These 3 Federal Government Jobs Might Actually Just Change Everything

presidential innovation fellows

Round 1 + Round 2 Presidential Innovation Fellows

What does it mean to be an artist? It means to be creative, to take risks, and hopefully, change everything. The Beatles. The Piano Guys. Frida Khalo. Kyle LambertDa Vinci. Karen X Cheng.

A typical government bureaucrat is NOT an artist. A bureaucrat follows the rules, isn’t very skilled at what he or she does, and never accomplishes anything particularly remarkable.

But not every government employee is a bureaucrat.

As a Presidential Innovation Fellow, I’ve met some amazing people in Federal Government (not just the other fellows, but career government people) who do creative, difficult, and meaningful work. And yes, I would call them artists.

Right now, there is an amazing opportunity to do some really innovative work within “USG” and show that the word “government artist” is not an oxymoron. If you really care about making federal government more tech-savvy and innovative, then I dare you to put your money where your mouth is.

And if you can stay flexible and creative in the face of red-tape jungle of the federal government, and bust your butt in the service of something greater, then you just might change everything.

The 3 Roles

  • Presidential Innovation Fellowship Director - We need someone who is going to lead the Presidential Innovation Fellowship. The program has done very well with its first two rounds but needs a visionary who can turn an emerging and promising program into a powerhouse within government. They need to be able to articulate their vision, create buy-in within government agencies, and select & incubate good projects. They need to also be a leader for the fellows – helping unite groups of diverse talent. Ideally they have experience in government, in startups, and with managing fellowship programs (tall order, I know, but ).
  • GovX Program Director – There has also been a program created that will work side-by-side with the Presidential Innovation Fellowship that needs a leader. This role will require more sales, marketing, and business development chops since it is newer and thus less defined / known. Note that the specialized experience sought after is: “using efficient and cost-effective approaches to integrate technology into the workplace and improve program effectiveness; developing strategies using new technology to enhance decision making; utilizing analytical methods to gauge the impact of technological change on an organization; utilizing technology to improve work processes; identifying the concept of minimally viable product, and the steps needed to develop plans and/or processes to meet organizational goals. “
  • Communication Specialist – We also need a marketing, communications and PR specialist who’s going to work with the fellows, the PIF + GovX directors, and the communications teams at various federal agencies. As a fellow, I saw first hand how much great work was happening with this program, but it was difficult to figure out who could really help us get the word out about our efforts. Additionally, these programs are in major need of brand strategy and marketing collateral, and this person would lead the creation of those assets. This person would report to the head of the Office of Comm / Marketing but would work side-by-side with the other two people.


How long will these jobs be open?

Unfortunately, the timing is very tight. I encourage you to apply ASAP if you are interested. The Communication job will stop accepting new candidates at 11:59pm Eastern on Wednesday December 4th, 2013.

The PIF and GovX director roles end not much later, Tuesday, December 10th and Wednesday the 11th (also 11:59pm Eastern)

Is there anything special I should do with my resume?

Great question! I would advise you to really flesh out your resume.

The way government jobs are evaluated require them to map the requirements of the job against things that they can find on your resume. So while you might be used to the one-page resume for industry, it is not unheard of to have 15 page resumes in government. Not saying you have to make yours that long, but consider expanding on the work you’ve done in your career and find way to map those to the job requirements.

What’s the deal with GSA?

Some people are confused about why a program called “The Presidential Innovation Fellowship” is sitting in something called US General Services Administration.

Well, GSA is basically the institutional home for the program. Fellows work very closely with the White House’s Office of Science Technology and Policy, but the White House itself is not the ideal place to be hosting a rotating group of professionals who get deployed across government. But GSA can. Just to be clear, this is the norm for government. The White House Fellowship and Presidential Management Fellowship, which are separate from the Presidential Innovation Fellowship, are hosted at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Acting with Power: a Stanford Business School Webinar [notes]

Many entrepreneurs will say they started their own companies because they couldn’t stand to work for anyone else. They’ll often say that they “have a problem with authority” or “are terrible employees”. I think this is in part because entrepreneurs often struggle to fit into existing hierarchies or power structures. I sometimes struggle with this myself. I think in part it’s because we prefer an egalitarian relationship over one where they have lower (and often, when they have higher status) with their coworkers.

And yet Deborah Gruenfeld, a professor at the Stanford graduate school of business, argues that all groups require some kind of hierarchy to be effective. Gruenfeld believes that all individuals (this includes entrepreneurs!) must learn how to operate well within a hierarchy if they want to be successful and have impact.

Stanford Business School Executive Education puts on a variety of training webinars and I tuned into one recently taught by Gruenfeld called “Acting With Power” and it provided some great insights into how our behavior and non verbal cues affect pur ability to influence, persuade and lead others.

Reading Intent and Emotion from Moving Dots

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We intuitively recognize that people reveal much more about their state of mind through their behavior and non-verbal signals than the actual content of their words. To really make this point, Gruenfeld showed us an interactive visualization created by a group called Bio Motion Labs in Queen’s University.

