Feeds

Obama's healthcare.gov savior says: 'No suits please, we're techies'

Mikey Dickerson plans change in move from Google to running government IT

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

The incoming head of the newly formed US Digital Service – a crack sysadmin force to fix government IT systems – has said his team are focused less on looking smart and more on serious coding.

Youtube Video

Mikey Dickerson was brought in by the White House to sort out the lamentable launch of the Affordable Care Act's healthcare.gov. Dickerson, who had spent the previous seven years as site reliability manager for Google, straightened out most of the healthcare website's problems so quickly that he was offered a top new role.

"What we saw during Healthcare.gov with folks like Mikey and others was how a fairly concentrated group of innovators, as long as they had clear direction from the White House, could transform something," said President Obama in a video depicting Dickerson's first day on the job.

Let's face it, the US government, like its British counterpart, doesn't have a good reputation with IT projects. The new US cybersecurity coordinator Michael Daniels is even proud of his lack of understanding of technology issues.

"Being too down in the weeds at the technical level could actually be a little bit of a distraction," Daniel told the Information Security Media Group.

"You can get enamored with the very detailed aspects of some of the technical solutions," Daniel said. "And, particularly here at the White House ... the real issue is to look at the broad, strategic picture and the impact that technology will have."

But Dickerson's not like that. He's a hardcore techie with no interest in empire building or petty power games, and said he wants the US Digital Service to be essentially invisible while it works on making White House systems as easy to use as commercial websites – and he's looking for similar souls who aren't stuffed shirts to join him.

"People want to know if I’m wearing a suit to work every day,” Dickerson said. “Because that’s just the quickest shorthand way of asking: ‘Is this just the same old business as usual or are they actually going to listen?’”

Dickerson did slip into a suit, once, when the President came to visit. But otherwise he bumbles around the West Wing in a short-sleeved shirt that has had only a passing relationship with an iron at some point in its life.

He understands that what's important is getting things done, not looking smart while doing so, and the message appears to be getting through to other areas of government. In May, FBI Director James Comey said that getting the right online talent for his agency might mean relaxing drug testing – a position he's since pulled back from.

But the US government is recognizing that if you want the job done right you've got to get the right people to do it, and most of those folks don’t want to be bothered with protocol and dress codes when there's serious software to be written.

It's a lesson Silicon Valley learned a long time ago and you're more likely to see people with Day-Glo hair on campuses in the Bay Area than a buttoned down suit and tie – because people work best when they are comfortable. Whether Dickerson can convince the Washington mandarins of this, however, remains to be seen. ®

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

More from The Register

next story
Hey, Scots. Microsoft's Bing thinks you'll vote NO to independence
World's top Google-finding website calls it for the UK
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Apple CEO Tim Cook: TV is TERRIBLE and stuck in the 1970s
The iKing thinks telly is far too fiddly and ugly – basically, iTunes
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Huawei ditches new Windows Phone mobe plans, blames poor sales
Giganto mobe firm slams door shut on Microsoft. OH DEAR
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
OECD lashes out at tax avoiding globocorps' location-flipping antics
You hear that, Amazon, Google, Microsoft et al?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.