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We asked over 100 of our coworkers: Why did you join 18F?

At the end of last year, we asked everyone at 18F to reflect on a meaningful project they worked on in 2015. We received dozens of responses, ranging from working on internal tools to almost doubling our workforce.

To celebrate our second anniversary, we once again reached out to people across 18F. This time, we were curious about:

We got more than 100 responses, including people from every team and time zone, and we’re excited to share their responses over the next few days. Today’s post answers the question: Why did you join 18F?

Want to see your name on this list? You can see open positions and how to apply on our join page.

Teams

Design

18F Design provides content, visual, and interactive design to the rest of the organization.

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18F team member Shawn Allen
“I wanted a new challenge, and I wanted to learn from some of the best minds in design and technology.” -
18F team member Maya Benari
“18F started up during my Code for America fellowship, so I had a chance to observe what 18F was doing while I was completing my fellowship. It was a natural progression from using technology to solve local issues to national issues. I knew that the variety of projects, impact, and people working here was unparalleled. I could tell the people who worked at 18F were extremely talented, had a depth of experience, and hearts the size of Jupiter (as Todd Park likes to say). Designing for the public good was the only thing that felt worthwhile to me.” -
18F team member Nick Brethauer
“I joined 18F to make a big impact on how our government works and serves its people. I love getting to combine design, technology, and public service by working on real, impactful products and services for the public. I’ve worked on many different things at 18F, and I’m constantly amazed both by my colleagues and how much I am always learning and growing here. I came to 18F after getting a masters in information management and human-computer interaction, and time at the Sunlight Foundation and NPR.” -
18F team member Jeremy Canfield
“The answer to why I joined is not actually all that interesting — it's the same reason I've taken almost every job I've had: it seemed like 18F is a bunch of good people focused on problems worth solving. ​The more interesting question is why — as I approach my two year mark, the average lifespan of most jobs that my demographic and I take — I'm not tempted to leave. This is hard work. It is taxing both mentally and emotionally. The problems we are working on are indeed worth solving, and are also momentous, entrenched, and many will outlast our best attempts to solve them. We will at times be completely overwhelmed by the size and complexity of tasks that at first blush seemed simple. To me, more interesting than why I came is why I am staying. And I'm staying for essentially one reason: I stay because I feel that I have stumbled on an exceedingly rare thing, a thing that I have experienced precious few times in my life. I have found in 18F a band of colleagues that not only have the ambition to focus on ridiculously hard problems and the gumption to think they can make progress, that recognizes that this work, while serious, needs creativity and creativity eschews prim and proper seriousness. I'm staying because I have found in 18F a nurturing community that celebrates each other's successes, that helps each other up and dusts each other off after our inevitable missteps, that all the while believes not only in the fundamental rightness of our mission, but in each other. I'm staying because I have found my people.” -
18F team member Erica Deahl
“I was inspired by the passionate, skilled cohort I saw working on projects with huge potential for impact. In my experience, interacting with government services often leaves people feeling frustrated and disempowered. I wanted to design services that effectively meet the needs of their users, while helping to build a design culture in government.” -
18F team member John Donmoyer
“Having the chance to work on distributed teams was one of the main reasons I joined 18F. I love knowing that the people building products for the American public are spread out all over the country. Re-thinking the way I collaborate on designs to accommodate a team that spans 3 time-zones has been one of the most exciting parts of my job.” - John Donmoyer
18F team member Nicole Fenton
“I wanted to work for a civic organization that understands the value of editorial strategy, working in the open, and working remotely.” -
18F team member Elizabeth Goodman
“I joined 18F because I like solving complicated design questions, and the federal government offers some of the most complicated questions out there.” -
18F team member Michelle Hertzfeld
“I joined 18F because I want to make government services things people delight in using. There is no reason that interacting with the government needs to be stressful and difficult.” -
18F team member Jeannine Hunter
“I was drawn to its commitment to improving opportunities for the general public by transforming government — increasing its efficiency, transparency, and accountability.” -
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“I chose to work at 18F because I see it as an opportunity to improve how government works from the inside. I spent a lot of years translating government documents and data so regular people can get the information they need to improve their lives and inform themselves. But now there is a demonstrated willingness by the government to be better at communicating efficiently and to provide more reliable and tested tools. I saw that willingness as an opportunity for me to contribute all I’ve learned in my career so far and to make a difference.” -
18F team member Gail Swanson
“I joined 18F because I felt that my UX skills could make life easier for those who are in the most need. Working in the private sector didn’t satisfy my need for meaningful work. Put more succinctly, I was looking for work that I’d be willing to do for free. The work at 18F has enriched my life more than I could imagine.” - Gail Swanson
18F team member Jennifer Thibault
“Because this is a really exciting time for technology and digital services in government, I wanted to work on products that improve the public’s experience with government, and I wanted to become a more engaged citizen.” -
18F team member Chris Goranson
“It was a fantastic opportunity to continue work started through the Presidential Innovation Fellows program. Improving government products and services for the American people with a group of incredibly talented individuals and strong government partners provided a great opportunity for meaningful work.” -

