Meet the Team 🇺🇸❄⛄ Winter 2021

We wrapped up 2020 and started 2021 in the best way, by continuing to grow our team. People join USDS from tech communities across the country to do the greatest good, for the greatest number of people, in the greatest need.

U.S. Digital Service
Jan 14 · 12 min read

When you join USDS, you become part of a community that extends to life after your tour of duty. Since we were founded by the President in 2014, over 500 people have served, modernizing government, shifting culture, and showing what’s possible. Nearly 80% of our staff have joined during this administration to try and make a difference in people’s lives.

Technologists from across the country, representing diverse communities, skillsets, and backgrounds are joining USDS because of our mission. This winter, folks are joining to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, modernize social security benefit administration, support Medicare patients, and help America’s Veterans.

Meet the newest members of the U.S. Digital Service family — recruited from tech communities across the country, from Portland, Oregon to Ithaca, New York. Prior to joining they were anthropologists, entrepreneurs, consultants, and statisticians.

Celeste Espinoza (she/her), Design, USDS HQ @ CDC. Previously an Independent Contractor and Consultant with a side of elementary homeschooling (yes, prior to COVID). From Portland, Oregon (but originally from Ambos Nogales, Arizona Side).

Prior to this, I was doing predominantly user research related to enterprise software in fun areas like printing, marketing research, professional football, and ERPs in the educational, financial services, and healthcare space. I am working with the PRIME Data Automation Team on reducing friction across all touch-points faced by healthcare facilities through to the states in collecting and submitting data. That’s the abbreviated summary of the problem space.

Who are your favorite writers?

This changes with the year but I’m forever in love with Morgan Parker, Mario Benedetti, Keith Wilson, Rachel Zucker, Sarah Zane; and double loves for Shareen Murayama, Ashanya Indralingham, and K-Ming Chang who are literally blossoming all over the literary scene and have kept me in my own strange writing practice over the last 13 months.

Which talent would you most like to have?

Narcissism without regret. Some days I’m so hard on myself that my ego is one step short from building its own guillotine.

What is your motto?

“It doesn’t have to be done professionally.”

Not so much motto, as much as reminder. I follow Rick Rubin (yes, the music producer) because he’s essentially a daily horoscope for creatives. I have this printed out on my wall to remind me to just do things and not worry about how it looks all the time.

Aryeh Jacobsohn (he/him), Product Manager, USDS HQ. Previously Inventables, ReviewTrackers, Pivotal, Flare Health, dscout, gravitytank and Razorfish. From it’s complicated; let’s say Chicago, IL.

I’ve spent most of my career in startups and growth-stage companies, figuring out the right problems to solve for customers and leading cross-functional teams to solve them or learn trying. As an ex-anthropologist, I bring a wide aperture to tech. Working on complex systems requires a lot of context. You need to guess at the Nth order effects of changes made to software, on people. And that’s not easy. Ultimately I joined USDS because I believe in Lincoln’s vision for a “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” The government is just people! We can all take a turn.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I love the simultaneous detachment and immersion caused by flow states. When you are really, really where you are and doing what you are doing — that’s perfect. Long bike rides do that for me; also writing up thoughts on a complex problem. Constantly evaluating happiness per se never did anyone much good.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Myopia. In startup product management in particular, we’ve seen a “data-driven” revolution in recent years. Some of that (ex., automated, longitudinal data about login failures) is a genuine miracle. And some is a distraction. When our job as technologists is to imagine futures which do not exist, we need to use all of our tools — especially vision, experience and discernment. Those are not always expressed as numbers, but neither are the values that inform people’s interpretations of numbers. Pretending we make technology in a values-free space which can be totally rationalized is just stupid.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

The most productive people I know are maniacally obsessive about crushing a to-do list or achieving a specific thing. I’m just not wired like that. Mostly that’s good; those of us who are less obsessive can see the forest through the trees, and that’s a strength too — but it would be fun to experience how the other half lives.

Where would you most like to live?

Everywhere? I’ve been fortunate to travel a fair bit. Let’s say Fall in Traverse City, MI, Winter in Montreal, QC, Spring in San Luis Obispo, CA and Summer in Chicago, IL.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Recently I read Michael Lewis’s The Fifth Risk and was taken with Art Allen’s story. Government is full of career civil servants solving problems the rest of us are blissfully unaware of, sometimes on their own initiative. Most are doing it because it’s the right thing to do, and could probably make a lot of money doing it outside government. We are surrounded by real-life heroes.

Amelia Liarakos (she/her), Designer, USDS @ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Previously at Ozmo. From Blacksburg, VA.

Prior to USDS, I mainly worked with device support products for both call center agents and consumers of wireless carriers like Verizon. I worked on everything from user research to interaction and visual design of those products. At USDS, I’ll be working at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to modernize Medicare. For a while, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to put some good back into the world and the government is a great place to do that. I’m excited to serve in whatever way I can!

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

A cat, most definitely. I think I could pull off sleeping 16 hours a day, especially in a sun puddle.

Where would you most like to live?

The mountains about 20 minutes outside a small town. Whether it’s Greece, Colorado, Guatemala, or right here in Virginia, I haven’t met a set of mountains I didn’t like.

What is your motto?

“Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Maurice Reeves (he/him), Engineer, USDS HQ. From Harrisburg, PA.

