Passion for big picture problem solving
Raquel has always been drawn to the type of work where the motivation was clear and the big picture mattered. Before joining the public sector, Raquel worked at Google as a senior software engineer on a variety of projects, ranging from Android accessibility to crisis response to strategic philanthropy. Hearing about the need to technologists in government through her social impact work at Google, Raquel took a three-month assignment with the U.S. State Department. “When I first heard about what was happening with government technology and how people like me were joining, I felt a pull toward work with a positive social impact that was happening outside of the for-profit sector and outside of the non-profit sector.”
Her first project was focused on something near and dear to her hear—reuniting families across borders. This work involved streamlining the complicated visa protocols within the immigration process. Adding to the complexity, the team would need to work across multiple agencies. As she has in her time at Google, Raquel focused on the big picture and how she could provide value, “I actually really like explaining and demystifying technical things to non-technical folks and non-technical things to technical folks. There is no need to be opaque. Leaning into that made things enjoyable.”
In the beginning, Raquel admits it was challenging to shift her mindset from working with small, nimble teams and processes to working with larger groups that required coordination with multiple layers of approval. This required her to flex and grow different skills in order to effectively get work accomplished. “What surprised me was how important translating between different people and different parts of government and technology was because they have different words for the same thing. In the tech world, communication fails even when using the same language for technical concepts and here we are in a world where people come from different backgrounds.”
“I didn’t feel like I was sacrificing my career at all to go into government…I learned a lot about myself and grew professionally.”
In 2016, with the project and Raquel’s three month tour complete, it became evident to her there was more work to be done. She was unsure if she would stay in government during an administration change—but, she once again focused on the bigger picture. Recognizing the impact and value the work was accomplishing for families and those impacted by outdated and complex government processes, her mindset shifted. “I realized that the people who need these tools and benefits are not going anywhere…For me, the question I have to ask myself is if the impact on the projects I was working on was still there. The answer was yes. The need was still there.”
% more healthcare applications
online than they did the same time period before
For her second tour—this time for a full year—Raquel joined the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). She joined a small team that was already in the process of improving the user experience at the website VA.gov. For many years, veterans had to navigate over 1,500 VA websites—with numerous separate logins for each—in order to get the help or find the answers they needed. Our veterans deserve better. The team modernized the site, transforming it into a “one-stop shop” for veterans—whether it be for health, education, or disability benefits to name a few.
“What I am most proud of is that it is becoming more possible for veterans to get what they need from VA from one place with one login.”
% more overall satisfaction
with the website
Raquel recognizes her time in government has played a key part in her development as a professional, as well as, a person. “One thing that I found to be true, personally, is that I didn’t feel like I was sacrificing my career at all to go into government [although it] is not considered to be on the cutting edge of technology. On the contrary, I learned a lot about myself and I grew professionally, [especially with] leadership and communication skills that are so important. I learned a lot that I could bring back to the start-up I am working at [now].”
Are you a technologist?
Do you have the skills and desire to tackle our government’s most challenging problems? Now more than ever, we need your technical talent to help address public sector issues such as COVID-19 recovery, unemployment services and more.