In the United States, the tech industry and government are often asking themselves the same set of questions: How do we best serve our fellow Americans? How do we make life easier for our people? How do we set an example for the rest of the world? The tech industry produces user and stakeholder research in order to design and build products aimed at improving American lives. The government often does the same—designing and building new laws by consulting constituents and experts. Government is challenged by knowing that even one word in law can positively or negatively impact millions, and the tech industry has grown to know similar levels of impact for their products. The tech industry and government are solving similar problems in different ways, and although profit or politics can get in the way of it, both worlds are called to generate and execute on ideas that will better the lives of the American people.

The similarities between the tech industry and government seem clear to me today, but the intersection of seemingly polar opposite entities was not as obvious when I started my career as a technologist. Since I saw the two as separate, I never thought that an industrial engineering education or a career in software engineering and product management could ever be integrated with government. However, serendipity eventually led me to a career in public interest technology (PIT) working for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the chaotic and challenging year of 2020, a move that allowed me to have impact at a scale I never thought possible.

My journey into a career in public interest technology highlights the impact of technical expertise in the public interest space and offers key learnings of ways to help our community grow.

Representation, resources, and mentorship are necessary when any person seeks out a new career or wants to shift positions within an industry. This rings true for technologists entering the public interest space, especially because career paths in public interest technology are less visible than in other industries. Here are a few ideas for supporting technologists at different stages of their careers.

Read the full article about public interest tech in government by Victoria Houed at Stanford Social Innovation Review.