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“School House Rock Didn’t Prepare Us For This”: U.S. Digital Service (Video + Transcript)

April 16, 2021
VIDEO

Engineers Amy Quispe, Julie Meloni, Elizabeth Schweinsberg, and Gina Maini discuss solving gnarly problems in government tech, and how they are using their skills to improve government services and benefits for all Americans.


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Transcript of 2021 Elevate session

Sukrutha Bhadouria: We’re going to move on to our next segment which is our amazing USDS panel. USDS is United States Digital Service. It is a tech startup at the White House with a diverse group working across the federal government to build better tools and services for the American people. Julie will be moderating the panel with Amy, Elizabeth, and Gina. We’re so excited to hear from them. Welcome, ladies.

Julie Meloni: Hello, this is awesome. I haven’t seen you all for a couple years but it’s good to be back in my favorite, most favorite, conference ever. So we’ll just gonna jump right on in so we can get to the good stuff. I’m Julie, I’m an engineer with US Digital Service. I was with USDS from 2016 to 2018, took a little [inaudible], came back in October, it’s pretty awesome. And I’ve got some of my most awesome compatriots here who are much more interesting than I am and I will allow them, and by allow, I mean beg them nicely, to introduce themselves. So we’ll do that in just a second. I should probably tell you what USDS is. I am really out of practice, something about a pandemic.

Julie Meloni: All right, USDS. US Digital Service is a tiny little startup, we say, except that we’ve been around for seven years now so I think that the startup shine is off. We’re just small so, we’re just small. But we’re scrappy and we sit inside the Executive Office of the President in the Office of Management and Budget in the US Federal Government. None of that is important. All you need to know is that we’re a bunch of folks who go out and try to make shit better for everybody. We say citizen-facing services but it’s citizens and people who want to become citizens, because this government owes lots of people lots of things and the technology is really bad. So we try to fix it with a small group of UX researchers, designers, product managers, and engineers of all flavors. We are the flavors. And each of these folks will tell you about that and what they do and some of the gnarly problems that we disentangle. President Obama created our group in 2014, we lasted through the rest of his administration into the next one and we are still here because the work is hard and whoever’s in charge in the White House just makes it hard or harder. Right now, it’s just hard so we’re all glad to be here and we hope that lots of you will come and join us. All right. Amy, we’re gonna go alphabetically. Tell us about yourself.

Amy Quispe: What’s up, everyone. My name is Amy Quispe. I’m an engineer like everyone else here at the US Digital Service. I started last May, so we were already in the thick of it. I’ve been working from home this whole time. And prior to USDS, I worked in a pretty typical tech career I think. So we’ll be hearing more but I’ll hand it off to the next person.

Julie Meloni: E. Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Schweinsberg: Excellent. Hi, I’m Elizabeth Schweinsberg and I am an engineer here at USDS also. My particular specialty is security engineering so I’ve spent most of my career doing threat detection, incident response, and digital forensics. But I’m actually kind of a generalist, it turns out, so I’ve worked at a couple of brand name companies before this, but have been enjoying my time at USDS since August. And to Gina.

Julie Meloni: G for Gina.

Gina Maini: Hey, I’m Gina, I’m an engineer as well and I’ve been at USDS for two and a half years, maybe more than that now. And in the beginning, in my USDS tenure, I worked on asylum adjudication at DHS for a brief bit, and then I worked on Medicare for a few years and then moved off of Medicare modernization to now working on organ transplant, so I’ve done a lot of different stuff at USDS, a lot of fun times, a lot of hackathons, civic hackathons, which I really enjoy. And yeah, that’s me in my USDS tenure. Before USDS, I have no idea why I got this job, I often say that to myself because I’m technically a functional programmer by trade so I had really focused highly on really niche stuff that most people in government don’t even care about. They’re still on COBOL mainframes. And then I got here and had to work with what I had, so I guess more on that later but yeah I’m a SRE library engineer and I guess all around back end developer.

