A dressed-down Mikey Dickerson brings startup cool to the U.S. government

A few weeks ago, we told you about the U.S Digital Service, a newly-formed unit designed to inject entrepreneurial energy into various parts of the federal government. At the time, U.S. Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel told GeekWire that the U.S. Digital Service was the “hottest new startup in the country.”

“We were founded in 1776. There’s monuments erected to our founders,” he said. “We’re a pretty cool startup.”

And like most cool startups, you can’t get caught wearing a stodgy suit and tie.

So leave it to Mikey Dickerson, the longtime Google engineer who was originally brought in as part of the team charged with fixing HealthCare.gov, to inject new energy (and style) into the department.

In an interview posted on the White House YouTube channel, Dickerson explains the importance of the startup duds he wears to the office, noting people have asked him countless times if he wears a suit now.

“That’s just the quickest short-hand way of asking: Is this the same old business-as-usual or are they actually going to listen? That’s just a short-cut at getting at that question is how a lot of engineers think about it,” said Dickerson.

He adds: “People are putting up with me walking around the EOB (Executive Office Building) and the West Wing, just wearing whatever, I mean not quite whatever,” he says. “I am not wearing a T-shirt. I made some slight concessions. I am wearing actual shirts with buttons and collars, but that’s about where are at right now.”

Dickerson also lays out some of his goals for the new digital strike force, noting that “interacting with the government shouldn’t be a thing that you automatically dread.”

His goal? Wipe out bad user interface issues that plague many government services. “If we are a smash success, then a few years from now, you won’t even know that we exist,” he says.

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  • Umbrella Pogo

    Here’s a wild idea that the government would, never, ever, consider: Post all granted FOIA requests to something like SCRIBD.

    If you ever go and search for documents on the internet, say, something like a document detailing FOIA requests for a single fiscal year, it’s a pain.

    Instead of burying all requests on the websites of 100 different agencies, granted FOIA requests should be posted somewhere like SCRIBD where they could be easily discovered. ALL government agencies could direct requests (as they’re granted) to a single place, and the government could run Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr accounts detailing what’s being released on a daily basis.

    Will the US government ever do this? Not a chance in hell.

  • Umbrella Pogo

    Here’s another wild notion – why not create a single person (say in the mysterious CTO position that supposedly exists in the WH) to respond to legitimate privacy concerns on different websites?

    I’ve repeatedly found misconfigured Sharepoint information that’s being indexed by Google. I recently found one for some Department of Transportation program, that was displaying the names, e-mail address, phone numbers, and other information for people involved in a federal DOT program.

    Not only did it take me a considerable amount of time to find the e-mail address of the privacy officer who was supposedly responsible for the website, but after taking the time to craft an e-mail and sending it in, they didn’t bother to even send a response.

    They fixed it, of course, but then didn’t deem it worthy enough of sending me a response. What’s the point of this? Why can’t their be one privacy officer that can quickly respond to any issues, anywhere?

    • umbrella Pogo

      Make that, “Why can’t there be one privacy officer” – pardon my early morning typos.

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