Matt Cutts (he/him), Administrator of the U.S. Digital Service

When it was founded in 2014, the U.S. Digital Service was a dozen or so technologists staring down the intimidating task of modernizing government services. All had big hearts and even bigger appetites to make the federal government more accessible and understandable to the millions of people who rely on it.

Almost seven years later, we are a team of 180 with a network of over 500 alumni. Some alumni have gone on to become career federal leaders, including CIOs and CTOs at the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Veterans Affairs, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and beyond…


When USDS was founded in 2014, private sector technologists began taking a one-to-four year breaks from their careers to serve in the federal government to improve critical services. After nearly six and a half years, some USDSers have returned for round two. In this series, we will highlight those “boomerang” USDSers on their experiences serving and returning.

Kathy Pham (she/her), Product @ USDS HQ. Currently Harvard, Mozilla & USDS. First served at USDS from November 2014 to March 2018.

I originally joined USDS in November 2014. It was the first time in my career that I found a place that combined my passions for technology, healthcare, product, and service. Before that, I spent either volunteer time, or side projects on what the companies considered impact — immigration services, K-12 education, equity in tech, food insecurity, and more. …


In this series you’ll hear stories from USDSers and learn why they decided to join, why they stay, and how their work is making an impact for all Americans.

Michael Rivera (he/him), Senior Recruiter (& other things) on the Talent Team @ USDS HQ. Previously, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. From St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

What inspired you to join USDS?

At the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), I really valued the work that we did advocating for consumers; ensuring that they were treated fairly. For my next step, I wanted to make sure I could go somewhere that contributed to the public good in a similar way. Seeing how USDS could touch the lives of people in positive ways, in a number of different ways, spoke to me.


In this series you’ll hear stories from USDSers and learn why they decided to join, why they stay, and how their work is making an impact for all Americans.

Samara Strauss (she/her), Product Manager @ VA. Previously Viget Labs.

What’s your background?

I spent most of my tech career as a UX designer, and I initially made the switch over to product management to fill a hole in our team. I quickly realized product management was a much better fit for me both professionally and personally, and I decided to make the switch permanent.

Before my adventures in tech, I was a psychology major in college. …


When USDS was founded in 2014, private sector technologists began taking a one-to-four year breaks from their careers to serve in the federal government to improve critical services. After nearly six and a half years, some USDSers have returned for round two. In this series, we will highlight those “boomerang” USDSers on their experiences serving and returning.

Lucas Merrill Brown (he/him), Engineer @ USDS HQ. Previously Myst AI. First served at USDS from January 2016 to March 2018.

I joined USDS in January 2016 and stayed for about two years. Although I was moonlighting on a couple different projects, I mostly worked on the Quality Payment Program (QPP), one of the largest (I think it is the largest?) payment reform efforts in Medicare history. The program shifts Medicare from a pure fee-for-service model (if a doctor runs ten tests, they’ll get paid ten times) to value-based care, where we incentivize quality care at efficient costs. …


In this series you’ll hear stories from USDSers and learn why they decided to join, why they stay, and how their work is making an impact for all Americans.

Ron Heft (He/Him), Engineer @ USDS HQ. Previously at The Social Station. From Allentown, PA.

What inspired you to join USDS?

After seeing both of my parents struggle with signing up for Medicare and Social Security as they reached enrollment age, I took an interest in how government services could be more accessible, friendly, and approachable for everyone. When I learned there was a group within the federal government working to do that with technology, I was interested, but I honestly didn’t know how I could fit within USDS. …


Martha Wilkes, an Accessibility Strategist and Designer at the Department of Veterans Affairs, was able to “go where the work is” to understand how her team could create digital tools to better support COVID-19 vaccine delivery to Veterans.

I’m a designer at USDS and I’ve been working at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of the Chief Technology Officer since September 2019. When lockdown started in March 2020, I went back home to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to work remotely. One of the silver linings of being away from DC is that I am now only 20 minutes down the road from the excellent Durham VA Medical Center (VAMC).

One chilly Saturday this February, I visited Durham VAMC to observe their mass vaccination weekend event. Since my teammates and I have been creating various COVID-related digital products…


We recently launched a Discovery Sprint Guide to serve as an open source reference for others working in the public interest sector. This guide highlights methods to run a discovery phase within an organization to fully understand the problem. We hope that you are able to learn, contribute, and adapt this guide throughout your organizations.

Discovery sprints are a quick (between 2 to 4 weeks) way for our teams to understand the landscape, the people, and the root causes of any issues of importance to the agency we are supporting. With a small footprint inside the federal government, USDS uses discovery sprints as a tool in our initial conversations with new partners.

The pandemic shined a brighter light on how some of our most critical systems are not meeting people’s needs. At the same time, there is a renewed focus on improving them. The teams forming at the federal, state, and local levels might benefit…


In this series you’ll hear stories from USDSers and learn why they decided to join, why they stay, and how their work is making an impact for all Americans.

Amy Quispe (she/ella), Engineer @ USDS HQ. Previously at Facebook. From Corona, Queens.

What’s your background?

I usually describe my career as “very Silicon Valley” — I’ve been at both large and small tech companies in San Francisco and New York City. I started programming as a kid, thanks to my middle school math teacher. I was lucky enough to go to Stuyvesant High School, which had an extensive computer science curriculum, and then attended college at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science. …


Before being able to modernize the Medicare claims processing system, USDS engineers had to climb the steep curve of learning to work with, and on, the mainframe.

By: Shelby Switzer (they/them), Software Engineer

Medicare: you may have heard of it. This is the federal health insurance program for individuals 65 and older, as well as younger people with certain chronic conditions. As of January 2021, the program covered more than 61 million Americans (19% of the total US population), making it the largest single insurer in the country. Every day Medicare pays out an average of $1 billion for inpatient and outpatient services. In other words, Medicare moves about 2 to 3% of the United States’ GDP every year.

Because of Medicare’s size, it is positioned to drive significant change in the healthcare…

U.S. Digital Service

The United States Digital Service is a tech startup working across the Federal government to deliver better services to the American people. www.usds.gov

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