Health Data Technologist-in-Residence, Engineering 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 Engineering Lead for the Health Data Program, you’ll work closely with the PM Lead, Design Lead, and Data 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.
This is a hybrid role: it entails a mix of hands-on web engineering as well as supervising the work of volunteers. We’re looking for candidates who have full-stack experience with web applications, and have taken ownership of the entire development lifecycle—designing, building, shipping, and iterating. The technical implementation stops with you.
USDR has a deep bench of experienced and highly technical volunteers who may also join to help implement specific projects—especially rapid-response projects that USDR can ship in two months or fewer. As engineering lead, you’ll help set context for them, serve as a technical sounding board, and supervise their work.
You might be a good fit for this role if you’re a senior or staff engineer with mentorship or team leadership experience, a hands-on engineering manager who’s still comfortable designing systems and writing code, or a tech lead by any other name.
This is a full-time, paid, six-month-long position.
In this position, you will:
- Design, implement, launch, and scale software solutions that help state and local governments respond effectively to the pandemic. 99% of our technical partner projects are web-based, so we’re looking for deep experience and comfort in popular frontend and backend stacks. Sometimes our partner projects entail working with technologies that are behind the cutting edge; a willingness to be flexible and meet governments where they are is essential.
- Direct engineers 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 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, Data 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 engineering lead who is comfortable creating direction, not just taking direction.
- Share learnings, best practices, and solutions with the health data community by writing playbooks or publishing open source software.
- 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 developing web applications, and working across the full software development lifecycle. You have been responsible for designing and delivering new services and features, not just maintaining legacy systems. You’ve been a senior-level (or higher) engineer; you have experience leading technical projects, and can self-direct your time toward high-leverage activities rather than waiting for instruction.
- Experience working closely with PMs, UX and UI designers, and data scientists and engineers.
- Experience as an engineering leader. 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 or architect 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:
- Building and shipping greenfield applications. Currently, local health jurisdictions are getting spammed with reports from antigen tests in the form of 500-page faxes, photos of handwritten notes, etc.—a body of data that could be incredibly powerful if the data entry were easier. Imagine building a dead-simple, HIPAA-compliant web app for these nontraditional reporters to use which would transform the form fields into states’ native electronic lab record formats.
- Often, lightweight solutions can be stood up with a low-code or no-code approach. For example, USDR has built lightweight CMSes for governments to reach out to the public which assumes no technical knowledge—only the ability to edit spreadsheets ore Airtable. No-code solutions can be a good fit for agencies that are low on technical expertise or bandwidth.
- Vendor selection. When USDR has partnered with governments to stand up testing sites and procure software to manage test site signups / queueing and reminders, we decided to review and recommend private sector vendors rather than build an in-house solution. USDR has no financial incentive to build software; the reason governments trust us is because we are perceived as a truly neutral, non-partisan, unbiased source of information. Sometimes governments just need a technical ally to think through the pros and cons of their choices, and select a vendor that will meet their needs without draining their budgets.
- Publishing open-source. Our priority areas speak to needs that are felt by states, territories, counties, and cities across the entire nation. By working in the open while addressing one partners’ needs, we can help or influence others as well.
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 Friday, 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].