Julie Meloni: I need to learn how to use the chat because I’ve just been chatting away with my panelists and not all of you. So my job in here is to learn to switch that to everyone and try to answer questions as they roll along. But we’re going to hear some really gnarly stories, gnarly for those who don’t know the word, think of the most gross to sing intertwined, intertwingled pieces of crap and that’s the technology that runs the US government and from a state and local and federal position, probably also all governments, let’s just be honest.

Julie Meloni: And our job is to go in and disentangle that and try to make it work. And making it work can be things like taking paper forms and putting them on the internet. I know it’s crazy. It could also mean taking 45-year-old or sometimes 50-year-old mainframes, things that are actually older than me, and making them not mainframes.

Julie Meloni: Or make them some sort of nice hybrid model because there’s not actually anything really wrong with mainframes except that they might fall over and that’s bad, but that’s why we have Gina and Amy and Elizabeth, we have all the… Oh my God, it’s a good thing we’re not on a plane together because if the plane went down all mainframe folks in the government wouldn’t… Yeah, it’d be terrible.

Julie Meloni: All right, so we’re going to talk about gnarly problems and I’ll just give you guys a little heads up, not all of the gnarly problems in the government or in your jobs, really, are technical problems, they’re people problems. So we’re going to talk a little bit about people but also a lot about technology, but also a little bit about people, and how people skills, not just tech skills are what we need. Also, big plug, USDS.gov/apply, come join us.

Julie Meloni: All right. Gnarly problems. Who wants to go first? We can do the star technique situation: task, action, and result or you can just talk.

Amy Quispe: I’m happy to go first. So like I said, I started last May and if you remember anything about last March, April, May, lots of people were unemployed, a lot of people were filing for unemployment, a lot of people it was for the first time. State systems, which have been built to serve unemployment were overwhelmed. I remember just trying to help my family and friends follow yet they [inaudible] the sites back up in various states.

Amy Quispe: So when I joined USDS, my first project was actually something a little unusual, we were working with states. Because unemployment is kind of a weird hybrid of federal and state work and so these state systems were falling over, had to go and fix them make, sure people could get their money, make sure people could live right now, and I think that I saw some really crusty old systems. I gotta say, before USDS, the companies I’d worked for, the oldest was maybe like 15 years, 17 years old. And then I’m working on these systems that are way older than that.

Amy Quispe: I remember my first time running into like seeing a Y2K fix and just kind of being floored because I was like, “Oh, 20 years ago, someone wrote this kind of hacky fix, 20 years into the lifetime of the system thinking that, oh someone’s gonna fix this and make this good down the line.” I’m telling all you right now, never underestimate the longevity of your worst code. Never underestimate the longevity of your to-do’s. And so we started investigating one state system trying to figure out where the core of the problem was. Eventually, we figured out there was one point of the system that was like the point of failure. Everything needed to be written to this one place and one at a time. There was no parallelization, that was the bottleneck.

Amy Quispe: And when we discovered this bottleneck, we realized that we wanted to make different fixes. The people that were in charge of that part of the system did not want us to touch their shit, which was… And so here we’re in the middle of a few different things, we’re in the middle of a technical problem. We’re in the middle of a people problem, we’re also in the middle of a bureaucratic problem, systems that are in place already that have been built over time, both at a process level. And so what we ended up doing was we actually ended up building another system on top of that to do some queuing to slow that down to make sure that things didn’t fall over before hitting the mainframe.

Amy Quispe: And so a lot of times I kind of wish we’d fix things the right way but sometimes you have to figure out how to work around that and I think that that was that project has really informed a lot of how I think about what’s going on and fixing these systems, and also I think it’s gonna make me write better code in the future and be a little less precious about what’s mine.

Julie Meloni: That is a really good point and I’m trying really hard not to ask all of the questions I have on my little list because I want to get through like, the what are you going to take away from USDS when you eventually go back into the private sector or do you stay in the public sector, I don’t know, I don’t know your plans. That’s going to be a super interesting question.

