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My Time with Barry

The glamorous life of a Presidential Innovation Fellow that went on to start the digital services movement in the United States government.

Joe Polastre
Apr 6, 2015 · 13 min read
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Standing on the edge of Mount Kerinci, in Sumatra, Indonesia

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Making the call with DC outside the bars in Busan, Korea

Everyone else complains about their government.
Here was a chance for me to actually do something about it.

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Todd Park singing Happy Birthday (to me!) on June 17, 2013. Photo credit: Geoff Mulligan

What if every federal employee was empowered just like a PIF?

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The team at the State Department: Tiffany Smith, me, Matt Chessen, Dain Miller (PIF), and Isaiah Joo.



Getting money for a new government initiative requires an act of Congress.

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An 85' Coast Guard boat, acquired by the General Services Administration through the Acquisition Services Fund.

If the GSA already manages the government’s physical infrastructure
and procures products and services for agencies,
why doesn’t the GSA manage the government’s digital infrastructure?


GovX is a new service within the General Services Administration that builds effective, user-centric solutions focused on the interaction between government and the people and businesses it serves. Our mission is to rapidly deliver affordable, high quality solutions.

Innovation is not a product, it’s a way of thinking;
which means we must become a culture of innovation.


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Brainstorming names for 18F at the whiteboard.
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Final 18 name candidates for 18F. And no, that wasn’t planned.

You can think of PIF as a seed stage product.
18F is when you’re ready to scale it at Series A.

We hadn’t told the rest of the world that 18F exists. Yet.


We’re a digital services team and we don’t even have a website.


After 20 months in government, did I meet Barry?

Presidential Innovation Fellows Foundation

As an alumni organization for all former Presidential…

Thanks to DutchAsHell

Joe Polastre

Written by

Unrelenting traveler, United Million Miler, Pennsylvania native, Pilot, often found on a ⛵️, product manager

Presidential Innovation Fellows Foundation

As an alumni organization for all former Presidential Innovation Fellows, the PIF Foundation serves to preserve the history and development of the program over time.

Joe Polastre

Written by

Unrelenting traveler, United Million Miler, Pennsylvania native, Pilot, often found on a ⛵️, product manager

Presidential Innovation Fellows Foundation

As an alumni organization for all former Presidential Innovation Fellows, the PIF Foundation serves to preserve the history and development of the program over time.

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