It is now official. I am leaving my current employer for a new gig in the private sector. I've been in the public sector for seven years now and its been a tremendous experience. It's time to get back to the world where I can accept a cup of coffee from a vendor. I'm not going that far from government; My new employer is in banking. I suspect the view from the IT dungeon will be similar in many ways.
Now, here comes my sales pitch.
Dear IT workers of the US: Please do a stint in public sector at some point in your career!! Look specifically for jobs in local government!
If you want to have the most sizable impact possible on an industry and have the opportunity to start from scratch in an underdeveloped field you have an amazing chance in local government. There are counties and cities nation-wide that are so far behind the rest of the world that words like "typewriter", "minicomputer", "dial-up concentrator" are still used in the present tense. These are places with so much IT low-hanging fruit that you just cannot imagine.
The difference IT can make in local government is profound. I've seen it and, with all humility, have had the chance to participate in making that difference I think. This is an industry just begging for a talent infusion. As the IT world continues to forge ahead there is a skills gap growing in local government where the right people would make a huge difference.
The problem with local gov't is that the pay isn't so great and locations often leave something to be desired (in some peoples' opinion). On the other hand, benefits are often decent/good, time off can be generous, and the gratitude is deep.
You will meet people incredibly dedicated to their job and the people they serve. There will be a surprising mix of problems for IT solve from mundane and easy to insanely difficult. If you are a driven individual with some motivation you will never be bored. Frustrated at times, yes. Bored? Very rarely.
Look at it this way: Local gov't is a chance to serve your country in a way. The sacrifice is a lower paycheck. The pay back is getting the chance to serve the people in your community and make a difference at a level of government where the rubber really meets the road.
You will never regret the difference you'll have made. I know I won't!