Meet the Team: Summer USDSers

Meet some of the folks who recently joined the U.S. Digital Service this summer.

Hank Knaack, User Experience Designer — Immigration at DHS

For over 10 years I’ve worked in for profit companies and nonprofit organizations, focusing in education, finance, health, real estate and entertainment — working directly with end users to build better tools and community. Most recently, I was consulting as a researcher and interface designer for enterprise software — and volunteering with a group of civic hackers creating tools for the city of Los Angeles. I’m now working on the Immigration team at Department of Homeland Security helping make benefits processing for Green Card renewals and Temporary Protected Status more efficient, timely and transparent.

Which talent would you most like to have?

Superpower level ability to read minds / predict the future

What is your greatest fear?

As a large person, I have had reoccurring bad dreams about being psychically stuck in a confined space. That, and not leaving a lasting impact on my community / the world.

What is your favorite occupation?

Ideally one that can help other people, and where you are constantly learning new things.

Judith Siegel, UX Designer — Headquarters and HHS/CMS

I’ve been a UX Designer, in some capacity, for nearly 10 years. My most recent stint was contracting at Thomson Reuters. Before that, I spent about 5 years doing UX/Product Design in the news media space….first at CNN Digital, then leading the design team at MSNBC Digital. I love media and journalism, and consider it civic work…similar, in a way, to USDS. I’m from the great state of Texas, but hate the Dallas Cowboys. I’ve long admired USDS and am very happy to be here among such smart and kind colleagues.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I love to cook and consider myself ok at it, but I’d love to be able to really magnificently butcher something. Have you seen Gordon Ramsey break down a salmon into portions? It’s pretty amazing. So, I guess serious butchery skills is what I would want.

What is it that you most dislike?

Lima beans. People who don’t signal. The injustices of this world.

What is your motto?

A hard question, because there are tons of inspirational mottos to live by but I’d pick “Clear eyes…full hearts….can’t lose!” As a Texan, I love the show Friday Night Lights because it does remind me a lot of what it was like to grow up in small town/suburban Texas. I also just love Coach Taylor.

Randall Weidberg, Product Management — Headquarters

I am excited to embark on the most rewarding work of my career at The United States Digital Service. My first project will be leading a talented interdisciplinary team to untangle, simplify and successfully deliver an improved user experience for veterans.

Previously, I was Group Product Manager at Groupon and Director of Product Management at LivingSocial (acquired by Groupon). I led the mobile, web and design teams to implement our next generation of consumer and merchant products with a customer obsessed focus. Prior to this, I was a 2x startup founder and CEO. I revel in creating products that capture users’ hearts and minds and ultimately improve their lives.

I am honored to work side by side with the best of government to leverage my private sector experience in Product Management and execute on behalf of our veterans. You can read more about it here!

What is your most marked characteristic?

Curiosity and determination.

Who are your heroes in real life:

My late grandmother and Holocaust survivor. It’s where my determination comes from.

What is your motto?

Powered by Love!

Ari Chivukula, Engineer — Defense Digital Service

I’m fresh off a four year stint at Facebook Seattle and excited to join the public sector! My dream is to work in technology law, and there’s no better place to see the potential digital services can unlock within the government than at USDS. It’s invigorating to build citizen-centric solutions; knowing I’m from the government and here to help.

What is your most marked characteristic?

I’m mixed-race and genderqueer; visibly so on both counts. One (or both) of those traits are often where conversations with strangers start, which is a nice way to vault past small talk.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

A sort of toxic sophistry. I see myself as a political moderate who tries to find sense on all sides of an argument, but that can make it unclear where I stand.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Closed mindedness. I love being proved wrong, because it means there’s more to learn!

Jordan Kasper, Engineer — Defense Digital Service

Much of my career has been focused on helping people grow and learn. I’ve been a code school instructor, conference speaker, team lead, mentor, and technical liaison. I joined USDS to bring that experience to government agencies that need to get up to speed on modern technology and software practices.

On what occasion do you lie?

I don’t lie, who told you that?

What do you most value in your friends?

Spontaneity.

Which living person do you most despise?

Anyone who accepts the status quo for without justification.

Karen Sovath, Talent Acquisition — Headquarters

Prior to USDS, I was employed with Intel as a Senior Global Talent Acquisition Partner, recruiting technical professionals for their new devices, wearables, and security groups (McAfee). I’m a seasoned talent huntress with a passion to make an impact and help people. I’m honored to be a part of the USDS talent team, responsible for finding the best talent to solve problems and make a difference.

When and where were you happiest?

I used to visit my dad every summer in LA when I was as a kid and would always return home a few pounds heavier because of all the Big Macs I consumed every day. My dad wanted to fatten me up and spoil me any chance he could, so whatever I wanted, I got.

What is your motto?

To treat people the way I want to be treated.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I was working full-time while attending school full-time to pursue a dual Bachelor degree in Business Management and Marketing. It felt like a huge weight was lifted from my back when I graduated and never felt so accomplished in my life!

