Why did Matt Cutts leave Google for USDS?

Matt Cutts recently left his 15-year stint at Google as head of the webspam team to join the Defense Digital Service, a USDS agency team at the Pentagon.

On August 9, Matt appeared on Quora Sessions to answer questions about his new role. Below is his answer to, “Why did Matt Cutts leave Google for USDS?”

Answering all your burning questions.

Matt writes, that “the idea of helping government work better has been on my mind for a while. After Mikey Dickerson and several other folks helped rescue the healthcare website, I heard Mikey talk about how much of an impact just a few people could make. Meanwhile, I saw how Jen Pahlka and others tried to improve government with a group called Code for America (and later Jen served as Deputy Chief Technology Officer with the US government).

I’ve seen a bunch of smart people like Ed Felten, Amac, DJ Patil, and Megan Smith go help how they can. At a conference in Chicago called ORD Camp earlier this year, I got to meet Paul Smith, who helped with the healthcare rescue and then formed a small company called Ad Hoc that tries to improve things on the contracting side. At conferences, I’d see a lot of people that I respect (hi, Erie Meyer!) who were tackling all kinds of projects.

So: I’m fundamentally an idealist, and the idea of trying to help appealed to me. A bunch of people that I respect and like were also doing it. My former team at Google was doing well. And I was at a place in my life where I could spend several months in DC. The final nudge came at a conference earlier this year when I had dinner with Haley Van Dyck, an early member of the USDS. After talking to her, the question became: why wouldn’t you do this?

By the way, I feel like I should add: if it sounds interesting to work with a bunch of smart, get-things-done idealists, the USDS is hiring: https://www.usds.gov/join


This post originally appeared on a Quora Session.