Written byColby Hochmuth
As the nation embraces a new era of technology, it has welcomed a younger generation with ambitious goals and bright ideas for the future. After speaking with professionals in the federal IT and technology community and receiving recommendations, FedScoop is thrilled to announce its inaugural “Top 25 under 40” list, which celebrates exceptional individuals who played a significant role in the IT community and overall government innovation.
NICK SINAI, 36
U.S. deputy chief technology officer, Office of Science and Technology Policy, White House
“We’re not going to be able to accomplish the administration’s ambitious goals without data-fueled technology. You can’t think about transforming any sector of the government without leveraging new technologies and working with entrepreneurs and innovators.”
In his two years at the White House, Sinai has pushed to make open data the default for disseminating government information. Evidently, his hard work has paid off; so far this year, President Barack Obama signed the open data executive order, and the administration launched the Green Button initiative. Sinai also leads the MyData program and develops Office of Management and Budget policy with open data.
Fun fact: Sinai used to be a private pilot.
“The potential of government data is like the iceberg underneath the water line. Every time we collaborate with another agency to publish another API, that opens the door for the rest of the world to leverage that API.”
Brooks’ passion for improving government through technology has been key to his success working at various organizations in the public sector — Obama for America, the Federal Communications Commission and now GSA. Brooks is known for regularly bringing together the like-minded to further the open data agenda.
Fun fact: Brooks is one of the masterminds behind the Third Thursday New Media Drink Up.
HALEY VAN DYCK, 27
E-government policy analyst, Office of Management and Budget
“Being in government, you have opportunities to work on a scale that is unparalleled. The impact that we can have on citizens’ lives and our ability to improve them makes the government a unique place to work.”
Van Dyck was on the 2008 Obama campaign digital team, and after the election came to D.C. to work on the presidential transition team. From there, she moved to FCC and helped to set up a new-media department. She has been at the White House for 1.5 years, working to help the federal government unleash open data.
Fun fact: Her three passions: tech, interior design and food.
“The thing that keeps me going is the potential of open data. I think open data can change the world. It can transform ways of thinking and turbo charge economic growth.”
After working for the Securities and Exchange Commission, Hollister had an inspirational encounter with open data and quit his job. Walking to Capitol Hill with his resume in hand, he started knocking on doors until he found common ground (and a job) with Rep. Darrell Issa. After roughly three years with Issa, Hollister formed the Data Transparency Coalition and has since since advocated tirelessly on behalf of the DATA Act and for open data in government.
Fun fact: Hollister is hosting the Data Transparency Coalition’s first open data conference this fall.
ANDY OZMENT ,35
Senior director for cybersecurity, National Security Staff, White House
“My favorite part is the sense of urgency and significance of our work. We have spent decades trying to raise the visibility of this issue, and in the last two years we’ve hit an inflection point. Senior leaders in and out of government now fully understand the importance of cybersecurity.”
Ozment began his career working in various technical positions, until his interest in policy issues led him to get a master’s in international relations and a Ph.D. in computer security. Fueled by his goal to help protect U.S. critical infrastructure from cyberthreats, he accepted a position in government at the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Ozment worked at the administration for two years before joining the Department of Homeland Security. He’s been back at the White House for two years.
Fun fact: Ozment loves to travel overseas.
“I want to live a life of looking big goals in the face and working to achieve them, and working on behalf of American ideals like justice and fairness. When you’re working in government, you have an incredible mission, and you and your colleagues believe in it and stick by it indefinitely.”
Meyer has been with CFPB since March 2011 and seen it develop from its infancy. Prior to CFPB, Meyer worked in digital strategy and new media at the Ohio Attorney General’s office. Meyer characterized her two years at CFPB as “a dream come true.” She also co-founded the networking group Tech LadyMafia, which hosts meetups for female technology experts and professionals.
Fun fact: Meyer was on the robotics team in high school (like many of her fellow FedScoop “Under 40” honorees!).
XAVIER HUGHES, 37
Chief innovation officer, Labor Department
“It wasn’t until I came to D.C. that I realized how coding and technology can be more than just a passion of mine. I’m an ideas person, and technology can help solve issues I care about — like empowering women in the workplace and giving service members a great transition to civilian life.”
What started as a trip down to New Orleans to volunteer after Hurricane Katrina turned into an impressive career for Hughes. He worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency for eight years before moving to the Labor Department, where after a year he was named chief innovation officer. Hughes has led development of the Labor Department’s innovation lab and works with other members of the presidential cohort to bring government technology to the 21st century.
Fun fact: Hughes grows bonsai trees.
“Digital is going to continue to be a larger piece for all departments of the federal government. It’s going to allow for the people to engage with the government in ways they never have before.”
During Fullerton’s three years at the Interior Department, he has developed the department’s first strategic plan to engage with the public using new media, resulting in a 1,000 percent increase in Twitter followers over a two-year period. He also created the department’s first live-streaming program, and was asked by the secretary to lead the digital portion of a White House initiative to promote tourism and travel in the U.S. Fullerton now leads an interagency team that develops digital strategies for promoting travel to different public lands.
