Serving at USDS: Stephanie Grosser

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!

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Stephanie Faith Grosser, Bureaucracy Hacker, U.S. Digital Service, previously worked at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), from Lincolnwood, IL and Tucson, Arizona

What’s your background?

My background, before my exposure to civic tech, was as an advocate and activist. In high school, I started a national organization to lower the voting age to 16 and testified before the Arizona state legislature on behalf of legislation I had introduced. While at Georgetown University, I co-founded United Students for Fair Trade, to get coffee farmers fair prices for their beans by convincing students to pay ten cents more per cup on campuses nationwide.

Working on the border of Uganda and South Sudan with USAID

What inspired you to join USDS?

I got a recruiting call that USDS was looking for bureaucracy hackers who had expertise getting innovative IT projects shipped within large bureaucracies. After all, USDS could have the best engineers in the country but without coupling them with a way to ship within the government, we’d be wasting a lot of talent.

Three things convinced me to swallow my fears and go for it.

First, when I told USDS I needed to be able to be there with my son for dinner and bedtime every night, they didn’t just say I could — they said that they wanted to build a diverse team that represented our entire country and that vision needed to include moms. They said they could not expect to build technology that all Americans could use if it was built by a group not representative of the country at large.

On the lawn in front of the West Wing

As a bureaucracy hacker at USDS, what types of problems have you tackled?

In my own journey at USDS, within two different administrations, I’ve always chosen projects I’m most passionate about solving.

Working with the National Park Service to reform federal hiring practices

How does your work make an impact?

The impact I’ve had in less than four years at USDS is evident by the number of launches I’ve led. It’s evident by the higher number of small business applications received, and the complaint by one overwhelmed employee that “we’ve made it too easy to apply.” It’s evident by the high number of refugee cases that continue to be stamped digitally rather than with a physical stamp. It’s evident by the 300,000 asylum applicants who now have access to their case status online without needing to step into one of only ten asylum offices nationwide. It’s evident by the number of qualified job applicants who are going to make it through the assessment process for a competitive position on USA Jobs for the first time.

Between meetings with former federal CIO Steve VanRoekel

What will you miss most about USDS when you leave?

I realize every day the unique opportunity given to me by USDS, and how rare it is to be able to enter an agency and have access to all levels from the contractors to the Deputy Secretary on any given day. To be able to work with a multi-disciplinary team of USDSers hailing from private sector companies and within weeks make recommendations that we are then asked to help execute. We are given the hardest problems to solve, and we love our jobs because of it. I only have 4 months left of my 4-year term, and already I know I will miss executing such critical solutions across so many agencies.

What do you want to do after USDS?

With my four-year term wrapping up, I’m looking for a compelling opportunity to make an impact either in the private sector, for a non-profit, or within the government. It would be great if the State of Maryland established a local digital services team to see this type of reform at the local level. I could also see myself on the leadership team of a non-profit working to infuse talent, technology, and communication to elevate critical causes. I’m also talking to a few federal agencies now about opportunities to continue the work I’ve been doing within their ranks rather than from the USDS.

U.S. Digital Service

The United States Digital Service is a tech startup working…

U.S. Digital Service

The United States Digital Service is a tech startup working across the Federal government to deliver better services to the American people.

U.S. Digital Service

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The United States Digital Service is a tech startup working across the Federal government to deliver better services to the American people. www.usds.gov

U.S. Digital Service

The United States Digital Service is a tech startup working across the Federal government to deliver better services to the American people.