VA forming Digital Service Team, recruiting experts

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The Department of Veterans Affairs is actively recruiting a cadre of top-level developers, designers and digital product managers to form a new Digital Service Team to create and redesign the digital interfaces that veterans and the private sector rely upon to interact with the agency.

In an email to IT staffers obtained by FedScoop, VA’s Chief Information Officer Stephen Warren said the agency is recruiting Digital Service Experts at the GS-15 level for two-year appointments serving under the agency’s chief technology officer. A VA official, who spoke to FedScoop on condition of anonymity, said the agency was planning to recruit a “small team of the nation’s best technologists” and that any IT project involving a public or private sector “touchpoint” would be part of their assignment. The final number of DSEs recruited could fall between 10 and 15, the official said.

“DSEs will lead the development of a single user experience for citizen and business facing digital services,” Warren said in the email. “They will work with a diverse group of stakeholders across the Federal government to improve the digital services VA delivers while also increasing the speed and cost-effectiveness at which it is delivered, identifying the most effective levers for improving digital services based upon quantitative and qualitative assessments of user needs. DSEs will use their expertise to champion the use of modern technology development and management approaches, drawing heavily upon best practices from the consumer internet industry such as open source and agile development processes. They will use their deep understanding of the characteristics of successful digital services and how they are built both inside and outside government, including user-centered design and development practices and modern consumer internet technologies, to lead major initiatives, provide consultation on systems or policy proposals, and/or provide technical, policy and programmatic guidance to government leaders at the most senior levels.”

News of the VA’s recruitment effort comes just weeks after the White House announced the creation of the U.S. Digital Service, led by Mikey Dickerson, a former Google executive who helped fix the government’s botched rollout of Healthcare.gov. That team has been described in blog postings by senior White House officials as a “small team made up of our country’s brightest digital talent” that will work with agencies “to remove barriers to exceptional service delivery and help remake the digital experience that people and businesses have with their government.”

The job description and responsibilities for DSEs are wide-ranging, from leading the development of new user-facing applications to emergency interventions on programs that have experienced problems and recruiting top-level digital services talent into the government.

Among the skills needed for a DSE slot at VA is the ability to build “partnerships with leadership to recommend and implement technology approaches for issues of national significance” and “the flexibility and versatility of mind necessary to defend and negotiate matters involving significant controversial issues.”

Applications are due Sept. 5 at 5:00 PM.

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Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Departments, Digital Service team, Stephen Warren, U.S. Digital Service
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