The government is filled with public servants leading in technology, innovation, and improving government customer experiences for the public. On this episode we hear from Brian Whittaker and Amber Chaudhry, who are not only two such leaders, but also share a passion for creating support networks for emerging public servants from a diversity of backgrounds. Whittaker is the founder of Humans of Public Service, an organization and project he started to share the stories of public servants from across the country on social media. One of the first people interviewed by Humans of Public Service was Chaudhry, an emerging government leader and current Customer Experience Lead at the Department of Housing and Urban Development where she works to implement a more human-centered approach to government customer service. She is also the founder of Muslim Americans in Public Service and a former Presidential Management Fellow.
Reach out to Brian Whittaker and Humans of Public Service:
- Check out the stories of public servants featured on Humans of Public Service.
- Learn more about the Partnership’s Federal Innovation Council.
Reach out to Amber Chaudhry:
- Learn more about Muslim Americans in Public Service.
- Learn more about the Presidential Management Fellowship.
- Learn more about opportunities with AmeriCorps.
Loren DeJonge Schulman:
From the Partnership for Public Service, this is “Profiles in Public Service”—a podcast that shares the stories of the public servants who work on our behalf every day to make our country safer, healthier and more prosperous.
We talk to career public servants, emerging leaders, journalists and more to better understand what it means to be a public servant… the incredible variety of careers possible in government… and how public service impacts all our lives.
I’m Loren DeJonge Schulman,
And I’m Rachel Klein-Kircher. Today, we have two wonderful public servants who are leaders in tech, innovation, and improving government customer experiences for the public, in addition to being creators of support networks for emerging leaders from a diversity of backgrounds.
Loren DeJonge Schulman:
We are joined by Brian Whittaker, a current federal employee at a financial regulator and long-time technology leader who has over 10 years of experience leading IT transformation projects both in the government and the private sector. Brian’s portfolio ranges from improving the farm loan application process to revamping the online submission and processing of civil rights claims. His government experiences include serving at the General Services Administration and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Brian now serves as a member of the Partnership’s Federal Innovation Council, an advisory group formed to help government forge a more innovative culture by highlighting key innovation successes, overcome critical barriers, training the next generation of federal leaders and more.
In addition to being a leader of innovation and technology in government, Brian is the founder of Humans of Public Service, or HoPS, an organization and project he started to share the stories of public servants from across the country on social media. We are joined by one of the first inspiring public servants featured on HoPS, Amber Chaudhry, a Customer Experience Lead at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Amber currently leads a new team and practice at HUD focused on implementing a more human-centered approach to government customer service.
Amber’s journey in public service includes internships at the U.S. House of Representatives and Department of Education, an apprenticeship through AmeriCorps, and a Presidential Management Fellowship with the US Small Business Administration.
Welcome Brian and Amber!
Loren DeJonge Schulman: So Brian, to start off, it would be great for our listeners to hear about your own journey into public service. Particularly, what is it that motivated you to work in the federal government?
Well, first off, thanks for having me. I started my career in the private sector. And one thing I noticed is that during my lunch breaks, or even on the weekend, I would volunteer. I just had a interest in giving back to the community. And what I hadn’t really thought about at the time is like, public service seemed to be the family business, right? I had a sister who was a teacher, another that was a police officer and then my oldest sister who’s a nurse. My dad was also in the Air Force, and my mom also taught for a bit. So, I feel like it was inevitable that I landed in public service. But I left a big government contractor and started consulting for the government and they actually had a contract specialist position that opened up. And at the time, I had experience being a subcontract manager. I applied, I ended up getting in and I haven’t looked back.
Brian, we all seem to share this passion for public service, which is why Loren and I are here and why you’re here. And you did something pretty exciting this past summer of 2022. You started the Humans of Public Service. This idea of telling stories and creating this space for stories, obviously it’s what we love here, it’s what our podcast is focused on and your mission, creating content to tell the stories of humans in public service, reflecting diversity in America, humanizing public service and creating a more positive perception of government. I am all in with this mission.
So for you, and you also just described to us this, I love it, the ‘family business of public service.’ You’re a busy guy. What prompted you to take that next step and start the Humans of Public Service?