Prior to joining USDS, I’d jumped around a few different consulting firms and being self-employed for over twenty years. I’d worked for a bunch of clients both big and small but I never really felt like my work was quite as meaningful as it could have been. I was looking to have a greater impact in the world. I’ve got two kids who are getting ready to go into college and I wondered about what type of world they were going to become adults in. When I was approached by USDS, I jumped at the chance to take my talents into the public sector and work on problems I’d never get a chance to fix in the private sector.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I think I’d most love to be able to play the piano well. I have zero rhythmic ability, and I can peck away at the keys, but honestly, I want to be able to play something like Linus & Lucy (or anything from Thelonious Monk) on the piano and have it sound good. Or decent.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Toughness, or more specifically, suffering in silence. A lot of people think that everyone is doing alright or doing better than them, and they just need to keep their pain or struggle to themselves. I think that that’s silly. I think that we should be more willing to open up and share what is bothering us, or what is dragging us down. Sometimes the very act of sharing is enough to reduce its impact. Sometimes we share what’s weighing on us and find out that someone can or will help us, or they’ve been there themselves.

Where would you most like to live?

In 2019 I took a trip with my wife and kids to Europe, and I could see myself very happily living in a few of the places we visited: Copenhagen, Amsterdam, or Reykjavík, and while I *LOVED* our time in Iceland and want to go back soon, I felt very much at home in Amsterdam. Everything about it I felt an immediate connection to the people and the city and the vibe. It was amazing. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

Amal Abukar (she/ her), Product Manager, USDS HQ. From Erie, PA.

I initially started my career at the intersection of International Development and Anthropology. I pivoted to technology when I realized how it can be harnessed to help people and communities.

My family and I were uprooted by the civil war in Somalia in the early 1990s. We lived in Kenya as refugees for the subsequent years until we were resettled to the States. Due to that experience, I’ve always wanted my work to reflect making a difference in my communities and world.

I came to USDS because I feel I can do just that and make a real impact on the lives of everyday people. I’m currently assigned to HQ and working on understanding chronic pain-points faced by people who are using or trying to use Social Safety Net programs in the United States.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I wish I was really good at tennis. I love watching all the tournaments and always wondered what would have happened if I ever had the opportunity to get involved in the sport when I was a kid. Well, I didn’t grow past 5’2 so I guess I know but a girl is allowed to dream. I also wish I could sing and play a cool instrument too. I don’t think the recorder counts.

Who are your heroes in real life?

My family, for building a home in a country where they didn’t know anyone and did not know the language. Their resilience despite all the challenges has always made me admire them.

What do you value most in your friends?

That they care and truly show up for the people and causes they are passionate about. It also doesn’t hurt if they have great taste in food and music.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

El oh el.

Christopher Froehlich (he/him), Engineer, USDS HQ @ Social Security Administration. Previously Doctor Evidence. From Ithaca, NY via globe trotting.

I have spent most of my career so far in bioinformatics and statistical analysis, primarily focused on creating or improving tools to provide evidence based solutions to challenges in health care: namely, tools to facilitate research and development of treatments in clinical care and to improve the quality of care resulting from the application of these treatments. At USDS, I am currently working with the Social Security Administration in a concern of efforts to improve users experience and quality of care in their online services, expand the SSA’s online capabilities and reduce or eliminate the need for in person assistance where and when possible.

What is your greatest extravagance?

When hosting a meal, I have a deep and abiding fear that some person in attendance may leave hungry or thirsty or that some invitee will not find satisfaction in the meal provided, so I have a tendency to prepare feasts sufficient for groups much larger than those actually present. Of all the things that may be said of me, it shall never be said that any person has left my table hungry or thirsty.

What is your current state of mind?

Hopelessly incurable optimism. Indefatigable excitement for all that I know and unquavering eagerness to discover more.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Orthogonally. I just love this word so much, I cannot help but use it at every opportune moment.

Long story short. I despise this phrase from the depths of my being, yet I still find it trebuchetting itself from my mouth more often than I would like.

Trebuchet of blame. Blame must be trebuchetted, but I needn’t say it so often.

Michael Weissman (he/him), Engineer @ USDS HQ. Previously Guidehouse. From New York.

Prior to USDS, I started my career in 2006 and after a short stint in publishing, I moved into financial services at Navigant, now Guidehouse. This is where I discovered my passion for data driven software solutions.

Throughout my career, I’ve developed big data software solutions for employers and clients in host of different public and private industries, and I’m very excited to translate those skills and my passion for designing and using technology to problem solve with USDS.

When I’m not being ordered around by my three year old son, I enjoy cycling, snowboarding, hiking, and being active outdoors with my friends and family. I also love watching professional sports and can be found rooting (or crying) for the Chelsea or NY JETS when I’m lucky enough to catch a game.

What is your favorite occupation?

Growing up parents and relatives always ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, I’ve never had a good answer to that question until recently.

Occupation is the journey to find that thing that makes you feel satisfied (aha moment). I have always loved working with computers since I was a little kid with a Macintosh LC II, but struggled to find a project that has satisfied my need for solving real problems, e.g. what I want my occupation to be. Joining USDS was that satisfaction for me. I’ve been given the opportunity to apply my skills and knowledge to solve real problems and make a positive impact on our country.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“Ya’ll”, funny story. I’m not from the South, but I spent a considerable time in Atlanta during high school and picked it up; now I overuse it and love it.

What is your motto?

I can’t claim these as my own, but I try to live by two mottos: “Stay Curious”, the idea that you should always be investigating, testing, and questioning ideas/concepts/technology as you never know what you will find or learn. “Have a shared sense of purpose”, I picked this up a long time ago from a good friend of mine who is a retired Navy Seal. A shared sense of purpose is with all the changes going on around you, the understanding that you are part of a team (co-workers, friends, or even family) and that it is best to communicate the reality of any situation and project how everyone’s role is critical to achieving that goal (the win).

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 or visit our Hiring FAQ.

U.S. Digital Service

The United States Digital Service is a tech startup working…

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