Acquisitions

The acquisitions team provides innovative services and solutions to support digital service delivery. Their teams have a mix of former contracting officers, developers, and product manager who manage access to the Agile Delivery Services Marketplace, RFP ghostwriting consulting, and the micro-purchase platform.

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18F team member Robin Carnahan
“As a former state elected official, I lost a lot of sleep worrying about IT projects. I joined 18F to help reimagine the way state and local governments design and procure technology so the public gets better results, taxpayers save millions, and all those public servants lose less sleep.” -
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“I joined 18F to work towards a great mission and to be at a place that allowed me to grow and develop professionally. I was finishing my last year of part-time law school when I joined 18F. I always felt very fortunate that I could start a job somewhere that was flexible about night school. During my time here, I’ve seen countless colleagues receive encouragement and support to develop their skill set outside of 18F. Coming into 18F, I had spent a lot of time interning in different parts of government, and I was never satisfied with the way they handled technology. Being at a place like 18F, where helping government improve its use of technology is our mandate, is a dream job.” –
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“To work on how technology could improve government service delivery in a deeper way than just as a communications platform.” -
18F team member Alla Goldman Seiffert
“I’ve always been passionate about public service and have spent time working on tech issues in various federal agencies. I distinctly remember the 18F announcement blog post and hoping there would one day be room for someone like me (a lawyer/product manager) to join the spectacular team GSA was building.” -
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“Margaret Mead said it best: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.’” -
18F team member Jessie Posilkin
“To work with smart and kind people who work well on teams.” - Jessie Posilkin
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“From the outside, it seemed like what I thought an ideal government should be. Like most federal agencies, it's focused on serving the public and has a genuine desire to Do Good, but unlike a lot of government, it is willing to struggle against the old way in order to Do Better.” -
18F team member V. David Zvenyach
“To play a small part in ensuring that America is as hopeful for our future as we were when we made one giant leap for mankind.” -

Operations

Team Ops handles all activities related to travel, non-travel purchases, legal matters, and equipment requests.

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18F team member Josh Bailes
“18F offered me a chance to risk something big for something good. The big risk was giving up my career path position elsewhere in government to work for an inside-the-government start up. The good was the goal of making government more accessible to individuals.” - Josh Bailes
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“I joined 18F because I saw it as a way to take my existing experience in operations to the next level. I came here from the Peace Corps, where I was a computer literacy teacher at a high school in Burkina Faso, and managed a lot of the day-to-day operations of the program on the side. Since starting nine months ago (already!), what I appreciate most about 18F is how much I've been able to learn from every division in the organization. I love having the opportunity to help rethink a variety of processes from travel to purchasing to staffing on a daily basis.” - Ethan Heppner
18F team member Matt Spencer
“It sounded like a great opportunity to work alongside really talented people and learn completely new skills” - Matt Spencer

Outreach

The Outreach team is responsible for promoting the work of digital innovators at 18F and across government. Our work spans a number of media outlets, including the content of 18F’s public-facing website, our blog, our external and internal newsletters, our Twitter feed (@18F), responses to press, and responses to emails to 18f@gsa.gov.

