Megan Smith Prioritizes Diversity as She Champions a Tech-Savvy White House
In 2009, Obama created a new position on his staff with the aim of opening the door to a more technology-friendly government. He titled the role Chief Technology Officer, and in September 2014, Megan Smith became the first woman to claim it. Coming from a strong career in the private sector (namely, business development at Google), it makes sense that the cover story of May’s Wired Magazine calls her “the woman bringing a startup mentality to Washington DC.”
“If we’re the country that makes Amazon and Facebook and Twitter, why can’t the federal government have websites and digital services that are awesome?” she asks. To that end, she helps promote the United States Digital Service, encouraging talented engineers to join up in order to better services like HealthCare.gov.
Smith has also made diversity a priority, initiating TechHire, an effort aiming to bring more women and people of color into tech jobs.
The White House calls TechHire a “call to action for local communities to collaborate in helping employers fill critical local IT job gaps.” Over half a million of the United States’ 5 million open jobs are in IT fields. To help fill them, these partnerships will create more rapid IT training opportunities as well as supporting the hiring of people who typically face barriers to training and employment.
Wired predicts TechHire could be Megan Smith’s legacy, if she builds it up in the 18 months before Obama’s second term is over. But for a woman accustomed to Google-speed turnarounds and executing grand ideas, this ambitious, country-wide project will be no big feat.