For our “Leading the Field” Q&A series, we’re speaking with leaders in the civic/gov tech space who are driving important change to make government work by the people, for the people, in the digital age. This week, we spoke with Victor Sauceda (he/him), a Solutions Engineer at Code for America. At Code for America, we welcome a broad diversity of viewpoints—and we strive to let people speak in their own words about their own unique experiences. With that in mind, the following has received only minor edits for length and clarity, and the views expressed here reflect those of the author.
You started as a Community Fellow at Code for America. How have you seen yourself grow over the course of your time here? What have you worked on that makes you proud?
As a Community Fellow at Code for America, I have experienced tremendous personal growth. When I first joined, I was still getting acclimated to the organization’s mission and figuring out how I could make a difference. But with time and increased responsibilities, I have developed greater confidence in my abilities and a clearer understanding of my role in supporting Code for America’s mission. As a Solutions Engineer on the Clear My Record team, I have the privilege of working on a project that both aligns with my background and reflects my passion—as a person with a criminal record, the mission of automating record clearance across the nation really inspires me, and I know firsthand that it can make a positive impact in the lives of individuals and communities.
One of my proudest achievements at Code for America has been working on ThriveSBC, a resource application aimed at supporting justice-impacted individuals in Santa Barbara County who are reentering society after time incarcerated. I had the opportunity to work closely with the community, understanding their needs and using technology to create a solution that would improve their lives.
What drew you to software engineering? What challenges in the government and civic tech space intrigue you?
I discovered a passion for software engineering during my 10-year prison sentence. I was absolutely determined to never return to that life after I got released. That’s when I was introduced to Unloop, a coding program within the prison that changed everything. When I experienced the thrill of writing my first lines of code, I knew I had found my calling. I never could have imagined this—that my time in prison would lead me to a stable career path doing a job that I genuinely loved.
What truly ignites my interest in civic tech is the opportunity to leverage technology to close the gap between government and the people it serves. My time working with Code for America so far has opened my eyes to the pressing challenges and needs in this field, and I am eager to use my skills to make a positive impact.
What truly ignites my interest in civic tech is the opportunity to leverage technology to close the gap between government and the people it serves.
What does a government that equitably serves all people look like to you? How does technology and design contribute to that vision?
An equitable government serves all its constituents fairly, regardless of their social, economic or ethnic background. This type of government would implement policies that address systemic inequalities and provide equal opportunities for all. It would provide quality education, healthcare, housing, and other essential services, and ensure equal access to justice. Importantly, it would be directly responsive to the people it serves and enable strong community engagement and participation in government decision-making.
Technology and design can play a crucial role in realizing this vision. As we know from Code for America’s work on safety net benefits projects, technology can help to improve the delivery of public services, making them more accessible, efficient, and cost-effective. Design thinking can be used to understand and address the needs of diverse communities and co-create solutions with them—and can create more opportunities to close the distance between government and ordinary people.
You gave a lightning talk at last year’s Summit. When you tell your story in civic tech spaces, what do you hope people in the audience take away from your words?
When sharing my story in civic tech circles, my goal is to inspire others to approach their communities with authenticity and use lived experiences to drive informed decisions. I want to emphasize the importance of giving a voice to all backgrounds, recognizing that our unique experiences can have a profound impact on those around us. Lastly, I hope to encourage individuals to find ways to give back, as I have found personal growth through intentional acts of kindness and service. By focusing on these principles, we can create a meaningful and lasting impact in the communities we serve.
What advice would you give to others looking to get into a career in civic tech?
I think it’s really important to gain a strong understanding of the civic sector and its challenges. If you want to help, the first step is to familiarize yourself with the issues that affect communities and the role of technology in addressing them. It’s critical that we are humble in this field, and don’t act like we have all the answers. Collaborating with diverse communities means that we have to build trust before developing any effective civic tech solutions. To that end, we have to make an effort to work with and learn from people from a variety of backgrounds. Finally, my advice is to look for ways to plug in—find a volunteering opportunity, network with people already working in civic tech, and find projects that could use someone with your skillset. There’s room for everyone in this field.