Serving at USDS: Megan Hopkins
In this blog series, we share the stories of USDSers. Find out where they were before USDS, why they joined, the challenges they face, the impact of their work, what life post-USDS may be, and what they’ll miss most. Hope you enjoy meeting them!
Megan Hopkins, She/Her, Director of Talent Acquisition, U.S. Digital Service HQ, from Austin, TX
What’s your background?
I have over 10 years of experience in the recruiting and people operations space. I cut my teeth as a technical recruiter at a large agency in Florida where I worked extensively with the Microsoft development community. I learned the ins and outs of the recruiting industry from some of the best (thanks, KForce!).
I made the leap from agency recruiting to internal recruiting shortly after I moved to the Bay Area. While I loved the pace and competitive nature of agency recruiting, I thrive on relationship building, the satisfaction of building great company cultures and seeing those that I recruit blossom in their careers. This made the transition to internal recruiting a no-brainer for me. Prior to my role at USDS, I was head of talent for a Bay Area AdTech startup where I was responsible for all things “people” — recruiting, developing culture, and HR.
Now I live in Austin, Texas and lead the Talent Acquisition team (the only distributed team we have!) at USDS.
What inspired you to join USDS?
My desire to join USDS stemmed from an alchemy of a strong love of our country (so much that my husband teases me relentlessly about my love of America), a long lineage of military and government service (dating back to the American Revolutionary War), and a strong need to do something that truly matters with my talents.
The birth of my first child, a daughter named Willa, was my biggest motivation, though. Her birth was relatively traumatic — we almost lost her — and I remember telling myself that if she pulled through, I would do everything I could to make her proud. Looking loss in the eye shifts a person’s perspective. A couple of months later, a good friend and mentor pitched USDS and I was instantly sold. The idea of using my skills to shape the way so many people interact with the government, including my child, was something I could not turn away from — there was a huge opportunity to make a monumental impact.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Do I have to pick just one? ;) There are two types of challenges that stand out to me. One is the sheer difficulty of the work. This is absolutely the most difficult role I’ve ever held. We’re tasked with building the best teams in the nation with little-to-no resources (no flashy recruiting tools for us!) and we face some of the hardest objections. Here’s the only thing USDS has to offer: you will be challenged and you will make a tremendous mark on the lives of many. Some people get that from the moment they learn of USDS and others have a hard time imagining a life without the comforts common in the private sector. The second challenge, honestly, is being so close to so many problems that plague our nation. If you have a helper mentality, you find yourself wanting to scrub in on everything and sometimes that isn’t possible.
How does your work make an impact?
Quite literally my team is responsible for recruiting and hiring the best talent in our country to solve some of the most pressing problems. The engineers who are building things to allow our Vets access to benefits… We recruited them. The designers who are actually going out into war zones to conduct user research… We recruited them, too. Because we’re a “tour of duty” organization, we’re also a hiring organization. USDS doesn’t exist if we don’t have people to do the work. If we don’t do the work, we don’t help our country and deliver services to those that need them the most.
What do you want to do after USDS?
Immediately after USDS, I am going to take a quick break and read all of the books that have been taunting me, collecting dust from my nightstand. I’ll also spend some time with my kiddos because they’ve served USDS just as much as I have. Professionally, I’d be elated if a head of talent role (or something similar) at a mission-driven organization came along.
What will you miss most about USDS?
This is easy: the people. What bonds us is this crazy desire to make a dent in the world. Getting to surround yourself with such amazing humans is the biggest honor, and while I’d like to think I’d have that chance again in the future at a different organization, I fully acknowledge that the folks at USDS are exceptionally bright, empathetic, wonderful, and quite frankly, one of a kind. I will miss the people immensely.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and visit usds.gov/join.