Robert McMillan writes that when it comes to computers, the federal government has a nasty reputation for prizing ISO standards and regulatory checkboxes above working code but now Mikey Dickerson, the former Google engineer who flew into Washington a year ago to salvage the disastrous Healthcare.gov website, says that's changing and the feds want all the techies out there to know Dickerson wasn’t forced to do his amazing job in a suit and tie.
If you do take a job at the White House, you may want to bring your own snacks, expect to work at a desk, not a couch, and hold off on bringing your skateboard to work. Still, the feds are trying to do tech in a clueful fashion. The Obama administration has opened the door to open-source software and collaborative coding. And, hey, even the CIA is using Amazon’s web services.
In a White House video, Dickerson, the new head of the US Digital Service, says he is asked one question again and again by people curious about his new job. They “want to know if I’m wearing a suit to work every day,” In the video, there’s a shot of a staff meeting where President Obama gives Dickerson and his fellow tech “hot-shots” a shout out. “They’re starting to look official now, aren’t they? They’ve got suits and everything,” Obama quips, a nod to the black jacket and yellow tie Dickerson has worn to the meeting. Dickerson tells the president this isn’t the norm. “This is literally only because you’re here,” he replies.