Sunday, March 18, 2012

Service to Country

First, I highly recommend that you take a short while a watch this excellent TED talk given by Jennifer Pahlka.

Many people think of service to county as something you do by joining a branch of the military or getting yourself elected to an office. Those are certainly worthy services but the opportunities are broader than that.

When I started out in IT I was working in a small sales and service shop. Fast paced, close contact with the customer, very service oriented. I learned first hand what customer service meant and how much my work impacted the people who paid for it.

Then I moved on to public sector. I discovered an organization that was purely service. The whole thing is dedicated to providing service to customers. This crystalized what service meant to me. It was a truly fascinating discovery. Up to that point, government had always seemed like a black box that created unneeded rules and forced people to pay for its existence.

A number of years later I am still in public sector despite dipping my toes in the private sector job search from time to time. I know that my private sector colleagues with similar experience and training make 50-75% more than me. Their organizations stay closer to the cutting edge of technology. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little envious. I continue in the work I do because I see that the service I provide is making a difference in the communities I live in. I am a service provider to the people who provide services to our constituents. It is some of the most rewarding work I have ever done.

Ms. Pahlka's talk gets to the heart of why I've stuck it out in public sector: this is an exciting time in government, especially at the local level. There are huge fundamental shifts happening right now and some amazing opportunities for change. The missing ingredient is YOU!

What we need is even more talented people to taking up the torch of service. I would love to see more young and creative technologists getting involved and solving the really cool problems waiting for solutions. Don't ignore the call to service. You can make a difference!