In playing with it, what you quickly find is that even with just a few dots moving on the screen, we can get a sense of emotion, sense of aggression, sense of what this person might be thinking or feeling. Continue reading…

Becoming a Free Agent

On December 16, 2013 I will complete my Presidential Innovation Fellowship at the Smithsonian. And as I don’t have another gig lined up, it means I’ll be a free agent starting on 12/17.

I’ll be a bit of a moving target for a month: packing up my Washington D.C. studio, spending the holidays with my family in Boston, traveling to Lima (Peru) in early January, seeing friends in San Francisco, and relocating to NYC in late January. After nine amazing years in the Bay, it’s time to give the Big Apple a chance.

Seeking Serendipity

Earlier in my career, having no job lined up would be a scary prospect. But at this point in my career, I’ve done enough interesting things and created a lot great relationships to the point where I know a new adventure will soon open up.

I’m a big believer in serendipitous opportunities. I’ve argued that a blog is one of the best ways to create your own luck. So here I am, taking my own advice. Of course I’m talking with a few folks directly as well, but I’m not limiting myself to that.

If you’ve ever wanted to work with me, or know of a person/team/company that might, this blog post is my way of saying “I’m all ears.”

What I’m Looking For

Of course, this all works better if you have a better idea of what kind of work would be the best fit.

Short-term: Consulting Work: In the past few 6 months, I’ve engaged a handful of companies in various consulting roles, mostly around content marketing. Its been everything from training a 50 person communications team at an international bank on content strategy, to running interviews, writing and visual design for a series of case studies for a B2B startup. I anticipate having bandwidth for a few projects as I figure out my medium-term plans. More on my consulting work here.

Medium-term: Full-Time Work: For the next few years, I’d like to be in a growth and/or product role a post-seed stage tech company that’s either based in NYC, or truly embraces remote workers. Areas I’m interested include website builder / blogging platforms, consumer education, SaaS products that serve small-to-medium sized businesses, and in general, products that enable people and organizations to be more capable and empowered to do great work.

Statistically Improbable Experiences

To help sell books that you couldn’t flip through (like you could in a store), Amazon once had something known as “statistically improbably phrases“. Comparing a particular book to other books in the same category, you could get a sense of what was unique about this particular book. Certainly you can learn a lot about me through this blog and through my LinkedIn profile, but here are a few elements you’re unlikely to find in other product/growth people.

Get in Touch

I’m pretty easy to get a hold of. My Gmail address would be: jasonyshen and I tweet at @jasonshen. Look forward to hearing from you!

My Biggest Takeaway on 37Signals’s New Book on Remote Work (Hint: It’s Not Technology)

REMOTE: The new book from 37signals 2013-11-08 07-41-46I just finished reading Remote: Office Not Required, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, partners at 37Signals.

It’s a great read and here’s the  basic premise:

  • In today’s economy, the quest for talent is so great that organizations can no longer afford to merely look at individuals co-located in their physical presence (their metro area)
  • It is easier than ever to coordinate the work of individuals from around the world with just a good internet connection and a few pieces of web-based software (including 37Signal’s own products)
  • There are many drawbacks to forcing people to work in an office and many perks to allowing them to work (even a few days a week) at home / at a cafe or coworking space that benefit both the remote worker and the organizations that employ them
  • There are simple ways to address many of the concerns people have with remote working (review the work, not time in seat; put relevant information where it can be seen by all, overlap working hours, etc)
  • There is a tipping point coming with remote work. Many organizations large and small, from across many industries, are using remote workers and it’s time you (the reader) became an early adopter.

They actually went out and interviewed a bunch of companies that do remote work as well so REMOTE is not just “the edgy opinions of Fried and DHH”. The book has useful tips for making the case for remote work to your boss (or to your team, if you are the boss). There’s a lot of value in learning how to structure a good remote work environment.

But personally, I got a bigger shift in perspective from something else.

My biggest takeaway from REMOTE:

Continue reading…

This Beautiful Quote Sums Up How Creators Think About Time

Creators do not ask how much time something takes but how much creation it costs. This interview, this letter, this trip to the movies, this dinner with friends, this party, this last day of summer. How much less will I create unless I say “no?” A sketch? A stanza? A paragraph? An experiment? Twenty lines of code? The answer is always the same: “yes” makes less. We do not have enough time as it is. There are groceries to buy, gas tanks to fill, families to love and day jobs to do.

Creative People Say No – by Kevin Ashton

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(Image via Unsplash & Charlie Foster)

There’s been an explosion of great television in recent years. Breaking Bad. Arrested Development. House of Cards. And yet I can barely keep my butt in a chair for one episode.

It’s not that they don’t grip me. They do. But that’s why I can’t keep watching. Because I know the cost.

Sure, 45 minutes here and there won’t kill me. And sure I spend a lot of time dicking around on the internet. But if I commit to watching a whole season, 12 episodes, that’s 9 hours.

What can I do in 9 hours?

This isn’t to dump on television. This is just a reminder that our time is finite and that as creators (which you are!), we must be mindful of how we spend our time and remember that every moment we waste costs us not just in hours but in creations.