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18F team member Greg Boone
“I joined 18F to help people connect to their government.” -
18F team member Andre Francisco
“I joined 18F because while I loved working at a non-profit government watchdog, I wanted the opportunity to switch sides and start working on some of the problems I’d been identifying.” -
18F team member Melody Kramer
“The idea of creating and improving products and tools that could potentially touch millions of people was really appealing, but I actually decided to join because of the people. They were smart, funny, warm, and dedicated to the type of public service that I value — and I wanted to share and learn from and with them. (It’s been great.)” -

Product

Each project at 18F has a product lead whose job is to ensure the project is moving forward. A product lead looks at the whole picture and figures out how to make it work, including making sure we’re user-centered and agile, taking care of billing and logistics, and handling other details so that the rest of the team can do its job. We tend to be generalists, often with skills in code or other disciplines as well as product. More information about our Product team is available in the 18F Product Guide

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18F team member Sarah Allen
“Our government is on track to become more and more expensive, while the services we deliver to our people become increasingly unusable and unavailable. We’ve seen what happens in the world when governments stop working. If this trend continues, then I think in 5-10 years, my kid won’t have a country to grow up in. 18F is one part of the movement to change that reality. Over the past 15 years, technology has advanced: virtualization has made it cheaper to run web applications, and made it easier to design and develop in iterative cycles that respond to what we learn through the process. Our software has become more interdependent as the majority of our people use online services and mobile devices. This creates a challenge of complexity while also providing opportunity to streamline services. The majority of people could help themselves through direct online access to services, 24/7 through their mobile devices and the staff in government offices could focus their efforts on those who actually need additional assistance. We can create dramatically better services at significantly lower lost … with the gap able to be closed by people with skills like mine. It was sacrifice, and at the time appeared to be a career-limiting move, but sometimes you just gotta do the right thing.” -
18F team member Larry Bafundo
“I joined 18F because I believe that there’s tremendous opportunity to bring people and government together through technology. A lot of what we’ve learned in the private sector about product development, service design, and what makes for a great digital experience can be applied at the federal level and affect millions of Americans for the better.” - Larry Bafundo
18F team member Leah Bannon
“I had been working in open data and volunteering in the civic hacking community for awhile, so I had been talking to Presidential Innovation Fellows and other founders for almost a year before 18F finally came together. This is my dream job; I’ve been working toward it for years, even when I didn’t know 18F was it.” -
18F team member Gray Brooks
“I saw GSA as the place that had the ability and mandate to shift gears and really scale out the digital efforts in government.” -
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“The magnitude of the challenge drew me to 18F. Government is foreign to me, and I have loved picking up government parlance and custom via immersion.” -
18F team member Bret Mogilefsky
“I saw 18F as the best place to magnify my ability to drive positive change in the world.” -
18F team member Anna Heller Sebok
“I joined 18F because I felt a strong pull towards both public service (coming from the nonprofit world) and the tech sector for quite some time, and 18F seemed like the perfect place to make an impact in an environment that melded those areas into one!” -
18F team member Raphael Villas
“I joined 18F because of the people and the mission.” - Raphael Villas

Strategy

We help agencies transform into modern, high-functioning organizations through new management models, culture change, modern practices, empowered talent, data access, technology, and collaboration tools. We transform how agencies understand and execute projects: what to build, how to build, and who will build it.