You know, it really came from dark times. I would say like the murder of George Floyd changed me, right? I’d say prior to George Floyd, a lot of the activity that went on, the discrimination that took place against minority communities, really had me asking questions like, why is this happening?
Who’s going to do something? When is this going to change? And the murder of George Floyd made me ask a different set of questions. It was more so around, what can I do? You know, what skills can I bring to the table? What’s my circle of influence? And that’s really what inspired me to sort of take action. But it was actually a report from the Partnership for Public Service that mentioned only 23% of the senior executive service self-identify as people of color. And I said, whoa, there’s an opportunity here. You know, for me, just thinking about how the number of people of color were pooled together, I was like, wow. I imagine what the numbers would be if they weren’t.
So, you know, since I’m a public servant, since I’m already in the government, fortunately, I’d worked at GSA in the past and had a decent network, maybe there was something I could do here. So, having an undergraduate degree in computer engineering and an MBA, I was like, maybe I can stand up a form. I really appreciated Humans of New York. I didn’t have a great camera nor an amazing eye for photography. I couldn’t walk the streets and interview folks, so I thought about maybe I can go with the nomination process where people can nominate public servants.
Public servants can fill out a form and then with some light touch editing, put their story out there with their picture. Just so there’s like a face to the government name, right? I think we’ve heard a whole lot about how government’s been described in the past. I wanted to offer a counterpoint to that and ideally show some of the diversity and the different people that are energized by working in the government and why they do it.
And I appreciate too you shine the spotlight on the different types of jobs that are available. It’s not that one stereotyped bureaucrat that is the government. We were even talking before we began recording about, you know, your own journey and who you are as a government employee and how you show up may not fit a specific mold because there is no one way, and I feel you are doing, you know, your part to highlight that, and when we talk about public service for you, that goes beyond the federal government, correct?
Oh, for sure. Honestly, at this point in my career, I’ve been in the federal government for about six years. I’m super curious about state and local government. I mean, I feel like that’s where a lot of the rubber meets the road in regard to delivering services to citizens and the American public.
So, I’m just so curious about how they work, the different roles, positions, what’s the diversity like there, and celebrating them as well. I think it’s exciting to think about federal, state, and local public servants in the same space informally, and what those conversations would look like and what could happen. Maybe that’s 2023, 2024’s plan.
Yeah, that’s my next question. What is your vision for down the road for Humans of Public Service and who all are you hoping to reach?
So originally in 2020, I had a silly idea of doing a summit. I was like, you know what? Here’s something I could do. It’s the middle of the pandemic. I don’t have to rent a space in a big hotel. I don’t need to get it catered or, you know, hire a bartender. I could just do this virtually. I can celebrate people. It’s cheap. Why don’t we do that? And then I had to stop and think, well, how am I going to reach these people? What’s the brand? What am I even going to call this thing? Like, why would anyone even join?
And I think Humans of Public Service is really my first attempt at getting there. I know there will be other content, other steps that I’ll need to take to realize that summit vision, but that’s the direction that I’m really going in. And maybe it’s not 2023. Maybe there’s some smaller events that I get some experience in. And then 2024 actually do the summit. But I’d say in the next year or so, I’d like to start sharing some job postings. You know, if people are inspired by these stories, how can I help them take action to actually apply for a position? I’d love to get more college student eyes on Humans of Public Service and then also highlight those pathways so that they can take action and feel inspired. So, those are some of the things that I’m looking to do next year, but the summit, I think, is the ultimate vision.
Rachel Klein-Kircher: Which proves there is no such thing as a silly idea when it leads to all of this.
Brian Whittaker: Maybe it’s just too soon. Not silly.
Loren DeJonge Schulman: It’s all a process.
So Brian, we actually have here today one of the first public servants that you featured on Humans of Public Service, your colleague and our colleague, Amber. And I actually wondered if you could just start with the story, about how the two of you initially meet? How did you eventually come to feature her on Humans of Public Service?