Julie Meloni: I should probably say, US on a tour of duty of model which means we’re not here forever. And one of the reasons that we do that, come in for three or six months stay up to two years, renew again for up to two more years, it’s so that we don’t become entrenched in the technology that we are fundamentally trying to fix or make slightly better. The fresh perspective is incredibly important. It’s really easy to slide into complacency in a large complex organization, be it the government or anywhere, and taking a step back, refreshing and doing something new is super duper important.

Julie Meloni: Also, shit changes really fast. When I was in USDS the first time, Kubernetes wasn’t a thing, really, and now it’s everyone wants to keep kuberentify everything like, “Whoa, where’d that all come from?” And I remember that Gina’s has been here the whole time and now it made a lot more sense. Sorry, Gina, you can tell me that you don’t actually like Kubernetes later, but I needed a prop. So hey, tour of duty, what are you gonna do afterwards? We’ll get to that next, but, Elizabeth, I want to hear about your gnarly stuff and I hope that you guys have different gnarly things because I didn’t pregame that.

Elizabeth Schweinsberg: Yeah, good thing I got to go before Gina because my gnarly thing is a project that I picked up from her and have taken off with. So I also work at Center for Medicare and Medicaid Systems. I turns out because this program is very old, they still use mainframes to, say, pay doctors money. And one of the main projects I’ve worked on is building in security monitoring for it, which has several challenges. The first being, getting the logs off the mainframes into a system that is modern for log processing. Fortunately, that had already been done when I got there. And then it’s making sense of it, mainframes are a different paradigm from the server model that we use today. In a server application, you have the users who run the servers and those are separate from the users who use the application, and there are two different types of accounts.

Elizabeth Schweinsberg: Mainframes, that’s not true. Everybody who can use an application is just a user on the mainframe. So understanding that took a little bit. My most favorite part is mainframes were invented before TCP/IP. TCP/IP was bolted on afterwards. So the thing you do in threat detection is you want to know what IP address people are attempting to log in from. That has been my most gnarly problem because in this instance, people are typically on a internal network so everything’s a 10 dot something IP address to start. But then they don’t write it, they don’t really record it because that was not a main concern. So yeah, learning about the security of mainframes and figuring out what the actual threat models are going to be and how to really fix them while trying to deal with little things like, I don’t know what IP address people are coming from, so it’s been super fun. And there was question in the chat, CMS uses IBM Z/OS as their mainframe. So how about you, Gina? What gnarly stuff have you seen?

Gina Maini: I’m just laughing because don’t you love when the person before you starts a crazy project and then you just completely leave the new person to rock it out? But no, I’m so glad that you took over that project because it’s so important, it’s so, so important. And yeah, you were one of the few people who saw through my insanity and wanted to support me because we’re really… I mean, it’s really radical stuff in the government to teach people that security and compliance are separate topics. In the government, it’s very easy…

Julie Meloni: Wait, wait, wait, Gina, let’s be honest, it’s not just the government.

Gina Maini: Yeah, that’s true. I mean you see it in healthcare, you see it in finance, you see a general laziness in STEM, in certain areas in STEM too, there’s a general laziness about it. But in the government, especially with systems that deal with such sensitive data, teaching our stakeholders the differences between security and compliance have been challenging. So even just getting a security review at Medicare to get the appropriate stakeholders in a room looking at the same view of data and being able to talk about the same semantics was such a huge leap, that was like a light year’s leap. Because now the agency is prepared at least in some positioning to address serious security issues in production, which really before USDS, before our poking and prodding and trying to get data in the cloud, no one had really… There had been attempts but they were not successful so the agency had gone through a few different phases of modernization but it really took a huge amount of people to succeed. And so anyway, that’s that’s a shared victory and you are making the magic continue so thank you.