Melissa Schaff, UX Designer — Headquarters detailed to VA

I’m devoted to changing people’s lives through well-designed, meaningful experiences. So when the opportunity to join USDS presented itself, I eagerly accepted. Previously, I’ve designed GIS software, fundraising platforms, and a voter registration tool. I also spent time doing user research, content strategy and information architecture for many clients such from the NFL to Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Here at USDS, I’m thrilled to be working at the VA again, where I have the opportunity to help Veterans and their families discover, apply, track and manage the services they’ve earned.

Who are your heroes in real life?

My Nana and my parents.

Which talent would you most like to have?

To be artistically inclined. I’m creative, sure, but when it comes to making art, my skills stop at stick figures.

What is your motto?

“Everything you can imagine is real.” — Pablo Picasso

Devon Mackay, Digital Services Expert — Defense Digital Service

A friend of mine joined USDS a year before I did. It was his stories (and nagging) that got me interested enough to take the plunge myself! Before USDS, I worked for small to medium businesses in a wide variety of IT and operations related roles, including Systems Administration, Site Reliability, DevOps, and Release Engineering. Most recently I helped GrubHub evolve as they grew from a 20-something person start-up to the public company they are today, worked with GiveForward on a new platform and cloud migration, and then spent some time doing the odd contract or consulting gig.

Which talent would you most like to have?

Eidetic memory. I’m especially bad with remembering names and faces, which has always bothered me. Being able to easy recall names, faces, places, and reference materials would be fantastic!

What is your idea of misery?

Monotony. Sitting at a desk and repeating the same series of tasks over and over and over again is just not something I have in me to do for an extended period of time.

What is your greatest extravagance?

There is definitely far too much beer brewing equipment and paraphernalia in my house. I am completely unrepentant, though… the more gallons of beer the better!

Kelly Taylor, Product Manager — Headquarters

Reading “Innovate State” by Aneesh Chopra sparked my interest in the intersection of government, tech and citizens. Across the Federal Government today you’ll find Github repositories, Open Data and APIs. Prior to joining USDS, I worked on APIs at IBM Watson Health and AlchemyAPI. At USDS, I get to spend every day with a bunch of super smart folks working to make healthcare better for everyone.

On what occasion do you lie?

Bio questionnaires.

Where would you most like to live?

Moving from Denver, CO to Washington, D.C. and living in the city with my wonderful wife and kids has been a big adventure. Living in a ski town someday is my dream.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Being a Dad is by far the most important thing I’ve done in my life.

Fatima M. Noor, Product + StratOps — Digital Service at the VA

Right before I joined the Digital Service at VA, I was at the US Coast Guard supporting their intelligence division. But I am not new to the USDS world, I was previously with the DHS Digital Service helping build out team operations and wearing all the hats™. I am a policy nerd and in the past worked on various immigration- and refugee-related policies across several roles at DHS and the White House Domestic Policy Council. I am super passionate about serving vulnerable communities, the American people, and in particular our veterans who have sacrificed so much.

What is a trait you deplore in yourself?

My nagging imposter syndrome.

What is a trait you like about yourself?

My nagging imposter syndrome: it has pushed me out of my comfort zone many a times and allowed for some deep personal growth + development.

Which talent would you most like to have?

Ambidexterity. I could draw and write my fictional illustrated children’s book at once!

Daniel Griffith, Deputy Chief of Staff — Defense Digital Service

I joined DDS as the Deputy Chief of Staff mid-June! It has been quite a learning experience coming directly from my undergrad at The Ohio State University, but I love the idea of having to constantly improve my skills. In my role I help serve as part of the operational core and like to think of myself as a “bureaucracy hacker” in my own right. Day to day I deal with any internal issues, office management, and act as one of the many recognizable DDS faces within the Pentagon.

What is it that you most dislike?

Tardiness.

When and where were you happiest?

In any body of water (swimming, rowing, etc.).

What do you most value in your friends?

Loyalty.

Harlan Lieberman-Berg, Engineer — Defense Digital Service

Before I joined USDS, I was an information security architect at Akamai where I helped translate between engineers, product people, and auditors.

Here at DDS, I’m looking at the way that the Department of Defense helps people get and maintain security clearances — and trying to help reduce the pile of millions of people who are waiting for theirs to be processed!

What is the lowest depths of misery?

The lowest depths of misery is when your sense of hope has atrophied into despair and when you no longer see any paths forward.

What is your favorite journey?

The winding paths of getting to know someone; the meandering (and occasionally fraught!) roads of friendship.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A mug of tea and a good book in front of a fireplace in the depths of snowy winter.

The best of technology.
The best of government.
And we want you.

We’re looking for the most tenacious designers, software engineers, product managers, and more, who are committed to untangling, rewiring and redesigning critical government services. You’ll join a team of the most talented technologists from across the private sector and government.

If you have questions regarding employment with the U.S. Digital Service, please contact us at usds@omb.eop.gov.

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