Mike Bland


The Next Step

I'm moving to Washington, D.C. to join the 18F team, to help change how development is done throughout the Federal government.

- Boston
Tags: 18F, D.C., Federal government, personal, programming, Rebel Alliance
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I’m moving to Washington, D.C. to join the 18F team described in my D.C. Trip Report post. I start Monday, November 3.

Two weeks after the first trip, I traveled to D.C. again for my official 18F interview. I flew in the day before and flew out the day after. Thanks to the contacts I made the first time, my schedule was completely packed with meetings and outings literally as soon as I hit the ground, starting with a repeat of my Unit Testing Perspectives talk for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.1 Despite my probing for signs that joining the folks in D.C. wouldn’t be right for me, that it wouldn’t be the opportunity I thought it was—or that I really wasn’t the droid they were looking for—I came away feeling even more convinced that I need to be down there, right now.

Though I received prompt notification that I’d passed the interview, due to the end-of-summer vacation season kicking in and a large incoming class of Presidential Innovation Fellows, I’ve only just received my concrete offer. In the meanwhile, I visited the ThoughtWorks office in NYC, and they invited me back to give a presentation called Large Scale Development Culture Change: Google and the US Government on Friday, October 3. This presentation has taken on a life of its own, as I’ve recruited past Google colleagues, ThoughtWorkers, other industry acquaintances, and many of my D.C. contacts to review it. Aside from making good use of my idle time, it has become a vehicle for clarifying my perception of the development culture in D.C. and vetting my ideas about how to proceed. I’m hoping this will produce buy-in, support, and momentum in advance, as well as an artifact I can share with 18F and other government teams, so that I can help make things happen sooner rather than later once I arrive.

As fate would have it, I’ve already delivered the presentation at the Automated Testing Boston Meetup this past Thursday, September 25. It ran for sixty-five minutes; I was going last and had asked for extra time, so I didn’t rush at all. It does indeed contain an overwhelming amount of slides and information.2 However, out of the thirty or thirty-five people in attendance at the Meetup, only one person got up to leave, at about the three-quarter mark. Based upon my reading of the audience, it seemed that the story arc fully engaged their interest; the flow of abstract logic and concrete details made sense; and they left not merely informed, but altered and inspired by the experience.

I’ll have to get it down closer to forty-five minutes for ThoughtWorks, but I’m confident I’ll be able to rehearse and polish it this week to meet that goal. Despite the fact that it is still a work in progress, this first delivery of the presentation appeared to have the desired effect, on both the audience and the speaker. I think it is good.

When I left Google three years ago, I felt that I was no longer of any value. Now, I’ve found my people, and my own source of strength and self-worth. My mission and sense of purpose is clear; my voice has returned. I am astounded and humbled by this opportunity to serve my country.


1The CFPB crowd wanted to start with the “Rapid Prototyping and Unit Testing Strategy” section, the part in which I’m least confident. Still, the ideas of “Exploration”, “Vision”, and “Settlement” appeared to stick, as well as the concept of prototyping to get a sense of the input space (when it’s not already specified). Thanks to the audience’s comments and questions, we did eventually work back towards more comfortable topics.

2It is well under my personal hard limit of one hundred forty slides.