My memory could be terrible, but I will allow Amber to correct the record if I go extremely off base here, but we’ve never met in person. I think we only connected via the pandemic. And if my memory is right, we were planning a [customer experience] summit possibly in 2020, and I think I just heard her talk about CX and data and diversity, and I’m like, who is this person? I need to reach out and connect. And sure enough, we did. And I think I ended up actually hosting her on another podcast that I volunteered and supported. But that’s how we connected if my memory is right.
Loren DeJonge Schulman:
Well, Amber and Brian, I mean, from what you’re saying, it sounds as though there is a fabulous community, whether official or not, of leaders like you in government who are passionate about this work around data and customer experience and delivering for the American people, which is a lot of what you feature Brian.
I wonder if you might tell us about those communities. Tell us more about those public servants that you find there. How do you guys come together? What is it you’re all working on?
Brian Whittaker: Sure. So, taking a step back just to offer some context as to what inspired me to do the informal outreach, some of my experience in government has been working with other agencies on modernizing their technology. And some things that I find are that some agencies feel like they’re starting from scratch when they have peers that have solved a similar problem in, you know, a different or a similar way. And I think bringing people together and connecting with folks, whether it’s your job or not, I think actually helps your job.
So, whether it’s a CX community, informal community discussion, or a diversity, equity, inclusion, informal discussion, I think just bringing people together with a similar passion for public service, magical things could happen. I think that’s what really inspired me to reach out to Amber because when I heard her speak, I knew that’s someone I can learn something from.
But yeah, there are definitely pockets of CX folks. It’s a really small community, I would say, and I’d also add, I think there’s now a budding group of people that have started their own non-profits and organized. And that’s another thing that really drew me to Amber, right, seeing Muslim Americans in Public Service stand up. I was like, okay, this group over here is organizing. There’s no reason why I can’t organize, and I already have connected with her and she’s willing to school me on this as well. So, I really appreciate the example she sets and the information that she shares.
So, Amber, early on you had so many different experiences already with the federal government, and I know you speak about this a bit in your Humans of Public Service post but share with our listeners what initially motivated you to work in federal government and if you want to talk through some of the experiences that you’ve had.
Yeah, so not to age myself, but I was in middle school when 9/11 happened, so you can imagine that I was in my formative years and I can still distinctly remember how much the events of 9/11 impacted my family, the Tampa Muslim community, the overall Muslim community, even the broader South Asian community that isn’t even Muslim. And so, I remember my dad getting racially profiled. I remember stories about undercover FBI agents trying to entrap folks at the mosque. I remember Sikh Punjabis getting hurt over wearing a turban whether they were physically hurt or killed.
In the aftermath, there definitely was a wave of patriotism and there was this weird sentiment that us as Muslims had to prove ourselves and how American we were. And as a child of immigrants, all of those events really affected me. Public service isn’t really a career path that Pakistanis or Muslim parents really push, right? If you’re a brown kid like me, then your parents want you to be a doctor or an engineer. So, because of all of that, I always knew that I wanted to work for federal government and contribute to a more just and equitable United States, but also make sure that my voice in my community were represented at the table as well.
In your early career journey into the federal government, I mean, that involved a stint as a Presidential Management Fellow, internships, and full-time positions. How did you find your way in? What was that first path and where did that lead?
Yeah, for any of the young listeners out there, there are definitely two programs that really shaped me and that I would recommend. The first one is AmeriCorps Public Allies, which is a 10-month program where you’re placed into a nonprofit while simultaneously receiving leadership training with a diverse cohort of other young allies. And that program really taught me asset-based community development, which is really my first introduction to human-centered design. But through that program I was able to help thousands of low-income immigrants apply for citizenship for free, as well as help Dreamers through the DACA process as well. So that allowed me the opportunity to give back to the immigrant community, and it was a great leadership development program for me.
And as for the other program you mentioned, the Presidential Management Fellows program. What’s funny about that is when I was in undergrad, I had heard about that program and how it was so prestigious and a pathway into the federal government and I never thought I would qualify. I truly had imposter syndrome and so I never thought that I would go on to be a 2016 Presidential Management Fellow. And so it’s a two-year program for folks out of grad school or a higher degree, and I chose the Small Business Administration to do my PMF program. And the reason for that was because the SBA had an at-large program where every six months or so you rotated. And I knew I wanted to be more of that chief operations officer and pick up as many skills as possible. I also come from a family of entrepreneurs. The SBA also has an innovation program, which I had done innovation work while I was in grad school. So, the SBA was a perfect fit for me for the PMF program and was my starting point for my career in the federal government.