Fun fact: Fullerton likes to stay moving by playing basketball and running.
NICOLE CALLAHAN, 24
New media analyst, Federal Student Aid office, Education Department
“It’s about bringing a face and a human emotion to government. I love the direct engagement with students every day, I’m a first-generation college student myself, so it’s really gratifying to work to help more people pay for college.”
Callahan started at the Education Department during an internship in college (the STEP program) at a time when the social media department consisted of two people: Callahan and her boss. She started working there full time the day after graduation and has been there since. Callahan helped launch the new website in 2012, and has actively worked to engage the Federal Student Aid office with students.
Fun fact: If she wasn’t busy enough, Callahan works another job on the weekends!
BEN BALTER, 26
Government evangelist, GitHub
“The biggest challenge is the culture. It’s not a matter of being technically impossible, but figuring out how to take that open source philosophy and inspire stakeholders in D.C. Things don’t have to be expensive and cumbersome and not fun– you can bring in memes and GIFs and be creative.”
Balter got his start in government three years ago as a new-media fellow at FCC, where he worked with his team to revamp the website. From there, he went to the SoftWare Automation and Technology team at the White House, then to the Office of the Chief Information Officer as a fellow, and finally participating in the inaugural class of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program. After his time as a fellow, Balter joined GitHub where he continues to evangelize open source development in government.
Fun fact: Balter has been studying for the bar, and is an aspiring attorney.
“Any engineer, as geeky as we are, we still want others to see the impact of our work, like doctors or teachers. IT has a significant impact on transforming the nation, and that’s very appealing to me.”
Landing at the Energy Department after nearly a decade at IBM, Huie’s main focus has been managing the delivery of IT modernization services for various transformation initiatives for the department, including building a private cloud. “I’m on the leading edge of transitioning into the new model of managed services, including cloud, where it falls on the contractor to deliver,” he said. What ultimately drew him to the public sphere was the notion that technology and policy are powerful tools to transform and open the government. Huie has been with ActioNet for the past year, and works with DOE CTO Pete Tseronis.
Fun fact: Huie ran his first triathlon this year.
SOPHIE RASEMAN, 30
Director of smart disclosure, Office of Consumer Protection, Treasury Department
“Working on these data issues that have such an effect on consumer decisions and touch so many Americans’ lives is a blessing. And it’s inspiring to work on open data and smart disclosure and getting to see how entrepreneurs have used this open data as fuel for innovation.”
Raseman has helped Treasury become a go-to source for information with her work on smart disclosure, the agency’s attempt to make useful data more readily available. She also worked on Wall Street reform with the Dodd-Frank Act, and helps with Treasury’s finance and data-driven initiatives in the workplace.
Fun fact: Raseman is growing an herb garden.
“I’ve always been pretty geeky. But what I love about creating online communities and the Internet is connecting different people; finding those like-minded people and sharing with them is exciting.”
After teaching middle school for 10 years, Kruger became inspired by politics and decided to make the leap — working on the Hill for almost two years before moving to the executive branch. At the Commerce Department, Kruger has been responsible for getting the agency in compliance with the digital government strategy, and is charged with the online presence of 11 bureaus and the Office of the Secretary.
Fun fact: Kruger is a loyal and dedicated Nationals fan.
“Our goal is to make public data out there today more available and help to be driver in bringing more and more data online. The vision in five years would be to offer to people the central place to go to get facts about absolutely anything.”
Like many fellow honorees, DaCosta was bit by the “open data bug” after an open source cartography project made him realize the potential of open data. With a classmate from Columbia University, the idea for Enigma grew and eventually morphed into a company. Their startup quickly won a TechCrunch award, sparking interest and momentum for the company to evolve and get attention for the work being done.
Fun fact: DaCosta is pursuing a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology.
“I always thought I’d end up in the creative field — I never thought that would be in the federal government. In the Office of Digital Strategy, I focus on ways to engage with citizens online and through social media. The nature of the job is unpredictable — and while that can be challenging at times, it also keeps things interesting.”
Schulman started as a volunteer on the 2008 Obama presidential campaign and never left. During the campaign, she was a graphic designer on the new-media team and went on to work for the Presidential Inaugural Committee in 2009. In May that year, she joined the digital strategy team at the White House, and has been working since to engage with citizens.
Fun fact: Schulman is running her second Chicago marathon this fall.
“My job is really about being a fulcrum for agencies to chat and share practices — the innovative ways agencies are going mobile, I learn something new about it every day and every agency has a different and unique mission.”
After completing his master’s degree nine years ago, Parcell took a job as GSA and has been there ever since. He has become the go-to source for agencies working to manage their mobile content. Parcell says his proudest moment during these nine years has been working on the digital government strategy, which was released in May 2012.
Fun fact: Parcell plays the guitar.
“A lot of my job is being a translator, between law and technology and technology and policy. It’s understanding the different spaces, and figuring out how to communicate that and make it unique.”
