lecture (slides) at the Flatiron School.