Civic Tech

Building a Tech Career in Government

When thinking about a career in government, not many people envision themselves working in tech, but you’ll be surprised at how many opportunities are available for technologists to make an impact in public service. We talked to colleagues at the General Services Administration (GSA) about their experience building tech careers within government.

Qituwra Anderson, UX Designer, 18F

What were you doing before applying to GSA?

I started as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia and worked in the sectors of education and youth development. I also did grant writing work to fund a sports and activities camp for underserved youth.

A photo of Qituwra Anderson. She is smiling, and wearing a light colored turtleneck, earrings, and a necklace.

What was your first position in GSA and what was the path to your current position?

I was an administrative assistant for 18F’s Business Development team. After my position was no longer needed I moved to be the Executive Assistant. I was looking for other opportunities, so I did rotations within other chapters in 18F to find the best fit.

I really enjoyed my time with the Design Chapter improving the user experience of an internal tool. I was staffed on projects as a junior designer and co-worked with senior designers who I could learn from and rely on when I did not understand how to do something. I also completed continuing education courses in UX Design, earned my UX certificate online, worked with a mentor, and got the skills to run my own design workshops. Eventually I gained enough experience and was given sole designer and research leadership roles.

How did you get interested in working in tech?

My first tech experience was through a friend I had who is an engineer. They mentioned how there were not enough people of color in tech, so during my time in the Peace Corps I tried to teach myself coding, but was not very successful.

I still had an interest in being a civil servant and I was open to any type of work, including tech. Similar to the work I was doing in the Peace Corps I wanted to do work that would impact a large number of people.

What’s your favorite part about working in government tech?

Problem-solving and the potential impact of the products we help create which touch millions of people across the United States.

Sheev Davé, Design Strategist, GSA Office of Customer Experience

What were you doing before applying to GSA?

I was serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana, working in rural health clinics and regional public health departments.

A photo of design strategist, Sheev Dave. His name is pronounced as she eve da vay. He is outside, smiling, and wearing a blue shirt with white cross marks.

What was your first position in GSA and what was the path to your current position?

I was a contracting specialist within the Public Buildings Service working on construction projects around the Midwest. One day walking through the Kansas City office, I saw a door with a sign labeled “human design workshop” and it piqued my curiosity. I remember reading about human-centered design as part of my Peace Corps service. I was happy to learn that the government was implementing it and wanted to learn more about it.

The folks running the workshop were from the Office of Customer Experience. Through a series of calls and informal meetings, I secured a virtual opportunity to work at their office along with doing business development work at 18F. After a member of the customer experience team left, they offered me the opportunity to join the team full time.

What’s your favorite part about working in government tech?

It is the notion that you can build/design something and immediately see the effects of it. Working within the civic tech space you know that what you build or design is going towards the greater good of the American public.

Shawnique Morrison, Product Manager, 18F

What were you doing before applying to GSA?

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica doing community and youth development work.

A close-up photo of Shawnique Morrison. She is in front of a window, smiling with her left hand under her chin. She is wearing glasses, gold earrings, and a gold necklace.

What was your first position in GSA and what was the path to your current position?

I was the 46th employee at 18F and hired as a talent coordinator. After working in the talent team I looked for other opportunities within 18F. I became interested in a team we had at the time that researched how the government applies agile practices and measured success. After having that experience, I joined the Product team, and now I’m working with login.gov.

How did you get interested in working in tech?

After recruiting such amazing tech experts, I started to understand the importance of being civic-minded and building products for the public that matter and are mission-driven. I wanted to learn more about the civic tech world, so I had conversations with my colleagues and they inspired me to work in government tech.

What’s your favorite part about working in government tech?

The mission. We’re trying to remove barriers for people who rely on the government, whether it’s to access social security benefits, or applying for TSA pre-check. We are improving the government products by ensuring these services are accessible and user friendly. I don’t take this lightly.

Kelley Confer, Account Manager, Cloud.gov

What were you doing before applying to GSA?

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Cambodia.

Photo of Kelly Confer with the American flag and a white wall behind her. She is smiling and wearing a black turtleneck and sweater.

What was your first position in GSA and what was the path to your current position?

I was an Executive Assistant (EA) to the Director of Technology Transformation Services (TTS) at the time. It was very demanding and very entry level, but it gave me a great introduction to what TTS does and all the work we do for the public and other government agencies. After working in the Front Office, the previous director had left the position, allowing me to have an opportunity to try out a different role.

I went on to be a project manager for the Office of Acquisition (OA) for about 2 years. While I had enjoyed the role, I longed to try something new, so I applied and was accepted to a detail position within GSA IT doing enterprise architecture. As that detail came to a close, I applied for another detail, this time to cloud.gov. I ended up enjoying the work so much, and it was a great fit that I came over permanently and continue to work there today!

How did you get interested in working in tech?

While I was in the TTS front office as an EA, I had the good fortune to be able to see what all of the different programs and services do, how they operate, and what value they bring. It was through that experience that I became more interested in working in tech. I came into the government with no prior experience in technology, however I quickly learned that one doesn’t need to be an engineer in order to create value in the tech space.

What’s your favorite part about working in government tech?

I don’t think I can choose one favorite thing about working in gov tech! Firstly, I really enjoy working with the people within TTS and government tech more broadly. There is such a wide breadth of skills, expertise, and knowledge that I am always able to learn something new. The work itself is also very fulfilling. We get to not only help internal programs meet their needs, but also external agencies, and by proxy, the public. I go to work everyday knowing that our work is making a difference, and helping agencies meet their missions and goals and improving how the government works for the people.

Tim Lowden, Program Manager, Digital Analytics Program

What were you doing before applying to GSA?

I worked for a government contractor for the Department of Homeland Security prior to GSA. Before that, I was working part-time for the International Labor Organization while going to grad school.

Photo of Tim Lowden. He is smiling, wearing dark rimmed glasses, dark suit jacket, and white shirt, standing in front of a blue wall and the American flag.

What was your first position in GSA and what was the path to your current position?

Honestly, it was by chance. I have a B.A. in English, and all throughout college I worked for a local newspaper in my hometown area. After graduation, I joined the Peace Corps and lived for two years in Morocco. It was an incredible experience, and got me interested in public service as well as international aid and diplomacy. So, I came to DC to get a Master’s degree in Global Communication with a focus in public diplomacy. I thought I wanted to work at the State Department, but that didn’t work out.

I knew I wanted to serve in government somewhere, and just happened to see a post at GSA. I was hired (theoretically) as more of a communications person. I ended up giving some of my time to the Digital Analytics Program (DAP) just to help out the former program manager. In order to learn this program, I took front-end web development courses, SQL courses, data courses, Google Analytics courses, etc. I grew to love the program while learning more about tech. And as time progressed, I became full-time on DAP, then acting program manager (PM), then official PM.

I knew nothing about GSA at the time. But looking back now, I am so happy things turned out like they did. I love what I do, and I love working at TTS and GSA. I’ve worked on DAP for seven-plus years now, and in the process, learned so much about government tech.

What’s your favorite part about working in government tech?

I feel like there is so much genuine passion for the work among the civic tech crowd. People really feel there is purpose to what we do, and despite the hurdles we face, the people who work in gov tech persevere to improve the lives of the public that depends on the services and information. There aren’t a lot of jobs out there that can offer such a sense of fulfillment.

Join Us

Having a career as a technologist in government is a rewarding experience! If you’re interested in joining us, check out the U.S. Digital Corps for early-career opportunities (applications open this fall!). For more mid-senior technologists, visit Join TTS.