Schuman’s career has been built around a junction of his interest in policy, law and communications. In his four years at the Sunlight Foundation — most recently as policy counsel and director of the Advisory Committee on Transparency — he worked tirelessly to increase transparency in government and public access to federal information. He also has worked to keep budgets for Data.gov and USA.gov from being slashed. Schuman has been with CREW since June.
Fun fact: Schuman is really enjoying being a new dad.
“I’ve always had a passion for helping people and giving back, and being at the FCC is the perfect opportunity for me to do that. I work on a team with developers and such creative people, and we get to take an idea and turn it into a reality.”
Since Stevenson started handling social media outreach at FCC, the agency has doubled its number of Twitter followers. Stevenson also worked with developers to craft design elements for the launch of the new FCC website, including a brand-new feature on the site called FCC Highlights. On top of that, Stevenson often guest blogs and assists other departments in writing blog posts.
Fun fact: Stevenson has a production background and loves to write movie scripts.
“The most tremendous part about the fellowship itself was the challenge of being given a six-month timeline and a mission, and figuring out how we were going to be able to pull it off in that amount of time. It was exciting to see a group of such different mindsets at work.”
Before co-founding Amida with former Veterans Affairs Department CTO Peter Levin, Kachaev was a presidential innovation fellow fighting to combat global poverty with open data. As a fellow, Kachaev worked on the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Open Data Catalog and well as the open data community on Stack Exchange. Kachaev has also served as director of research and development for the government of the District of Columbia and running OCTO Labs, a D.C. government technology and innovation group.
Fun fact: Kachaev also enjoys longboarding and cycling.
“Very few organizations in the world get to work on the content that is so inspirational or consequential to humanity as NASA. Thinking about equipping our engineers with innovative equipment and online tools — it’s a remarkable opportunity.”
Working at NASA perfectly combines Gustetic’s interests in aerospace engineering and public policy. Prior to joining the space agency in March 2012, she worked in the public sector to increase government transparency and further the open data agenda. In her current role, Gustetic works to advocate for open innovation policy and agency strategies.
Fun fact: Gustetic is a big Florida Gators fan.
“There’s such a widespread desire to create change and to fulfill this promise of information technology in government. I’m lucky that I get to come in every day and work on something that I’m so passionate about.”
Herman has had a passion and interest for technology from a young age; he designed his high school’s first website and was the first online editor of his college newspaper. Herman has made a name for himself in the federal IT and social media landscape from his time working at Phase One Consulting Group, to his current position at GSA where he oversees and works with various agencies on their social media strategy.
Fun fact: Herman loves doing Bikram yoga.
“Working in the public sector has been my best chance to make an impact. State government has a lot of information that is really valuable, and it’s our job to tap into that and find lean solutions.”
Powell began his career in the nonprofit world and later moved into the public sector as a CitiStat analyst for the state of Maryland. After several years in the public sector, Powell landed at IBM as a consultant. However, a year ago, he was named Maryland’s chief innovation officer, and the rest — as they say — is history.
Fun fact: Powell has both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in geography.
“The best part of my job is talking to policymakers about how to leverage technology and data to solve different policy issues we have around the world. It’s about finding the best way to solve the challenges we have, using the opportunities available to us, and that’s the challenge.”
Castro started at ITIF when it was a three-person organization more than six years ago. Today, he manages $3 million in federal research grants to investigate ways to voting accessibility for wounded veterans and those with disabilities, as well as testifies before Congress on Internet policy issues. In early July, Castro became director of the newly launched ITIF Center for Data Innovation, which conducts independent research and formulates public policies to enable data-driven innovation in government and industry.
Fun fact: Castro recently adopted a Chihuahua/rat terrier mix.
“I realized instead of being a traditional press officer, I wanted to be proactive and get in front of consumers using social media. People shouldn’t have to know your agency’s acronym or ‘dot gov’ website to know what’s going on in their government, we should go to them.”
Eamich has been with the USDA for 10 years, moving her way up from senior press officer to director of Web communications. Using creative and innovative outreach methods, Eamich has had large success in engaging and connecting with the USDA audience. Eamich helped with the USDA website redesign, manages USDA social media and Web strategies, and is a popular speaker and panel member at various digital strategy and open government events around town.
Fun fact: Eamich likes to cook and eat Vietnamese food.
“I knew I was most interested in politics and social media, and at the time social media’s impact and importance were expanding exponentially, and I knew I wanted to ride that wave. I’ve been very lucky — I love coming to work every day, knowing that no two days are ever the same.”
Coccaro got her start in politics as a college student, when she worked as a student assistant and ran a polling center at Elon University, the only one of its kind in North Carolina. Working with leading policy strategists at the Center for American Progress on new-media strategy and outreach for three years prepared Coccaro for the next step of her career: working in the White House’s Office of Digital Strategy.
Fun fact: Coccaro worked in Western Australia as a graphic designer and assistant Web administrator for a year.