Gina Maini: But yeah the gnarly problems, I feel like I’ve just had gnarly problems after gnarly… I feel like I don’t have any problems that are not gnarly at USDS. I’ve never seen it, I mean I’ve never seen a government system that was better than I expected it to be. It’s never happened to me yet in the two and a half something years. And I actually forgot I even worked on unemployment, I had forgotten that in my intro, but that’s how I would work.

Julie Meloni: Oh, we’ll get there, We’ll get there.

Gina Maini: Yeah [inaudible]. But there’s so many gnarly problems. The thing that that sticks out in mind is the time that, during an onboarding process at Medicare, I had discovered a massive production vulnerability and it was really just a vulnerability because no one had thought through the process from an end to end life cycle of managing accounts. And so just because I’d had experience thinking about enterprise security, just kind of naturally followed some conclusions and then had to basically vary immediately to my engagement with Medicare, make a decision, do I take a massive bug disclosure to the CIO who doesn’t know me yet and has never worked with me. It’s like, “Hi, you don’t know me, here’s a massive issue that you need to address immediately.” And it was really gnarly too because I was meeting a lot of the security people for the first time so that was their first way of getting to know me and that was really challenging, I think, from a stakeholder management perspective.

Gina Maini: But I think the way that I disclosed it, I ended up building relationships with those people that lasted throughout my engagement with Medicare. So we ended up getting it fixed and it was kind of because I had gone to them as more of an ally than kind of come in from more of a hammer perspective. But anyway, that was one glimmer of the many bizarre situations.

Julie Meloni: I wrote down like five things that popped up in the chat so I’m going to try to like right through them real fast and then we’ll and then I’ll tee up the question for you all so you can be thinking about it. Resiliency. That’s all I’m going to tell you. All right, so a couple things that came up in the chat. Is the current administration throwing large sums of money at us to fix this? Fun fact. The last three administrations have thrown amounts of money to us to fix it. Fixing technology problems, believe it or not, is a bipartisan problem and Congress likes to throw money at bipartisan problems when there is continued success and we have been able to spend money successfully over the last seven years. But we are about 200 or so people, there’s hundreds and hundreds of thousands of federal employees and 400 agencies and a metric shit ton of technology problems that us 200 people can’t solve.

Julie Meloni: We are intentionally small so as a forcing function to spend the government’s money wisely. We get appropriated funds which means we do not have to pay them back. We get a certain amount of money each year, 99% of that money is spent on the salaries for the people that work at USDS. And so as many people as can literally be hired within that budget we will hire them and we are the empowered and entrusted, like Gina said, to go out to the highest levels of government and tell them that their shit’s broken.

Julie Meloni: USDSers have stood in front of Secretaries of Defense and said, “You have a security problem right here.” And that’s fine, that’s who we need to be yelling at so that we continue to have the risk ability and the ability to get in there and fix it, like Gina said. Hello, I got a big vulnerability I’d like to disclose right now, CIO I don’t know, don’t even really know what a CIO does because what the hell does a CIO do. But I’m gonna tell you your shit’s broken and you need to fix it now or it’s gonna be really, really bad. So that is the sort of empowerment and emboldenment, enbiggenment, if you will, that we all get when we join USDS. It’s why there’s a relatively rigorous application or interview process. We really only hire people who’ve got some really gnarly experience and that get any type of organization.

Julie Meloni: Generally we don’t care what school you went to, where you worked, where you’ve done your work, or what you’ve worked in. If you have consistently solved gnarly problems in and around technology as an engineer or product manager or UX researcher and designer, you’re someone that we want to talk to because something is going to need that type of help. But we can’t fix everything. We are also not responsible for anything and we do not have the power to purchase anything. So you know those interview questions where you learn a lot about how does your candidate manage without authority? We ask a lot of these questions because we have absolutely no authority but all the responsibility to make sure shit doesn’t fall over. It’s super fun.

