Reinventing my personal blog

10 Oct 2019

We Built This

Photo by Jack Finnigan on Unsplash Photo by Jack Finnigan on Unsplash

Growing up in Singapore, I thought I would one day live in San Francisco. It seemed like the things I liked a lot — music, writing, technology — converged in this town. Last year, I made the move here with my wife and dog. We immediately adopted a huge cat, which seemed to show that this was going to be home.

My diverse career has so far seen me either run companies, or work in startups. I love shipping products with remarkable user experience.

The Current Million People

I have spent the last five years working in developing markets, focused on Next Billion User products. I now turn to Current Million People software for my adopted city of San Francisco.

I see people left behind everyday where I live in the Tenderloin. It is heartbreaking to see such disparity in one of the richest cities in the world.

This is why I jumped at the opportunity to join the team when I (1) found out they existed, and (2) that they were hiring.

Agile in the City

The idea of gov tech is not new. Neither is the concept of using agile methodology in government. As a tech and politics geek, I have observed governments like Estonia and Singapore use technology to improve public services.

The work we do here differs from those countries in several ways, as my boss Carrie Bishop points out. For one, it’s far from “top-down”. I have not been here as long as Carrie has, but I am learning not having centralized control is a feature, not a bug.

The challenge for any product manager is to corral people and resources towards a goal. This goal should preferably overlap with a shared vision for all the people and organizations involved.

All large organizations by definition have some chaos and inertia. Big tech companies and small city governments have more in common with each other than it seems.

Climb Every Mountain

Despite significant challenges ahead, I am excited to be part of the team. How do you design for many languages, reflecting our city’s incredible diversity? How do you make sure services are accessible for people regardless of what they have (or do not)?

For many of us, our interaction with gov tech is frustrating. I am a recent immigrant, and I had to use local and national government software to set up my life here.

A people-centered approach like ours is essential. My coworkers Persis and Anita craft readable content for all San Franciscans. Lauren ensures our city website reflects our diversity and progressive values. Others keep an eye on accessibility.

I now commute daily on foot, bicycle or skates past the San Francisco City Hall. It is usually lit up with different colors for the myriad events we celebrate together. It feels like I have a part to play in this city.

Spotlight on Critical Issues

I have spent the past week learning about our work. DAHLIA makes it easier to apply to rent and buy affordable housing. The Office of Cannabis works to enhance fair access to the cannabis business. Accessory Dwelling Units may be one way to increase our housing supply. California as a whole is taking this approach. We are working on tools to support these programs.

Finally, our team led a redesign of the city’s official website. Read more about this ongoing effort.

Join The Team

Our team is growing. We are looking for content designers and strategists for the growing body of work. Drupal, full stack engineers, and senior product managers to help shape our products.

If you are keen to help make an impact with your skills, check out our openings. We would love to hear from you.