Summit 2019: Growing Tech Talent in Government with Afua Bruce

Code for America Summit is just around the corner, and in the coming weeks we’ll be giving you a preview of our lineup of inspiring speakers. These are leaders in tech and government who not only share our vision for a radically improved future for government services, but show what works and imagine what’s possible.

Want to hear more? It’s not too late to get your tickets!

Afua Bruce is the director of engineering for New America’s Public Interest Technology program, and previously worked in the Federal government. In her time at the White House’s National Science and Technology council, she oversaw 100 different Federal inter-agency working groups, tackling challenges on environment, and sustainability, homeland and national security, science, technology, and STEM education. At this year’s Code for America Summit, she will lead a breakout session on growing the pipeline for technology talent in government.

The theme of Summit 2019 is “Designing better government” — what does that look like to you?

To me, designing better government means beginning with a strong foundation of talented, dedicated civil servants who intimately understand the issues on which they work and the humans who will interact with and be impacted by their systems. It means honestly evaluating inefficient processes, and finding ways to create new systems based on transparency and accountability. It means training people to apply real subject matter expertise to the public and nonprofit sectors, because they understand the challenges of delivering critical services to all people.

How does designing better government relate to your work?

At New America, we strive to create a world where public policy is made in a user-centered way, delivering better results for people, who in turn have more confidence in the governments and nonprofits who serve them. This means we work hard to have both technologists and policymakers at the table for both policy development and technology development. Although historically siloed, we have found that bringing policy and technology together from the start can can lead to innovative solutions that positively impact lives.

What are the biggest challenges that our movement is facing today?

I think the three biggest challenges facing our movement today are 1) creating space for and equally valuing a wide range of skill sets and roles, 2) figuring out how to map out and support the talent pipeline and career paths for the field, and 3) remembering that if you want to go far, go together. On the first point, it’s important that we recognize that many different types of diversity — race, gender, field of study, level of expertise, subject matter expertise — are needed to make this work sustainable. This should be reflected in who is hired to do the work, but also in who tells stories about the work. On the second point, we need to envision and create pathways for people to begin doing this work at all levels — in college, as early career professionals, as mid-career professionals, and as executives. Further, we must figure out ways to develop and promote people throughout the field. And to the last point, we must continually remind ourselves to build lasting partnerships with other people in the movement (or who are movement-adjacent), with other career civil servants, and with the communities directly and indirectly impacted by the work we do.

What are you excited for about Summit this year?

I am looking forward to rekindling old friendships and foraging new relationships with people dedicated to improving how services are delivered. I especially interested in talking with people about what attracted them to the field, and what keeps them in the field. This is only my second Summit, but I know there is always a lot of positive energy at these gatherings. I am interested to know how we as a field that can better support each other outside of large conferences and continue to make a positive impact on the lives of our fellow citizens.

It’s up to us to design better government! Join members from local, state, and federal governments, technologists, and entrepreneurs and walk away feeling energized, with the right tools in your pocket to help improve government in the digital age.

Join us on May 29–31 in Oakland, CA at the Oakland Marriott City Center.