Julie Meloni: And so our budget is not being cut, our budget is attempting to be expanded but each of the last three administrations, Obama, Trump, and Biden, we have been here, we have worked hard for the American people and people who want to become the American people and there’s no sign of slowing down, so we are grateful for that. Applications. Yes, we do have a lot of people applying. Inauguration week was a big week for us, we had about 5,000 applications that week. And we’ve gotten through all of them, we’ve adjudicated them, we are a band of people who want nothing more than more colleagues. So please, yes we do have a lot but like if any of the things that we talked about describes you, apply. If you apply and do not make it through the process, that’s fine. There’s about eleventy billion other places for you to help.

Julie Meloni: Go to codeforamerica.org. Look at 18f.gsa.gov. USDS. Code for America will hook you up with local and state civic tech groups, volunteers. Civic tech is a growing area of interest and there are always ways to help wherever you are, be it your local state or federal area. And talked about empowerment blah blah blah blah, I think I got all my things. All right, how do you build resiliency into systems when people are the problem, Elizabeth?

Elizabeth Schweinsberg: So my traditional approach does not currently work. Normally I start with cookies or some other baked good but I actually haven’t met any of my co-workers in real life and the contractors that I’m working with are also all over the country so the the typical endearing yourself to them through baked goods isn’t working. So I have been trying to build my social capital by answering the problems that they have. So the people who actually run the mainframes are contractors. And these people know mainframes, they’ve spent their entire three, four decade long careers in mainframes with a few exceptions and that is what they know. And having some other person come in and be like I’m going to tell you how your mainframe should function differently, well not function, but how you need to look at your mainframes differently.

Elizabeth Schweinsberg: It can be a little unsettling so in addition to having them give me what I want, I have also been trying to make sure that they get what they want. And in specific, we are doing a hybrid cloud mainframe so some of the things that the mainframe vendors have been in charge of the data is moving to the cloud and that makes them a little concerned because the data that they were responsible for is going to be outside their control. So I’m helping them get more of that information starting with very basic things like we have APIs. The APIs come through a gateway in our cloud. Why don’t we check and let the mainframe managers know if somebody’s trying to use the APIs from an unusual IP address. And they seem really receptive to that sort of thing so there’s a bit of a give and a take and making sure that they get some of what they want has made them more willing to give me what I want.

Julie Meloni: Amy, go. Resiliency. People.

Amy Quispe:Resiliency. People. I think that one way to build resiliency is actually to build process. And another way to build resiliency is to remove process. I think that thinking very intentionally about how you work is really important and how you work with the other people that you’re working with is going to be really important to figuring out what your cadence is, what people can take on, not making assumptions or writing down your assumptions especially since we’re all working remotely. I think that this is also part of building a resilient software system so not just building a resilient team and a resilient way to work but actually thinking about how to intentionally build something. If you can define well what everyone is doing, if you can define how you’re working, then if someone has to leave the team, if someone has to join the team, you have a way to make that work smoothly. And that’s going to make your systems continue to work smoothly no matter what the team is, if you’re building actual teamwork.

Julie Meloni: Awesome. Gina, bring it home.

Gina Maini: Yeah, I echo what Amy just said. I think that’s how you get resiliency, for sure, is some level of process. And the old engineering teams I worked on, right, we called it lore or the playbooks or some document that would be wisened and if you get blamed it it’d be like a tragedy the commons and everybody had contributed. That was kind of what I was used to working like. But then you arrive in government, there are no engineers. You’re it. There’s nobody else coming. That’s kind of what it felt like for us to get started, especially at a new engagement, in the case of Medicare and unemployment with the Department of Labor, you’re kind of coming in and there’s nobody there doing your job which is why it’s so exciting to be there and why we’re so valuable in these spaces. But when you’re thinking about building a product, you’re not actually building a product, you might be working with the policy arm of the agency to craft some kind of pilot, right? And that pilot may be procured by someone who isn’t you. You might be setting up a contract play for the agency to hire the right thing which isn’t very exciting and I think if someone had told me that years ago I would have been like that doesn’t sound like anything I would ever want to do or be a part of.