And it really sounds like right out the gate you had the opportunity to have some hands-on impact, which is tremendous. And I’m going to turn it to Loren, who I believe has questions about some of your present-day work.
Loren DeJonge Schulman:
Yeah, so I mean, I am also a former fellow PMF and a slightly different era. 9/11 was also a major inspiration for why I went in the federal government at that period of time, and PMF is such an incredible opportunity to, as you say, pick up not only those different skills, but to get a different angle, like what different parts of the federal government look like.
And you have actually just started, I think, a fairly new role that was created at the Department of Housing and Urban Development as a customer experience lead strategist. Can you, first of all, just tell us a little bit more about what does that mean? What is a CX lead at a major agency like HUD?
So, currently I’m standing up a new team or practice that focuses on a more human-centered approach to government. So our hope is to help ensure that when Americans and the public interact with HUD, they should get a simple, seamless, secure customer experience that doesn’t feel too far off from private sector experiences, kind of like Amazon, right? And so the goal of our team is to introduce and elevate the opinions, feelings, perspectives of customers across the entire ecosystems of services that HUD supports and provides. And that is to further the vision of providing thoughtful, well-designed, and accessible information and services for all of HUD’s customers and our potential customers.
So our team does not exist on the org chart today. We definitely are the new kid on the block when it comes to CX within the federal government, but we’re definitely making progress with our CX maturity today, so it’s really exciting work to be a part of.
Loren DeJonge Schulman:
As you both know, the Partnership does a lot of work that we love around customer experience. I tell a lot of people this, so I guess it’s no longer a secret that CX customer experience is one of my favorite portfolios that my team engages on. And it’s always sort of fascinating when you come to the realization that government is not inherently designed for the customer. It’s not designed for the person who is either struggling or engaging with an opportunity, or like they need to come interact with federal services in some way. And not only is it not designed for them, but there’s no map or there’s no obvious map for them to do that.
And I’m curious at HUD, what are some of the biggest challenges that you face when delivering that seamless, secure, effective customer experience that you were talking about earlier?
Yeah, so this is actually my third time sparking a CX program at an agency, and what I’ll say is that some agencies are more ready to adopt CX management than others. Some places really feel uncomfortable with the ambiguity of the human-centered design process. And you know, this isn’t like a six-month project. This is changing the DNA of how an agency operates.
So I think the biggest challenge is focusing on cultural change, and every agency has its unique culture, right? So some are easier to institute change in. Some have pockets of entrepreneurial spirits. And some just don’t want to change because they’ve been doing this the way that they have for 25 plus years. So learning how to institute cultural change is imperative of any bureaucracy hacker, right Brian?
Brian Whittaker: A hundred percent.
Loren DeJonge Schulman:
It’s such a great point. I think that, exactly as you say, it’s really challenging to go into some agencies who have, for a long time, judged their effectiveness based on cost or meeting particular metrics or things like wait times, like they’ve had their goals in mind, and this human-centered design process for one, it’s not necessarily straightforward, and two, it doesn’t let you rely on your instinct. That’s the whole point is that you are trying to understand the impact of the work that you were doing on others. So, really challenging as you describe, but also I think really an amazing opportunity for an awakening in government of looking at the work that we do as it was meant to be done, as like it’s written down, “government for the people.” That’s the whole reason that we are here. So it’s not just a ‘for’ but a ‘with’ in some ways.
Rachel Klein-Kircher: Totally.
So one of our biggest wins this past fiscal year was procuring a “Voice of the Customer” tool to help us collect feedback, analyze that feedback, and then act on those insights as evidence for change and having this “Voice of the Customer” tool is really a centerpiece for our CX program because we really want to move the organization towards proactively addressing customer pain points by improving our products and services, as well as being able to do service recovery and respond to the needs of individuals.
So, I’m really excited about that accomplishment and all the other great foundational work that our team has laid out to help institutionalize our program.