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18F team member Alan Atlas
“I came to 18F for two reasons. Neither reason was something specifically in my head but once a colleague introduced me to the idea of 18F and I learned about the organization and its mission and work, it quickly became compelling for me. The first part of my 'why' was that it was a chance to help the government build software better in order to deliver services to the country better. It's no secret to anybody in high tech that the government has needed some help in this area for a while, but it's still almost a secret that there is now a way to come and help. And I wanted to come and help. The second reason, for me, was professional. As a professional Agile coach, trainer, and consultant, the U.S. Government represents probably the most challenging customer/client possible. In government, even when there is a desire to change, actually doing so is still a difficult challenge. So I came to the toughest place on earth for plying my trade. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my 'why'.” -
18F team member Kane Baccigalupi
“I really wanted to give what I could do to my country. My expertise is in recovering brownfield software projects and the cost of that for government and the American people is incredibly high.” -
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“I joined 18F because I genuinely believe that thoughtful, well-planned, well-coordinated use of technology can have a significant positive impact on the function of our government and its ability to serve the public. Personally, I am deeply invested in projects where technology can be used to support social service policy designed to meaningfully improve the lives of Americans living in underserved and underprivileged communities.” - Lane Becker
18F team member Angela Colter
“I heard Sarah Richards, who was the head of content design at GOV.UK at the time (this must have been around 2013), talk about the work the Government Design Service had been doing to improve government services for citizens. I was blown away by the work they had done and how effective they’d been. I thought, if we ever start something like that here in the U.S., I want to be a part of it.” - Angela Colter
18F team member Adrian Webb
“I joined 18F because of the unique ability to help culturally and technologically transform the government, guided by principles of transparency and collaboration. I love the fact that all code I write can be open source, all frameworks and papers I write can be used by the public, and that I have the ability to work across the government in many fascinating agencies and organizations. I feel like I can make a real impact here.” - Adrian Webb
18F team member Mike Hsu
“I joined 18F to help government modernize and streamline their IT processes and mostly to make a difference.” - Mike Hsu
18F team member Jay Huie
“I joined 18F to multiply and accelerate the impact I was having in government across agencies and being able to deliver change across culture, policy, and technology facets.” - Jay Huie
18F team member Michael Cata
“Two decades ago, I was a nerdy kid in the public library reading about submarines, helicopters, and battleships. Two years ago I was looking for an opportunity to serve my country. Two months ago I joined 18F. Two days ago I started working working with the Navy to help build a platform that serves sailors around the world.” - Michael Cata
18F team member Romke De Haan
“I joined 18F because I was looking for a way to work in government and make an impact. 18F has been a blessing by allowing me to work with a great group of people on causes that make our lives better as a country and people.” - Romke De Haan
18F team member Kathryn Edelman
“I want to help agencies do better for more people using fewer resources. 18F is one of the best places to try to do that in government today.” -
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“The ability to be 'in the arena'"' as Teddy Roosevelt would say. The ability to jump in and help with some of our nation's greatest challenges. The ability to affect positive change. The ability to work with really smart, interesting people in 18F and across government. This is a special time to be serving as our government core operations and services are being transformed by technology.” - Philip Harding
18F team member Ed Mullen
“I feel selfish when I think about why I wanted to join 18F. I wanted to work on things that have deep meaning and deliver real impact to people and the country, using the best methods of the trade, with people who are leaders in their field, within an organization intentionally nurturing a thoughtful, inclusive, and gratifying culture.” - Ed Mullen
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“You would be justified in calling me a social impact junkie. I've been working in the civic technology space for several years, and feel like I've found my professional happy place in using the powers of human-centered design to help government better serve the American people in the digital age. However, my career before 18F was always focused on the local level, so the prospect of putting my skills and experience to work at the federal level was really exciting, since the amount of potential impact that our work can have on people's lives becomes just mind-boggling at that national scale. Plus, having worked at very small organizations for most of my career, I was really drawn to the giant well of talent here at 18F, and it's been incredible to work with such a huge variety of ridiculously talented people whom I get to learn from every day.” — Alex Pandel

Infrastructure

The infrastructure team helps 18F navigate the “federal compliance architecture.” This work applies to much more than technology: it applies to our entire operation, including how we work inside the law, how we secure our systems, how we collect data from the public, and how we spend money.

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18F team member Jez Humble
“I joined 18F for a few reasons. First, I’m a big fan of what the UK’s GDS has been doing, and I wanted to be able to contribute to the U.S. government’s move towards building people-centered digital government services. I see that as a vitally important mission, and for selfish reasons 18F was ideal because they have an office in San Francisco, and they are a remote-first team (we use a lot of Slack and Screenhero), which means I can work from home much of the week. Second, I get to use cutting-edge technology. I’ve spent the past month working on the cloud.gov team, where we’re building a cloud for government using CloudFoundry and AWS. Recently we’ve been building out monitoring using Riemann, InfluxDB and Grafana, and it’s been fun to get my hands dirty on that. Third, I’m getting to work with some really great people.” -
18F team member Noah Kunin
“Since I joined the government in 2010, I've thought we've needed a centralized technology team to support federal agencies who are constantly asked to do more with less. I couldn't be more honored to be part of a team that's here to help agencies with their critical public missions.” -
18F team member Kimber Dowsett
“I joined 18F to support their mission of transparency and help foster the public’s trust in government. I work with technology not readily available at other agencies and serve as an advocate for agile development, encryption, and privacy. I work with the best and brightest folks I’ve ever met, and I wake every day excited to face new and interesting challenges.” -
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“It was a good example of disrupting government, and I wanted to be part of something that was moving quickly and would keep me on my toes. I also saw strong leadership. Phaedra and Aaron are dynamic leaders, and I wanted to support them in any way that I could.” - Vicki McFadden, Associate Administrator, GSA
18F team member Kara DeFrias
"I came to 18F because of the mission. I'm attracted to work where I can do the most good for the most people. And there's so much good work to do here: To infuse human centered design across federal government. To make the digital services the people interact with more usable, and useful. To influence experiences that yes, maybe even make the interactions delightful. #AspirationalFTW To paraphrase President Obama's speech in Selma last year: It's such an honor to be able to work on improving this great nation of ours.” -

