Member Spotlight – Jill James, Dept. of Education
What’s the best job you’ve ever had (and why)?
My current job at the U.S. Department of Education is the best job I’ve ever had! I’m passionate about education and the Department’s mission to ensure all students have access to a great education and are prepared for college and career. I love the work I do every day, and how it combines communications, technology, information science, open government and education. Every day offers new opportunities and challenges to apply my creative, organizational and problem-solving skills. I work with an amazing, knowledgeable, and dedicated team, and find the high-energy, fast-paced work environment at ED exciting.
What projects or initiatives are you currently working on?
We’re reinventing how we publish grant opportunities and programs, to help us provide an excellent customer experience, streamline internal processes to save money and staff time, and publish timely, accurate data about our programs. We’re exploring ways to break down silos and develop a data-centric, modern solution.
Tell us about a recent project that you’re proud of, and why it went so well
We’re rolling out a phased visual refresh/redesign of our flagship ED.gov website. The most significant changes came with the second phase, released in late June. We changed the look and feel of the website, streamlined navigation elements, and introduced a mobile-friendly responsive design for much of the site.
We also launched a new site search experience, using DigitalGov Search. With the new site search, our customers can search across all of ED’s websites at once. The search experience is close to an external search engine experience, which our customers find familiar and intuitive. We appreciate how much we can custom tailor the DigitalGov Search features for ED’s needs, and the detailed, relevant search metrics we can access. All of this helps us improve the search experience, which is so key to how our customers navigate ED.gov.
The third and final phase of the redesign will roll out later this year. It coincides with an upgrade from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7 and includes a redesigned ED.gov homepage and mobile-responsive design for the press room and other content we serve up with Drupal.
What’s your all-time favorite book and/or ice cream flavor?
I’m a big reader. I’m not sure I can pick one all-time favorite book! If I had to pick three they would be “The Great Gatsby,” “Wide Sargasso Sea” and “Charlotte’s Web.” I enjoy a book that haunts me a little and leaves me wondering and reflecting after I turn the last page.
I love great vanilla ice cream. Vanilla isn’t plain if it has great vanilla flavor! It’s so versatile and can be combined with so many other treats to elevate them to another level – apple pie la mode, root beer floats, vanilla malted milkshakes, brownie sundaes, broiled glazed doughnut sundaes and more!
How do you like to spend time away from work?
I love spending time with my family. My husband and I have two young children. We like to visit our local public library, the terrific zoo and museums in D.C. and the D.C. area, and the pool. We usually attend a few children’s plays each year at local theaters. My kids and I enjoy cooking and baking together—trying new recipes and making old favorites that have been passed down through my family.
I recently became a leader for a Daisy Girl Scout troop. I was a Brownie when I was a girl, and my sister, niece and mother-in-law were also Girl Scouts, so it’s a family tradition. I’m looking forward to planning outdoor activities and introducing young girls, including my daughter, to Girl Scouting!
Where did you go to school, and what did you study?
I have a B.A. in English and French Studies with a minor in History from the University of Delaware. I have a M.A. in U.S. History and an M.L.S. in Archival Administration from the University of Maryland.
Tell us something that most people don’t know about you
I was the editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper, and I won an award for high school newspaper editor of the year in Delaware during my senior year of high school.
If you could work anywhere in the world, doing any job, what would it be?
If I could work anywhere, I would still work for the federal government on digital communications! I love serving the public and working to make government information more transparent and easier to find.
This article is part of this month’s editorial theme on our DigitalGov Services. Check out more articles related to this theme.