Careers are defined by moments.
Sometimes these moments are meticulously planned and carefully mapped out – a culmination of years of effort. A dream job, a long-awaited promotion or the successful completion of a remarkable project. These moments recharge our professional batteries and propel us forward in our careers. Often they also inspire us to achieve more.
For me (Camille), accepting an assignment to be part of the team that established a cyber policy office at the US Department of Homeland Security changed my career path. My understanding of how my career could evolve and the contributions I could make in and through cyber changed as I realized the benefits of a career that allowed me to move between industries. I was able to support the drafting of Presidential Policy Directive-41, which outlines how the federal government organizes itself during a significant cyber incident.
I was then able to use that insight and build a federated security program at a large technology company, helping to lead Log4j shell response efforts. Each sector offers a unique experience that, when combined, enhances your personal professional toolkit.
The Federal Civil Service has an opportunity that would greatly benefit from the expertise of talented technologists like you.
Other moments are unexpected. They overwhelm us and force us to reconsider everything. They may even make us rethink our future.
For me (Thomas) – I graduated from college in 2000 during mass layoffs in Silicon Valley. I was fired from my first job within three months. While I was able to get another job and survive multiple rounds of layoffs, the instability made me rethink what was important to me. Service has always been a part of my life and I looked for opportunities to apply my technical skills to make a difference. It was the United States Peace Corps’ mission of world peace and friendship and its intent to promote mutual understanding between Americans and foreign peoples that led me to volunteer for the agency.
During my two-year tenure as an information and communications technology volunteer in the Philippines, I applied my technical skills to projects including integrating technology into classrooms, developing an apprenticeship program for youth interested in computer repairs, and developing of a student information system for local teachers. The ability to foster innovation in a new environment and context has changed the course of my career.
Despite a record low unemployment rate five months into this new year, more than 170,000 workers at U.S.-based technology companies have been laid off — suddenly facing a unique, unwritten moment. In 2022, more than 140,000 tech workers were dismissed. This is a lot of highly trained technical talent ready to take steps in new directions.
As senior leaders within our respective government organizations who have each faced similar unforeseen, unexpected moments; we invite you to view this turning point in history as your opportunity to dive into government service. The federal government plays a unique role in cybersecurity and IT, creating distinctive career opportunities for those with your technology skills.
We recognize that government work can have a reputation for being too bureaucratic. In addition, budget cycles, fixed hiring privileges, and traditional organizational structures sometimes make it difficult to hire and onboard talent quickly. But things change.
We are working hard to address these challenges and increase opportunities for technologists to join the federal workforce. The federal government has already taken many steps to take advantage of this moment and alleviate the challenges associated with rapid hiring in the public sector. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the United States’ lead government agency that oversees the federal civilian service, has championed careers in federal IT for those affected by recent layoffs. OPM has hosted industry-specific job fairs, issued new pay guidelines for agencies to leverage funding from previous legislation, and streamlined the process for applicants to find opportunities within government service – including remote work.
If you’re not ready to make a permanent transition to a federal career, many high-impact, short-term opportunities have sprung up in the public sector that allow specialized and highly skilled digital talent to plug into existing avenues. For example, in the Peace Corps, we have Peace Corps Response, which recruits professionals with a variety of skills who know how to hit the ground running in three- to 12-month volunteer assignments. In addition, we launched the Virtual Service Pilot, a comprehensive service opportunity for Returned Peace Corps volunteers to donate their time as a private citizen by working on projects virtually with colleagues in the host country.
The government cybersecurity landscape needs talent as much as yours. According to recent estimates, demand for cybersecurity workers in the public sector is up 25% through 2022, with more than 45,708 new job openings. This ongoing need for cyber talent ranges from cybersecurity engineers and network security architects to cybersecurity analysts and policymakers.
The Office of the National Cyber Director was tasked in the recently released National Cybersecurity Strategy to develop a cyber-personnel and education strategy that will, among other things, develop concrete mechanisms to enable a more diverse group of individuals with different educational backgrounds and professional experiences to find their way within the public service more easily.
We have helped promote inter-agency initiatives, such as techtogov.org, to serve as a resource for technologists moving into government service. This includes helping to facilitate the transition of employees from Big Tech culture to federal IT, organizing job fairs, and compiling actionable recruiting resources on the techtogov.org website.
As you examine the job landscape and consider your next steps, we strongly encourage you to consider the federal service. From enhanced incentives to streamlined hiring processes, serving the American people in the United States government has never been easier or more fruitful. For those who are still not sure, short term opportunities such as those presented to the Peace Corps allow for time period stops as Big Tech tries to reposition itself.
We are both incredibly confident that the Federal Civil Service has an opportunity that would greatly benefit from the expertise of talented technologists like you. We’re excited for you to embark on your own journey to find that perfect fit, and we look forward to serving alongside you.
For job seekers seeking tech opportunities within the federal government, visit usajobs.gov and techtogov.org for more information.