Engineering

18F Engineering is responsible for delivering high quality, robust, open source software. We also evangelize best practices relating to software testing, scalability, security, and agile development.

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18F team member Holly Allen
“I joined 18F to use my professional skills in service of making the world a better place. For a while I wasn’t sure how my background as a software developer and manager could be of use tackling big problems like poverty, climate change, and income inequality. Then I started to hear about the work being done in the U.S. government by people like Megan Smith and DJ Patil, and by USDS and 18F. I quickly realized that this is where I need to be, with these amazing people using technology to help our government realize its mission.” – Holly Allen
18F team member Lenny Bogdonoff
“I was looking to be surrounded by smart, talented people who were passionate about the problems they were solving. I wanted to know that the effort I exerted was for a purpose beyond shareholder value or recognition. I felt I wasn't sure what I was going to exactly do, but I trusted the fact that 18F attracted a high caliber of people and the problems worked on were for a greater purpose.” - Lenny Bogdonoff
18F team member Nick Bristow
“I joined 18F because I believed in the vision. When I first heard about what 18F was doing I knew I wanted to be a part of it because it would change government forever, for the better.” -
18F team member Christine Cheung
“To use my skills to make an impact for digital services in government, and ultimately the American people!” - Christine Cheung
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“I joined 18F to work on high impact projects that help other people.” -
18F team member Kaitlin Devine
“I joined 18F because after five years of working for a government watchdog, I wanted to try to improve government from the inside. I have loved working on CALC and opening up federal spending data via the DATA Act implementation.” -
18F team member Aidan Feldman
“I was looking for somewhere I could work on open source full-time. That, coupled with an awesome mission and potential for impact, was a huge draw.” -
18F team member Annalee Flower Horne
“I learned to code so I could help build a more just and equal world. 18F offered the opportunity to work on projects that'd have a positive impact on a lot of people's lives.” - Annalee Flower Horne
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“I joined 18F because it is our responsibility to make government work better for everyone." -
18F team member Yoz Grahame
“I was involved in volunteer-run e-democracy projects in the UK before I moved to San Francisco. I watched many of my old friends & colleagues get the UK's Government Digital Service started from afar, and found it inspiring to see their huge success in transforming government with user experience principles. When my second child was born, I got a heavy dose of the American citizen's interaction with contemporary federal bureaucracy, which I think of as "the plastic chair and take-a-number experience". It was doubly frustrating to navigate that while seeing an example, across the Atlantic, of how much better things could be. So when I saw 18F gearing up to apply the same lessons, I jumped aboard. I'm partly driven by the value of making government more accessible to everyone, but even more so, there's the engineer's motivation of seeing something that I know how to fix.” -
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“I joined 18F to create and deploy best-in-class technology solutions to improve interaction, availability of services, and competitiveness of government services for citizens.” - Steven Harms
18F team member Jacob Harris
“I joined 18F because I wanted to try a new career path in a place that valued autonomy and flexibility but was also dedicated to the greater good. I came to 18F from the New York Times, which was fascinating like many other journalism organizations but somewhat hard on people like me who need greater work-life balance or who have to work remotely. I also didn’t see a career path that worked for me. I have scrubbed into several projects here mid-stream and I am always struck by how supportive and positive my colleagues have been at making sure I understand the work and where I fit into it. I also love the all-hands meetings because it’s awesome to see where everybody is reporting in from.” -
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“I seek mission-driven work, and 18F is that in spades. I have loved working on projects that make other people’s day-to-day lives better.” -
18F team member Jeremia Kimelman
“I wanted to be a part of this experiment to gradually erode the notion that interacting with government services must be a terrible experience. The fact that 18F represents that opportunity, alongside inspiring colleagues while working in the open excited me even more.” -
18F team member CM Lubinski
“18F is our best chance to improve government technology through efficiency, transparency, and agility. Our impact is mighty.” -
18F team member Sasha Magee
“I joined 18F because I believe that government plays a critical role in our society and the better it functions, the more it can better balance the power of other large organizations. My path to 18F included almost 25 years (off and on) in software and nearly as long involved in local activism and non-profit community work.” - Sasha Magee
18F team member Eric Mill
“I came to 18F from the Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit organization that works on the technology and policy of government transparency. I was thrilled to be able to keep working on making a more transparent, responsive, and effective government from inside.” -
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“I joined 18F to do work that was more soul satisfying. I felt that open source and lean processes could be combined to make the public sector efficient.” - Vraj Mohan
18F team member Amanda Robinson
“I joined 18F to help build great digital tools for government with a team of amazing people.” - Amanda Robinson
18F team member Marco Segreto
“I joined 18F after I had been working in the San Francisco startup world for a few years and felt the excitement around startups had grown a little stale. In picking my next venture, I decided I wanted an opportunity to make a difference for people in need. I found 18F through the Presidential Innovation Fellowship program. I contacted somebody at the PIF program about submitting an application, and they told me I was too late, but I should look into 18F. I immediately liked what I saw in 18F and started the hiring process.” -
18F team member Micah Saul
“I joined 18F because I decided I had to put my money where my mouth is. It was an opportunity to take an active role in making our country a better place.” - Micah Saul
18F team member Becky Sweger
“I joined 18F because I wanted to be part of the tech revolution in government and was excited to join a team of smart, committed colleagues from diverse backgrounds.” –
18F team member Clint Troxel
“I joined 18F to work for people instead of for money.” – Clint Troxel
18F team member Jessie Young
“Some people say that private sector tech companies don't care about changing the world. I’ve found that to be far from the truth. But what is true is that many changes can only come from within. As part of 18F, I am able to help as part of that within.” -
18F team member Lindsay Young
“I joined 18F because I wanted to directly build transparency in government. I came from the Sunlight Foundation, which was a great platform to innovate on government technology and transparency. I started off as a reporting intern and was inspired to learn how to code, so over the course of five years, I became a web developer. I now have the privilege of being on the team that builds the FEC’s first API and are building beta.fec.gov.”