So, you both have shared personal stories with us, and I’d like to go back to those if I could. Brian, you mentioned being inspired that Amber had founded the organization, Muslim Americans in Public Service, and you also yourself talked about having a dark period after the murder of George Floyd and Amber, you talked about your family after 9/11 and the impacts.
So, I have a few questions. I’m going to start with you, Amber. So as the founder of Muslim Americans in Public Service, why did you – also you’ve got all of these things happening in your work world, personal world – take the time to found this organization?
Yeah, so being a Muslim at an agency can be a very isolating experience. Sometimes you don’t know where to pray. Sometimes you don’t know where to go for general career advice and something that I was surprised to experience at a previous agency was hearing the Muslim call to prayer in the office as a joke, and I’ve even had inappropriate comments about Muslims made to my face.
Right, and this is me. My name is Amber. I look a little ethnically ambiguous, and so I can only imagine what other folks experience when they have a common Muslim name or choose to wear a hijab. And that’s a scary thought, right? And so for me, there was this clear need to foster community within government, help support conducive working environments, professional growth, and even cultivate that next generation of public service. And that was really the impetus and the purpose of Muslim Americans in Public Service.
And for you also, Brian, creating a network of support for leaders from diversity of backgrounds and having these uplifting, positive stories that are showing what it is that public servants can do and who they are. Why does this either continue or to become even more important for you as time goes on?
I would say, the representation is the key, right? I think, our trust in our government will go up when the people in our country see different faces. When they see themselves in our government and say, oh, okay, if this person can do it, maybe I can, or let me reach out to them and learn a little bit about their path and their journey and see if it’s something that I’d be interested in pursuing.
And, you know, I think that trust element for me, I think comes back to my customer experience ties. That’s one of the big drivers for why we do what we do and why we want to put the customer at the center. But I think also it’s, you know, equity and processes and whatnot. The more diverse leadership – at least this is what my hypothesis is – the more diverse leadership that we have at the table, the more empathy we’ll have for the American people and the services that are being provided to them. And I think it’ll just produce more equitable processes. But through the coming years, my plan is to do some research on that and see if it’s true and see if we can move the needle on that front.
Rachel Klein-Kircher: And I know some of the comments on the Instagram post when Amber was profiled were like, “Yes, you’re onto something for sure.”
Brian Whittaker: Amber’s an anomaly. She’s got to be some sort of government, like superstar-slash-legend because the amount of kudos and reaction she received, I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to replicate that, and the challenge is on for another public servant. Come on to Humans of Public Service and top Amber. I want to see it done.
Rachel Klein-Kircher: But in the meantime, the good news for Amber is, you know, you said earlier about dating yourself. I do think I was a lot older when 9/11 happened, and given all that you’ve already accomplished, you have so many more years to go with exciting things. So I think that’s fantastic.
Amber Chaudhry: Thank you.
Loren DeJonge Schulman:
There’s a question for both of you and actually this builds off of what Brian was saying a moment ago. We ask everyone this, but now I actually not only want to hear what you say, but I think you’re going to have some genuinely unique and very practical advice for people.
What advice do you have for students or young professionals and young leaders of color that we’ve been talking about who are interested in the kind of work that the both of you do every day? Particularly if you are guessing that they may not be sure about that sort of path, what advice would you have for them? And I’ll start with Brian and then I’ll turn to Amber.
Don’t believe that the path is straight. Everyone’s path is different, and I think there’s something to explore in regard to the going in and out of government and where that takes you and where that gets you. I think where I see it the most now and I’m most energized by is the majority of my career in the federal service has been focused on digital products. And almost all of those people that I engaged with were always at the GS-15 level or above. But now we have different programs that are getting early career, digital-focused folks into government. So I’m energized by that. I think it’s still interesting to see what’s going to happen in the middle, in that mid-career sort of spot, but I’d say the path isn’t straight.
Go for the virtual coffees. Check out Humans of Public Service because we’re about to be telling people’s journeys and their careers and where they’ve landed, whether it’s from public sector to Google or to other really large nonprofits. So, stay tuned, we’re looking out for you.
