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A day in the life of an 18F talent manager

A little more than a year ago, I came to 18F as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV El Salvador 2011-2013) and joined the team as one of the first Operations Specialists. At the time, 18F was still in its infancy; actually, we weren’t even 18F yet. Besides lacking a formal name, we were also light on staff — in terms of numbers, that is. At that time, we had just ten big-hearted problem solvers who believed they could transform government. Though they were small in number, their spirit was invigorating and I knew I had to join them.

Jamie Albrecht

I spent my first few months at 18F on the Operations Team — the heart and soul of our organization, in my very biased opinion. I focused on asking lots of questions and attempting to figure out how to operationalize a new office inside the federal government. The Ops Team tackled everything from hiring to budget to purchase requests to securing space for our then upcoming offices, like San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. In short, we took care of all the things that needed to happen for 18F to work, in a very practical sense.

Somewhere along the way, I became the go-to gal for all things “hiring.” Thankfully, in recent months, we’ve hired a bunch of fantastic new people and now there’s a whole team — Team Talent — dedicated to recruiting and workforce planning. With most of TT holding down the fort in DC, I figured it was time to give SF some love (both professionally and personally).

Today, I am a talent manager in our San Francisco office, and this is a day in my life.

5:30 a.m.: Forget those West Coast stereotypes! Ever since my Peace Corps days of waking up with the animals, I haven’t been able to sleep in much. This bodes well for never feeling behind my East Coast counterparts. Heck, I sometimes beat some of them to the office.

My morning routine is easy, quick, and simple. The only things I take too seriously at this hour are tea, fruit, and yogurt. I’m out the door and walking to work by 6:00 a.m.

My morning walk to work

7:00 a.m.: Wednesday is farmers’ market day at 50 UN Plaza, which means breakfast (part two) is too many free samples of chocolate almond brittle. At this hour, no one else is around, so I crank up our Bose speakers and unleash DJ JME. I make all my co-workers listen to this song at least once. You should listen, too. It helps me work through my priority inbox and prepare my notes for my morning meetings.

At 8:00 a.m., I join Jen and Shawnique for the Team Talent stand up. We use this time together to walk through our candidate tracker. The hiring process here is longer than most, so we have to stay on top of each person’s route to Day 1. We also use this time to plan our next interview day (every other Friday), and discuss any other current challenges.

At 9:00 a.m., I start to assemble folders of the necessary documents from the candidates we’ve most recently asked to join 18F. Each candidate’s folder includes: a comprehensive resume (usually multiple pages), salary documentation for the previous two years, background-check-related forms, and additional memos related to location (if you are not in DC or San Francisco) and salary (if you’re coming in above the first salary level). Those memos I mentioned require two signatures, so I send those off for approval before submitting the complete folders to GSA Human Resources (HR).

At 10:00 a.m. I check in with our main GSA HR point of contact. We talk daily. Once the 18F team selects someone for hire, their folder must go through GSA HR proper to be found officially qualified for the position (including GS and Step level confirmation), then through security for the background check, and then back to HR to set up start dates and orientation. This is a long process — it takes between four and six weeks — and one that requires a lot of attention from all sides (Team Talent, GSA support offices, and the candidate).

11:00 a.m.: I hop on a list of calls with these individuals. As you may have inferred from above, the hiring process has a lot of steps. I do my best to outline them via email, but sometimes you’ve gotta go the old fashioned route and actually talk to people. Call me crazy, but I kind of like it. It helps me get to know everyone before their first day. For this reason, many of my colleagues refer to me as the “face” of 18F. I do my best to put on a good face, but I hope more than anything that future 18F team members see me as their buddy, a resource they can count on as they navigate the world of federal employment here.

By noon, I am ready for a break. My SF officemates know that my lunch habits are typically atrocious, and they often chastise me. Today, I wander the farmer’s market eating pretzel M&Ms, gathering samples of apples and oranges, buying dates (the fruit, not the social event), and of course stopping for another round of almond brittle.

SF on a sunny day

1:00 p.m.: I make my way back inside and settle in to review resumes. This task is fairly simple: input names and other pertinent information into our candidate tracker, separate applicants into the appropriate buckets, and then send the resumes out for evaluation. Each resume is reviewed by at least two subject matter experts (SMEs) on our team.

2:00 p.m.: I step away from the computer to hop on the phone again. I’ve scheduled a few 30-minute phone screens (in terms of the hiring process, this happens post resume review) with potential operations specialists and talent coordinators. Most of these positions are filled via a special hiring authority granted to Returned Peace Corps/Americorps/Vista Volunteers. I am biased, but Peace Corps Volunteers are incredible humans. We’ve got a lot of them here at 18F and we’d love many, many more. If you know someone that fits that bill, tell them to apply!

3:30 p.m.: After three phone calls, I am ready for my mid-afternoon break. I like to hula-hoop around the office. I’ve made it my mission to teach the rest of the office. Luckily, this is a receptive bunch – they are always down for some learnin’.

Hula hooping

4:00 p.m.: I take a good portion of the rest of the day to sit down and tackle my inbox and other small tasks; since I used to be one of the only Operations Specialists, I am still somehow involved in all of the things. It is quiet(er) in DC at this point, so I can focus on these items with fewer disruptions. If you must know, I have an inbox zero policy, and finagling my inbox to zero takes longer than I like to admit out loud.

6:00 p.m.: I start my walk home listening to my wonderfully (well, depends on who you ask) crafted playlist of the day. I try and take new walking paths as much as possible – this city is still new to me, after all.

That’s what makes me happy here at 18F, too – something and someone new to learn from and about each day. I joined 18F because of that small group of 10 people here in the beginning and I stay here for the 100+ that have joined since then.

Update:

A tweet from @Shahryar said, “Wow, nice read, but am I reading this correctly - are you doing an 11.5 hour work day every day?”

The answer is nope! This post is an exaggerated look at my work day — it was the only way to capture all of the hula hooping I do every hour! (This was my response on Twitter.)

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