Now hiring! Why top tech talent should consider careers in public service
Continuing a nationwide spate of layoffs at major tech giants such as Meta, Salesforce and Microsoft, Amazon recently announced plans to remove 18,000 jobs from its payroll—the largest reduction of any tech company during the current downturn. The news caps off a rocky 2022 for the tech sector, which saw upward of 140,000 employees fall prey to global economic headwinds and corporate rightsizing after years of steady growth.
Yet while rewarding opportunities exist in Silicon Valley and across the private sector, those seeking the chance to do invigorating work, grow professionally and make a difference should consider a large and well-resourced organization—one with a strong demand for tech talent, a plethora of tech-related jobs in every imaginable subject area and a proven record of innovation that benefits millions of people living here and abroad.
No, not another Fortune 500 company—the federal government.
This proposition may be met with skepticism. Our government has long been plagued by maintaining old legacy systems, a failure to keep pace with digitization, and insufficient long-term investment in IT infrastructure and modernization.
However, in recent years, government has invested more in modernizing its tech systems and prioritized recruiting a more robust and data-competent tech workforce to address these longstanding challenges and better meet the needs of the people it serves.
Our government is a place where talented, mission-driven individuals apply their skills to improve society. As the nation’s largest employer, it retains hundreds of thousands of these individuals as IT specialists, computer scientists, data analysts, programmers and coders, chief information officers, general technologists and more.
Still, vital talent gaps persist.
The federal tech workforce
Less than 4% of all federal IT workers are under age 30, and a growing number are near retirement age, a disparity that partly explains why hundreds of IT positions are currently listed on USAJOBS, the government’s central hiring website.
In addition, more than 47,000 cybersecurity vacancies exist across federal, state and local government, with critical agencies like the departments of Homeland Security, Agriculture and Labor reporting recent losses.
The White House budget for fiscal 2023 also includes a proposal to hire more than 80,000 new workers, focusing in particular on HR technologists.
Pathways for tech talent
To fill these gaps, the federal government has created new pathways into public service for top tech talent. Fellowships like the U.S. Digital Corps and Presidential Innovation Fellows, for instance, offer technologists opportunities to work on critical issues of national import, while other agencies can take advantage of special hiring, appointment and pay rules to quickly onboard new STEM workers.
Federal tech hubs like the U.S. Digital Service and 18F also recruit engineers, designers, software specialists, product managers and other experts from the private sector to help agencies more effectively deliver essential services that defy the myth of a federal workplace apathetic to technological innovation.
At the Partnership for Public Service, our work further highlights this ingenuity. Our annual Service to America Medals® program highlights civil servants who have used computer modeling to help save thousands of people lost at sea people lost at sea, developed common encryption standards for commercial products, applied satellite imagery to improve humanitarian assistance abroad and more.
Our research also shows that, despite negative perceptions of the federal workplace, government employees are more likely than private sector employees to perceive their workplaces as collaborative and believe their professional development is supported.
Moreover, federal employees in the cyber and STEM fields tend to stay in government longer than their colleagues working in other areas, and young workers—who compose an outsized share of the country’s tech talent—report relatively high levels of job satisfaction.
New opportunities for this talent will only expand in the years ahead. In a world of accelerating digital change, people will have an almost insatiable demand for faster, customizable and easily accessible information and interactions, and modern ways of working will be vital to solving emerging challenges. Addressing future issues ranging from data privacy and cybersecurity to the oversight and ethical uses of AI and cryptocurrency will place technologists of all professional backgrounds in high demand.
Top tech talent looking for new employment should consider careers in public service. Amid the recent tech bust, opportunities abound in the federal government. With a growing demand for tech expertise and a growing record of tech innovation, the public sector offers technologists the chance to do meaningful work, impact millions of people and make a lasting difference on our country. They would do well to explore possibilities to serve.
If you are interested in learning more about technology roles within government, register for the Office of Personnel Management’s virtual Tech to Gov Forum and Job Fair on Jan. 18.
For more information about federal job opportunities in technology and other fields, visit GoGovernment.org.