Loren DeJonge Schulman:
Brian, I love that first point that the path not always being straight. Almost everyone we’ve interviewed on this podcast has had a just incredibly diverse path that narratively made no sense until it added up to them. It added up to the leader that they had become that day. And, your point around that permeability of government. Let’s be real, the federal government does not make that super easy. The expectation is that you start in as a GS-7, GS-9 and you just stay and stay and stay. I think we have seen leaders who’ve come in with diverse experiences at different levels and people are starting to not only realize like, oh, this is different possibility, but also, it’s better. It’s better for everyone when they are able to come in and out and be able to bring those diverse experiences to different platforms and you know, fingers crossed, will be able to bureaucratically engineer someday. Amber, what about you? What advice do you have?
Yeah, I’ve mentioned this on another podcast, but I would definitely tell people to find your mentors and your champions and know the difference between the two because your mentors are people you can go to for advice to help you navigate a situation or maybe guide you along your pathway, whereas your champions will open a door for you even when you’re not sitting in the room. And so, I just want to distinguish the difference, but those are not mutually exclusive. And I would say don’t be scared to reach out to us on LinkedIn, because what you’ll find is that public servants want to help and want to mentor folks. So definitely reach out to us. We’re available for virtual coffee chats, in-person coffee chats, but we’re here to help.
Loren DeJonge Schulman:
I love the distinction you’re making between mentors and champions. Also, well, like with that, I think peer mentorship is something that I did not value nearly as much when I was coming up in government and now recognize, to your point earlier, Brian, there’s so many people who are going through the exact same things, and I can learn from them on a regular basis from across different organizations and champions. The way that you define that, Amber, is amazing. Like somebody’s going to open a door for you and you’re not there. Like they’re already making your case without you having a prompt on a regular basis. Those are incredibly valuable assets to look for.
Rachel Klein-Kircher: Thank you both so much, Brian and Amber, for joining us. As I said in the beginning, this speaks to our heart in so many ways, all of the work that you’re doing, and we just love it and can’t wait to see the next profile on Humans of Public Service and the big vision and if the summit happens, and we’re just going to stay glued to everything. So thank you.
Brian Whittaker: Thanks so much. I really appreciate the opportunity and to bring Amber on as well. It’s so great.
Loren DeJonge Schulman: Thank you.
Amber Chaudhry: Thank you all for the opportunity.
Loren DeJonge Schulman: Rachel, in listening to Brian tell the story of how he came up with Humans of Public Service, when he started, I initially could not figure out like, “how are you making this connection from this event in conference and collaboration you wanted to have to creating this fabulous platform?” And then as he was going, first of all, it all made sense. Second of all, I felt like I was listening to an entrepreneur who is just constantly coming up with new and amazing ideas and like I have no doubt that any of the ones that he came up with beforehand, he could have launched and would’ve had amazing successes as well.
Rachel Klein-Kircher: Right, and then it’s not too late to still have his original ideas come to fruition. And what really speaks to me is that he’s so positive and what he’s doing is this beautiful endeavor. And it was sparked from what he called like a very dark time and how he took that and ran with it and made something really wonderful happen.
Loren DeJonge Schulman: Whenever I look at his posts on LinkedIn and the people he is profiling, the joy that it clearly sparks amongst people who are in his community, but also people who are just fully outside of his community are just encountering this on the internet, is, well, first off, it just reminds me like this is why we do what we do here on Profiles, but also it makes me just have such wonderful, warm feelings towards Brian and the community he is creating that, as you say, came from this space of much more negativity than that.
Rachel Klein-Kircher: And as I go about my daily life, I think about who we learn about because we work at the Partnership and it’s amplified by the work that Brian is doing and he’s covering state, local, federal, all sorts of public servants and sometimes, I see a public servant in my day to day goings on in public and part of me wants to just go up to them and be like, ‘thank you for what you’re doing,’ but will that weird them out? Right? Like it’s shining a spotlight on who is doing this work and what is the best way to acknowledge. And so I love that he’s finding a way to reach people through platforms that everyone in the public is using these platforms.