Talent

The Talent Team is a group of problem solvers dedicated to making government the most sought-after workplace. In short, we are building the team that delivers the beautiful, useful services that make up our 21st century digital government.

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18F team member Cristina Brydges
“I joined 18F because I am mission driven and what better mission than improving the public’s access to government services through improved digital tools and transparency.” - Cristina Brydges
18F team member Amanda Schonfeld
“I joined 18F because I wanted to feel that my work had a higher purpose. I have lots of experience working in the design and tech world, and have had the opportunity to recruit people to build large commerce sites and develop marketing campaigns to increase profits for products, but I have never had an opportunity to do work where the ultimate purpose is to make people's lives better. I had previously aspired to finding an opportunity like that, but I also wanted to be sure that the work being done was utilizing good design and strong technology practices. 18F is transforming government by using research, good design, and implementing helpful and sustainable technology to develop tools and systems that allow for the American people to have successful interactions with the United States government. What better way to make an impact than that? I was totally excited and thrilled at the prospect of joining 18F.” - Amanda Schonfeld

Business Strategy

Intake is the process by which 18F listens to potential partners, discusses possible solutions to their challenges, and determines appropriate next steps. In short, it’s how we do business development for inbound inquiries.

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“In my past two years at GSA, I have worked within FAS and PBS on client-facing initiatives. I came to 18F through the ELP Program and felt inspired by the impactful work that 18F does for other agencies. I relate most to the innovative spirit and mindset that 18F wants to inject into the government and am happy to be part of the journey!” - Olesya Minina
18F team member Will Slack
“After implementing government rules and regulations in the private sector and working within the intersection of complex organizations and enterprise technology, I was interested in doing the similar work inside government and better understanding the specific challenges of government technology. Put simply: this is my dream job, and these are my dream coworkers.” -

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