Jessica Cole leads a workshop with the USDR team at a recent staff retreat

A New Chapter in Responding to the Critical Needs of the Public: Announcing USDR’s CEO Search

By Janette Fong, Board Member and Founding Team Member at U.S. Digital Response

On behalf of the U.S. Digital Response (USDR) board, we are excited to announce a search for the organization’s next long-term leader. We are partnering with On-Ramps, a leading executive search firm for mission-driven organizations with deep expertise in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Interim CEO Jessica Cole will step down and move into an advisory role on Dec 1st as part of a planned transition.

As a fellow co-founder, current Board member, and fan of Jessica Cole, I have been anticipating this day with a mix of sadness, optimism, and just about every emotion in between.

For me, USDR is the embodiment of hope. Every time a new volunteer completes their application, or a new government organization reaches out to request help, it is yet another person voting with their time and trust for a more responsive government to serve public needs. Together, all 900 volunteers and hundreds of public servants have each given our best selves to rapidly create cohesive cross-sector, multidisciplinary teams in service of the American public. United, we have impacted 42 million Americans across 38 states, improving their access to elections, COVID-19 vaccines, and government assistance.

Building off of the leadership of USDR’s founding CEO, Raylene Yung, who now serves as the Executive Director of the federal government’s Technology Modernization Fund, USDR has won the trust of 240 government and charitable organizations to date and is poised for enduring impact and continued growth.

We couldn’t have been luckier to have Jess, co-founder of USDR, to step up and take on the Interim CEO role. A year ago, when the organization was transitioning, Jess rallied the team, ultimately growing the ranks and taking essential steps towards becoming an enduring institution. Under her leadership, and with the partnership of the Executive Team, Chief Technology Officer Alex Allain, Chief Experience Officer Jessica Watson, and Director of Public Digital Tina Walha, U.S. Digital Response landed key initiatives, including transitioning to an independent 501(c)(3), and securing funding for the Economic Stability, Digital Service, and Elections programs, adding the next bench of superb leaders to the organization, and expanding USDR’s impact many-fold. For many, USDR is the best place they’ve ever worked, partly due to Jess’ motivational leadership style and brimming enthusiasm.

Tina, Alex, and Jessica W. remain the bedrock leaders of the organization. They are joined by staff members who are all talented individuals and leaders in their own right, each person contributing to USDR’s work and positive culture. To say that the new CEO, whoever they may be, will join a world-class team is an understatement.

To say that the new CEO, whoever they may be, will join a world-class team is an understatement.

We are also excited to welcome Jen Pahlka to the Board, where she will assume the board Chair position. Jen, a former U.S. Deputy CTO and founder of Code for America, was involved in creating USDR and has remained a close advisor of the organization. Cori Zarek, a founding Board member, is stepping down as part of her transition as the new Deputy Administrator for U.S. Digital Service (USDS). We want to thank Cori for her thoughtful guidance over these last two years and congratulate her on her new appointment! We also want to thank a number of early and ongoing advisors to the organization, whose input has guided us throughout.

Due to all of these people’s work and yours, USDR is positioned for growth and impact so thoroughly that we expect to attract an impressive pool of candidates who can see the opportunity this represents.

That said, attracting that pool is where you all come in. Share the job posting on LinkedIn, on Twitter, in email to your friends — even call them about it! You may know the right person to lead this organization into its bright future or you may even be that person! Either way, the job description and application are here.

On behalf of the board, I want to thank not just Jess, the executive team, and the whole staff, but every volunteer, co-founder, government partner, and supporter who has helped make USDR what it is today. Now I ask you to help the organization become what it will be tomorrow and for decades to come.

Want to become a part of U.S. Digital Response’s story?

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U.S. Digital Response

U.S. Digital Response

Connecting governments and nonprofits with pro bono technologists and assistance to quickly respond to the critical needs of the public.