Loren DeJonge Schulman: It’s something that our boss, the CEO of the Partnership, Max Stier talks a lot about. There are so many people who think it’s their job to criticize government, to criticize public servants and find all the things that they do wrong. And there’s not many of us who want to find the positive but also see it as incredibly rewarding and having a lot of impact to really highlight the positive, the impact, the role that public servants play. And Brian has found this incredibly touching – it’s warming, it’s engaging – way to do this shows me that there’s so much more room for this. There’s so much more room for people to lift up and tell the stories of public servants, public service, and the role that they play in our society.
Which is why it’s great we have Profiles and why we have HoPs, but I also think that there’s a lot more opportunity for this in our storytelling and our media and so much more as we’ve talked about in other conversations.
Rachel Klein-Kircher: And the way that Brian and Amber both are also amplifying, like this is the diversity of our country, this is the diversity of who is a public service. And you know, one of them made this comment that trust will go up when people see themselves. And I’m curious, Loren, with all of the work that your team has done about trust in government, how that landed with you.
Loren DeJonge Schulman: I think that’s 100% right. And it’s not surprising to me, but notable to me that the two of them work now and also have worked in spaces where they are very much involved in that delivery, delivering for the public in some way, really connecting and engaging with them because I think that one of the barriers that people face when they engage with government is finding their story themselves, finding whatever experience they’re having in whatever offerings the government has. So if you are trying to apply for food assistance or social security benefits or other things, first of all, it often can be a very negative or stressful experience for you from the beginning of that, like you may be going about this because you have experienced some trauma in your life. And it makes a world of difference between going to a field office or calling a contact center and finding somebody who literally or figuratively speaks your language versus having to engage with a highly legalese website or form or something that takes interpretation in so many different forms of the word to actually navigate in some way.
And I think what Brian and Amber are doing is trying to create a government that when people, either open the door or open the website or open their phone, can see themselves in some way. They feel as though they are part of that story and part of that conversation as opposed to being very distant from it. They’ve done that in so much of the work they’ve done already, but they’re also, by highlighting the stories of public servants, they’re continuing to do that.
Rachel Klein-Kircher: And one of the things that for me is exciting about Amber’s experience and she talked about this role she has at HUD, and I think the phrase was, you know, it’s not on the org chart. And for some of our listeners who may not realize, and from that business sense, to me, that just means she’s got absolute creative freedom to try things and to work in the way that she knows best and to pull in from diverse sources and to think about customer experience and what is needed and that she’s not hamstrung by any existing rules. And I love that there’s this opportunity for people with her experience, her vision, her mindset, her and Brian both, to just jump in and help make things better.
Loren DeJonge Schulman: Rachel, I’m so glad you heard that too, because what really struck me about that is some people would hear that comment, “it’s not on the org chart” and think, oh, that means it’s not important or that it’s not valued, or it’s not the right role. But I heard it the same way of like this means she has trust, she has authority, she has the ability to go in so many different directions and she can move the organization in a way that they haven’t even defined yet.
They don’t know where they’re going. It opened up a new way to think about how to do public service as opposed to like go finding your specific role in the org chart and instead to like take it in a new direction that I really loved and really shows in both how Amber and Brian have pursued their careers.
Rachel Klein-Kircher: I love the excitement that you grabbed on to that. So, for me, that was really, really huge. So, I love the work that they’re doing and that Brian is really amplifying a lot of the messages that we hear at the Partnership for Public Service, trying to share for the greater good. And so for me, this was just all around amplifying the great mission that we’re all trying to do. So, thanks for joining on this conversation, Loren.
Loren DeJonge Schulman: Thank you.
Loren DeJonge Schulman: So that’s our show, thanks so much for listening! If you haven’t already, please follow or subscribe to “Profiles in Public Service” wherever you get your podcasts.
Rachel Klein-Kircher: You can also check this episode’s show notes to learn more about today’s topic and be sure to follow the Partnership for Public Service on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram to find out about future episodes!
Loren DeJonge Schulman: “Profiles in Public Service” is created by the Partnership for Public Service.
Rachel Klein-Kircher: Our writer and producer is Abigail Alpern Fisch.
Loren DeJonge Schulman: Our script supervisor is Barry Goldberg.
Rachel Klein-Kircher: And our executive producer is Jordan LaPier.
Loren DeJonge Schulman: See you next time!