Health Data Technologist-in-Residence, Data Lead
The COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmed the data capacity of state and local governments across the United States. Health officials and policymakers need accurate, timely, and trustworthy data to make lifesaving decisions. With funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, U. S. Digital Response is creating a Health Data Program designed to help state and local governments meet the urgency of the COVID-19 crisis. Our current priority areas are decision support, test reporting, and vaccination preparedness.
Founded by former U.S. Deputy CTOs and seasoned tech industry veterans who led federal open data policies and digital government strategy, U.S. Digital Response is a nonpartisan effort that connects experienced, pro bono technology teams to public servants responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Learn more about our work at usdigitalresponse.org or by reading our recent press coverage.
The USDR Health + Data program aims to improve government’s data capacity in the response to COVID-19. With the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, USDR has launched a dedicated data infrastructure program. This program will build on USDR’s existing rapid response model to deliver fast and free data infrastructure support to state and local governments across the United States. Read more about our learnings.
About the role
Applications are now closed.
Throughout the pandemic, volunteer teams at USDR have built dashboards to help cities better distribute PPE, improved data pipelines for accurate and timely decision-making, and produced analyses to predict the impact of statewide interventions. We’ve received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to continue this work into the next six months, and we’re building a cross-functional team to lead this program together.
As the Data Lead for the Health Data Program, you’ll work closely with the PM Lead, Engineering Lead, and Design Lead to prioritize, design, and implement solutions for USDR’s partners. You’ll work with health departments at multiple levels of government, interfacing with executive level agency stakeholders, individual engineers and support personnel, and everyone in between.
You will gain deep insight into the real challenges facing these agencies, and understand how technologists can help—not as “tech saviors,” but as thought partners.
We’re looking for someone who’s equally comfortable getting their hands dirty with data projects and directing the time and effort of volunteers. This role entails data wrangling; public health agencies are often working with messy or incomplete data, in codebases or databases that aren’t perfect. You should be willing to meet governments where they are, rolling up your sleeves to help however possible.
In the likely event that we take on more projects than the core members of the Health Data Program can take on, you’ll also be able to utilize USDR’s greatest asset—its community of experienced, capable, and versatile volunteers. As data lead, you’ll set context for them, serve as a sounding board, and supervise their work.
You might be a good fit for this role if you’re a senior data scientist or data engineer with mentorship or team leadership experience or a hands-on data science manager who’s still comfortable working with data.
This is a full-time, paid, six-month-long position.
In this position, you will:
- Identify data needs for our government partners, understand their specific pain points and constraints, and find ways to automate away toil and help them generate life-saving insights.
- Clean and analyze electronic health and lab records to help our partners understand clearly COVID-19 positivity rates in their community, among other key metrics.
- Design, develop, and own data pipelines and models that power analytics for health agencies and joint operational teams.
- Direct volunteer data practitioners from USDR’s volunteer ecosystem to assist with the implementation of projects. This is a hybrid hands-on technical and leadership role: in addition to leading the technical implementation of data projects, you’ll have the USDR community’s resources at your disposal to manage. USDR’s volunteers skew senior and can often commit 10-20 hours per week to the work, but they shine most with support and guidance from a lead who can set context for them, help them understand how their work fits into the big picture, and clear blockers out of the way.
- Alongside the Health Data Program’s PM, Design Lead, Engineering Lead, and volunteers, represent USDR on calls with our government and nonprofit partners.
- Serve as a co-owner of the program. This is a good role for a creative, product-minded, user-focused data practitioner who is comfortable creating direction, not just taking direction.
- Tell the story of the data through interactive visualizations, and share learnings, best practices, and solutions with the health data community by writing playbooks or publishing notebooks and open source scripts.
- Tell the story of our health data program to the rest of USDR, to governments, to the media, and to our funders.
Qualified candidates will have:
- 4+ years of experience working with data as a data scientist or data engineer. You have been responsible for analysis, modeling, building and maintaining data pipelines, and making the data interpretable to stakeholders. As a senior-level (or higher) data scientist or engineer, you have experience leading technical projects, and can self-direct your time toward high-leverage activities rather than waiting for instruction.
