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Home Features 19 reasons why agencies find it hard to hire technologists
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TAGS Digital disruption, digital service delivery, digital transition, internet-centric technologists, Open-source software, recruitment, software developers, software projects
If you’re a government agency trying to attract technical talent to your innovation efforts, posting job descriptions for positions named “Technology Specialist — Internet” may not be enough. The type of private-sector technologists you’re after are used to a very different workplace culture.
Startups long ago learned that innovative efforts require innovative atmospheres. Chances are, your agency’s culture isn’t very supportive of that innovator’s efforts, and when the talent you recruited arrive in the beltway, they’re going to be in for a bit of culture shock. Instead, optimize for the innovators. When creating an atmosphere conducive to innovation, pay attention to how much time technologists will need to spend fighting for the right to work on what they want to work on, versus actually just working.
Here’s 19 common reasons why private-sector change agents may not want to work at your agency (and what you can do to change that):
Technologists would much rather answer the call of civic service than optimise yet-another-mobile-app’s ad revenue. As noted before, “[t]he talent you want would be happy to work in an un-air-conditioned garage in New Mexico if it meant the chance to change the world.” Government provides just such an opportunity, but you’ve got to at least meet them half way. While other industries might have golden handcuffs, I’d argue that the biggest barrier keeping technologists out of government today is often their “digital handcuffs” — becoming accustomed to a culture that optimizes tooling and workflows for developers, and a culture that values shipping above all else (and a culture that’s not impossible for you to emulate).
If you’re a government agency trying to attract technical talent to your innovation efforts, it’ll take more than a fancy title. Focus on building an environment that supports innovation, and more specifically, one that supports innovators. If you build it, they will come.
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Ben Balter is the Government Evangelist at GitHub. Previously he has been a Fellow in the Office of the US Chief Information Officer responsible for drafting the president’s digital strategy and open data policy, and a New Media Fellow at the US Federal Communications Commission. Named one of the top 25 most influential people in government and technology and Fed 50’s Disruptor of the Year.
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I’ve lived every one of these and more in 12 years as a public servant technologist and more than that again as a private contractor. Sadly, every one remains true, and it forces many technologists working in the public sector into doing work that can never be their best, despite their desire to ship great code and develop software that not only does what it’s supposed to do for the agency, but help the public as well.
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Yes to all of these.
Obviously SOME technologists work for government, but why they put up with being treated so much worse than they’d be treated anywhere else is unfathomable.
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Sadly not much difference for a non-technocrat!