Gina Maini: But it is the most value add I think any of us really give at USDS is the dollar value that we save American people by pointing out, you don’t need to buy Ferraris if you just want cup holders. Because these systems evolved to buy battleships, these systems did not come about to buy software, so they’re going to look for different signals that are just noise and so we kind of come in there and we tell them what to focus on in the procurement and actually that sets them up and a good procurement and a good contract, these contracts last for 10 to 12 years, maybe more. And so setting up a contract to be really flexible to have the right kind of outcomes is actually, that’s kind of resiliency across decades in government. Because a lot of these systems they span many administrations, many decades of policy and that’s why there’s such amalgamations. There is no such thing as product, there is just policy and then a bunch of contractors scrambling to implement it, right? That’s the reality of the United States Tech.

Julie Meloni: Awesome, we have eight minutes left and I want to address just a few questions real quick but also plug everything that Amy and Elizabeth and Gina have said today. Yeah, we’re talking about working in the government, in the federal government in this case, but everything… Please listen to everything that they said and take those… Elizabeth would you just like to read your mug that would be…

Elizabeth Schweinsberg: No.

Julie Meloni: Okay. Yeah, go for it, read it.

Elizabeth Schweinsberg: Okay. I picked a special mug for today. “Women belong in all the places where decisions are being made.” [inaudible] illustrious RGB.

Julie Meloni: RBG. Yes, that’s much more interesting than what I was going to say, which was all of these lessons you can apply in your gnarly complex hierarchical organizations as well. However, being at the table where the decisions are made, being in the room where it happens, if you wish, that is one of the reasons that USDS was created: just to get technologists at the table. They didn’t tell us that when we applied and we’re going to be an engineer, we’re going to fix it shit. I’m like, why am I reading this bill before it becomes a law? School House Rock did not prepare me for this, hence the title of this little chat.

Julie Meloni: We all know about how bill becomes law, but we don’t know that sometimes bills get sent around in Google docs and your friendly neighborhood USDSers and a whole bunch of other people just randomly comment on them about that’s dumb, that’s dumb, please don’t write API specs into law, just stop at, you should have an API. That’s great, big fan, don’t write specs into law.

Julie Meloni: And so we’re all in the rooms where it happens now and we keep things from that happening but we keep things like, you should share data at the forefront. Don’t make dumb decisions, don’t enable 53 distinct territories and states from creating their own unemployment systems, maybe just have one, maybe share. [inaudible 00:33:54]. And that is a really, really, really important part of what we do. And probably if that had been part of the pitch, none of us would have joined because policy is really boring. Except it’s not really boring when you get to write a law in a bar that enables technology to be put in place and you can see my 2018 Girl Geek talk. But anyway, last question for everybody, most important question. What do you want the takeaway for all of these fine folks who have listened to us, what do you want the takeaway to be and what are you taking away from USDS when you eventually leave us and go somewhere else? You can all fight over who goes first. We don’t fight at USDS, Gina, you can go first. Or Amy.

Gina Maini: Yeah, can Amy go first?

Julie Meloni: No one’s ready to think it through.

Gina Maini: Sorry, Amy.

Amy Quispe: No, I’m fine to go first, I’m was just trying to get the vibe here, vibing over Zoom is so hard and so important. I want to say that one thing that comes up when you’re in the room where it happens is that as technologists, we all have kind of a fresh perspective on what’s going on. But also, we all have just our own personal perspective on what’s going on. One of the values of USDS is find the truth, tell truth. And I think that’s one place where I’ve been really able to be valuable in USDS. I was in the meeting earlier today where I had to just stop and say, “So we’re talking about a technical solution to a non-technical problem and there are also non-technical solutions, non-technical problems, but ultimately we’re talking about non-technical problem.” And just sitting down and laying that out in plain language changed the conversation and I think that that’s one thing that I see USDSers do all the time is bring clarity to the conversation and change the conversation, whether it’s about technology or not.