- Deep knowledge of a scientific computing language such as Python or R, and knowledge of SQL and database architecture.
- Strong communication to a diverse set of stakeholders with varying degrees of statistical literacy.
- Experience working closely with PMs, UX and UI designers, and software engineers.
- Leadership experience. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve been a people manager. You may have mentored interns, led task forces and working groups, or served as a domain expert in some specialization. In some specific way, you’ve been a force multiplier for the people around you.
- We don’t assume prior experience with public health or partnering with governments, although it would be a bonus if you had.
Some things you might work on:
- Coding in Python or R, using SQL, writing Excel macros, or developing GUI-based tools to help local health jurisdictions process an avalanche of incoming point-of-care tests from test facilities, or deduplicate and clean the data they get from their state electronic record systems. This is an incredibly time-consuming and error-prone process for health agencies to do manually.
- Building dashboards to give health departments situational awareness of positivity rates by geographic area, such as zipcode, neighborhood, or census tract. For example, visualizing it as a heatmap.
- Consulting as a data scientist with our government partners to produce insights from their data—what is the data telling us, and what is the data not telling us? Data is easy to misinterpret without a solid statistical background, and decision-makers are at risk of being led astray without interpretation.
- Integrating states’ vaccination registries with new federal systems like the HHS’s VAMS—on a rapidly-approaching deadline, as vaccines start becoming available to the public.
Compensation and Employment Term
The PM-in-Residence role is a six-month appointment at U.S. Digital Response. The position is expected to begin December 2020 or January 2021, and the salary will be consistent with similar civil society fellowship roles and paid on a bi-weekly basis. This is a temporary position and does not qualify for benefits. There is no guarantee of continued employment beyond the six-month appointment.
At US Digital Response, we believe:
No matter what role you play, perhaps more important than hard skills you have is the attitude and emotional intelligence you bring to the work in a high-intensity environment.
Great members of the USDR team will:
- Recognize that we, as technologists and professionals, are in a support role. Our job is to support those on the front line of the crises. They are the heroes. Our job is to focus our support on them, including understanding their needs.
- Assume positive intent. Public servants operate under constraints but are almost always doing their best, and we must honor that.
- Follow and listen to directions and implement feedback quickly.
- Have the humility and confidence to do whatever is needed to support the project as directed by the partner, at all levels of a project or organization. You’re someone who will carry boxes, and also knows when to step up with grace if there’s a gap, and defer when there is not.
- Have high ethical standards and a deep passion for supporting your community members.
- Be willing to push for change where you can (e.g., let’s move away from expensive vendor solutions that will take months to configure), but also recognize that especially in this crisis, your number one job is to help others. That means you’re willing to get off your soapbox and work within legacy systems and other very real technical, legal, and capacity constraints.
- Come to the table asking, “how can I help” as opposed to “why aren’t we doing it a different way?”
- Be a great communicator — there will be a lot of moving pieces and email threads you’ll be dropped into. Keep the USDR updated on your work, share your learnings proactively, identify ways we can work more effectively or have more impact, and ask for help when you need it. The last piece is especially important — we want to hear more from you!
- Not offer your time and energy for credit, self-promotion, or other individual advances, but be here for the work and to help others.
U.S. Digital Response is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer fully dedicated to achieving a diverse faculty and staff. All qualified applicants are encouraged to apply and will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation), disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.
How will the Technologist-in-Residence be selected?
Applications closed on December 4th. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. USDR will conduct an application and resume review, followed by a series of interviews with various members of USDR.
Will I be employed by USDR?
USDR is a fiscally sponsored project of Community Initiatives. You will be an employee of Community Initiatives for the duration of the residency.
Is this position fully remote?
Yes, this is a fully remote position. Applicants must reside in and be eligible to work in the United States.
How do I learn more about U.S. Digital Response?
You can access frequently asked questions by both governments and volunteers. You will also have the opportunity to meet several members of the U.S. Digital Response Team for deeper conversations if you advance through the interview process.
This role might not be the right fit for me. Will there be others in the future?
Who do I contact if I have more questions?
You can email us at [email protected].