According to Census estimates, about 41 million people speak Spanish in the United States, and millions of these people speak little or no English. This reality creates a communication barrier that makes it difficult for many to access government services, resulting in more obstacles for Spanish-speaking communities.
For this reason, there are various initiatives within the federal government to create content in Spanish, such as the USAGov en Español site, which was launched in 2003.
The success of these initiatives is thanks to the fact that members of the Spanish-speaking community have joined the government, bringing with them both their experience and technical knowledge as well as their command of the Spanish and English languages.
At 18F, we envision a country whose government consistently offers digital services that instill pride and trust, meet user needs, are secure, and are delivered quickly and at a reasonable cost.
Given the public’s need to have access to services in Spanish, 18F seeks to attract talent who can and wants to continue building an accessible government for the millions of Spanish-speakers in the United States.
We know that potential bilingual candidates interested in 18F have many questions. This is why we published our first Spanish post to share what a working day is like in our organization from one of our bilingual engineers, Edwin Torres.
Hi there! My name is Edwin Torres. I am a software engineer at 18F, one of the most exceptional design and technology consulting organizations in the world. It’s made up of government employees who serve as consultants for other government agencies. In other words, 18F works with agencies to improve the user experience of government services by helping them build and buy technology.
Before working here, I worked as a consultant for the Puerto Rico Department of Education. It was there that I first encountered 18F. Their mission and the quality of their work improving government services captured my imagination and inspired me.
18F has been a remote work friendly organization for years, so, I have been able to work from Puerto Rico. I am the first person working full time from the Caribbean archipelago.
A morning of technical work
My days at 18F start around 9:00 AM (Eastern Time) when I check my work calendar and meetings for the day. One of the aspects that I like the most about being a consultant is that every day is a bit different, so you have to be on top of your calendar. You may be working on solving a complex application problem in the morning and in meetings in the afternoon with a potential partner interested in collaborating on a project.
I don’t have meetings this morning, so I’ll put on music and work on solving some technical problems for a prototype we are creating for the Department of Energy. This project is building and iterating on a prototype to improve how data is shared within the agency.
This type of project where we create prototypes occurs after a user research phase has been completed, where an interdisciplinary group identifies needs and creates a roadmap to meet them.
The technology we use in each project depends on the circumstances of our partners. However, we always seek to integrate the use of open source technology and follow our guides with the principles and standards that shape our work..
Daily stand-up meeting
Around noon I begin preparing for our daily stand-up meeting with our partner agency. At this meeting, we discuss progress and any issues that may delay the project’s progress. These types of meetings are generally in the morning, but being a “distributed organization,” we must be sensitive to time zones, and so most of the meetings occur between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern time; and, of course, they are via video call.
In addition to these types of meetings, much of the communication within 18F takes place through a hundred virtual channels of all kinds that keep the organizational culture alive. This was one of the parts that caught my attention the most when I started here.
It is not only the technical aspect
After the daily stand-up meeting and lunch, I join a call with the business development team, a group I volunteered to help as one of the subject matter experts of the engineering chapter. Here we talk to potential partners about their needs to determine if 18F is a good fit to help them. We also analyze other aspects, such as the public impact of these projects. These calls also serve as opportunities to educate other agencies about our processes.
Once that meeting is over, I review the latest revision of a blog post that several people in the organization have worked together on. Sharing what you have learned is part of the organizational culture, and this includes, if it is something that attracts you, posting on our blog, or updating our guides.
Activities unrelated to a project are voluntary, and each person decides to participate according to their interests. Some engineers collaborate with the engineering guild by giving technical talks, while others work on improvements to our internal applications or participate in affinity groups.
I send my comments on the blog and return to work with the prototype. Later, I will meet with our partner to discuss concerns about the data sources we are using, among other details.
Evaluating the difference between this job and my previous experiences in the private sector, I concluded that the main difference is that 18F is an organization with a clear and precise mission. People come to 18F because they want to create change within the government and improve access to digital services. We want our work to have a positive impact on millions of people.
That is where I focus my efforts within 18F. I also think that part of improving that accessibility is having more and better digital services in Spanish. For that we need people with technical experience and an ability to speak and write in both the English and Spanish languages, among others, to help us create better and more accessible digital services.