Amy Quispe: And I don’t know what I’m going to be doing in the future but I hope that you all realize that you can also bring the truth to these conversations. If you are in a place that does not allow you to speak the truth or does not hear the truth, please find a way to get your voice heard and understand how powerful you are, understand that this power is so important in the US Government but in all sorts of systems, including the technology that all of you are creating everywhere, because technology is something that is scalable, it is something that is big, it is something that is powerful and it’s something we are building right now and you have the ability to change the way that the future works.

Julie Meloni: Man, that was such a good quote, we’re putting that on a sticker. We do stickers a lot. Amy: you have the way you change… Okay, change the way the future works, please change the way the future works. I’m old, I need a better future in my retirement years. Elizabeth, you know that means we’re going to wind up with you again at the end, just be prepared. Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Schweinsberg: Okay, so I know we said that we got 5,000 applications the week of inauguration, mostly due to news organizations picking up some comments in the html. Now this is not official. I helped review a lot of those resumes and looked at pretty much all the names that came into the engineering. Just based on names, it was not the most diverse set of applicants. There were a lot of traditionally white male names in there. So apply. Because we really value diversity because everybody has something different and interesting to bring to the table.

Elizabeth Schweinsberg: And yeah, I mean it sounds like a really, a whole lot of people and we’re going to hire some. We have to replace probably a few dozen people this year. And maybe it’s not right now but it will be in the future and there’s also a slew of technology-oriented non-profits that are coming up. We’ve had a couple talks through USDS with them on building tools to help people file for bankruptcy more easily, improve access to voting machines, so there’s some really great stuff out there if you keep your eyes open. The gnarly problems aren’t just in the government or at your large tech firms. 100% the thing I’m going to take away that I was actually hoping to get out of this is all of my jobs have been very operations focused and I am terrible at getting my project work done.

Elizabeth Schweinsberg: But here, I’m working with product managers and designers who really think through how we are designing the programs, talking about how we’re going to build them, and seeing that cross-disciplinary work towards project management, hopefully absorbing some of it, I think will be really useful whatever I do next.

Julie Meloni: Awesome. Gina, you get the last word before Angie kicks us out like she did to me in 2018, because I just can’t shut up about gnarly problems and how everybody can fix them because you have the power. Go.

Gina Maini: So last word. What I’m going to be taking away from this job? Definitely not one thing. This job is really… I don’t think I really understood how government worked before I got this job. So I think I know how the sausage is made now and it frightens me deeply. So I think that’s half of what I will take away from this job. The other thing though is I think I never really understood myself very well in my career in the sense that I worked for a bunch of e-commerce companies and the biggest moral dilemma was if I was gonna disappoint somebody buying a TV on Black Friday. And the thing is getting a TV on Black Friday is a really important problem and I don’t mean to diminish any value that e-commerce has. E-commerce has amazing value it’s so important to our everyday lives.

Gina Maini: But I didn’t feel super satisfied, it didn’t drive me, personally. I didn’t come into work wanting to optimize a pricing algorithm or optimize… It didn’t make my heart sing. Every day on this job I feel that. I feel that spark that I never had and it’s interesting how I used to think I was the slowest engineer or the worst engineer on the team. I think I just was unhappy in a lot of my work and now that I’m here and working on stuff that really motivates me, producing is weirdly not an issue anymore, it’s more about… Oh, I see, a wild cat has appeared. It’s more about actually managing my time well here because there’s so many fires and so many great people to work with. So it’s been more of a time management issue these days anyway.

Julie Meloni: Awesome. All right. Thank you all for hanging in. LinkedIn, it’s a thing that works. I actually use it. I will answer all your questions. I just said that out loud in front of everyone. Okay, don’t forget to love each other, wear a mask, be safe, wash your hands, do a good job. Bye, everyone.

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