Direct messaging: Angie Quirarte
Civic techie, bureaucracy hacker, dot connecter
December 6, 2017
Let’s start with your personal story. How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up in humble beginnings and benefited from public services that I now work on to improve.
The morning of September 11, 2001 I was at the Mexican border with my parents and two younger brothers. The uncertainty of the promised American Dream was worth the risk of leaving our lives and family behind. I never imagined myself working in government; but now that I am here, I realize that this is where you can honestly make a difference.
I found my way to public service through the Capital Fellows Program as an Executive Fellow in 2013 after graduating from UCSB. As an Executive Fellow I was exposed to the highest levels of state government and worked on policy issues that strive to make government better.
I didn’t think I’d stay in Sacramento after the fellowship, but the work and the mission made me fall in love with public service. What is your role with the state of California, and what are you working on?
I was recently promoted as the new Assistant Secretary for Digital Engagement at the California Government Operations Agency (GovOps). The Agency oversees the departments with functions that make government run, including technology, procurement, and the state civil service workforce.
Within the Innovation and Accountability team at GovOps, I primarily work on policy and pilot programs that help create tomorrow’s government today by delivering better digital services, promoting the use of data to drive decision-making, and putting Californians and users at the center when designing technology projects meant to serve them.
Over the last few years I have focused on building and sustaining the open data program for the state and most recently helped coordinate the creation of the new Department of Tax and Fee Administration within a span of six weeks.
My role is to identify pockets of innovation, pilot, implement and iterate!
What’s the state of open data in California and what can we expect in the future?
Open data has slowly evolved at the state level. When I first started no one knew what open data was or why it was important. The world was fastly publishing data and I was working on steering the state in the same direction.
As I learned more about our departments and what other governments were doing, I realized that the important thing wasn’t how many datasets we could publish. What matters is the quality of the data and what one does with it.
With this in mind we highly encourage and guide that departments that publish data onto data.ca.gov must also have civic engagement. This not only validates the value of the data, but also creates a collaborative environment where government can partner with others to solve common problems.
I hope to apply more of this for the future of open data in California. We have to democratize the access of data to the people affected by programs that aren’t using it to drive positive change.
Can you share more about NxtGov and why it matters?
NxtGov is a network of public servants and partners that know government has the potential to work better for its people.
I founded NxtGov to bring pride into the profession of public service and recruit the next generation of government leaders. We provide a safe space for change agents that want to connect with others and provide professional development opportunities and community engagement events. We consult government agencies on things they should consider when recruiting and training the next generation workforce and actively coach students on the benefits of working for the state and recruit and onboard them into the state workforce.
NxtGov matters because we break the silos of government and empower our members to become change agents in their departments. We make a difference by identifying key issues affecting our workforce now and bringing decision makers to the table to address the problems as the arise.
Can you share more about the Eureka Institute and why it matters?
The Eureka Institute is a hub of the Innovation and Accountability team within GovOps.
We established the Eureka Institute to make sure that government has a space to constantly innovate. Our focus lies on innovating government by developing programs, pilots, training and tools that develop our people, improve our processes, and leverage our technology to drive better program outcomes.
Within Eureka we have the CA Statewide Leadership Academy, the CA Lean Academy, and CalData which includes the open data program. These programs are changing the way the departments operate and that matters because the Eureka Institute allows government to adapt to a changing world.
While most people would think that innovation comes from fancy technology and robots, I’ve come to learn that innovation is just another word for adaptation. Government bureaucracies must adapt their business operations in a changing world so that people can work collaboratively and leverage tools to better prepare for the government of the future.
Who are your government heroes?
I am surrounded by many individuals at all levels who inspire me on a daily basis.
Working in public service you encounter people of all backgrounds, and I have a long list of people I’d love to recognize, but one of the most influential heroines is my boss and GovOps Agency Secretary Marybel Batjer. She was recently named as one of Governing’s Public Official of the Year, and she deserves the recognition. I’ve been fortunate to witness many leadership styles over the last few years, and she stands out for her kindness and ability to dive in. I strive to learn from her leadership and kind demeanor. Marybel constantly reminds us that we are here to serve the public.
July 13, 2022
What’s happened with you since we last spoke?
I helped create and lead a few versions of the Office of Digital Innovation, supported the statewide web accessibility implementation, the creation of its community of practice and was also part of the DMV Strike team that Governor Gavin Newsom assembled in early 2019.
All those efforts informed the work we modeled when I led the Alpha team which created a new approach to building digital government services using multidisciplinary skills and modeling working in the open, prioritizing performance, readability and accessibility.
The Alpha team was then tasked to help support all digital aspects of the COVID-19 response including covid19.ca.gov and myturn.ca.gov. We led by using data and user feedback to inform policy and product decisions like improving vaccination rates through campaigns like vaccinateall58.com.
I’ve also taken on a new role outside of state government and will be moving to DC this fall!
For those who aren’t familiar, what was the Alpha project?
Alpha was an effort to re-imagine the way that California state government creates and delivers services to its residents through CA.gov as the ecosystem and the homepage of all online services.
I built a multi-disciplinary team of engineers, designers, product designers, user researchers and content designers. The team was made up of people from outside government and stellar civil servants.
In 14 weeks we created 20 redesigned experiences and our approach was unique in that we would meet people where they were without assuming what they needed.
Our entire team tested our ideas and prototypes on $20 dollar phones and with people on the street including those unhoused and those seeking to get unemployment insurance. We visited Paradise to observe how the town residents were recovering from the devastating wildfires and to find opportunities for government to improve how it serves people in disaster response and recovery.
The way we worked was special. Everything we worked on was available on GitHub and you could follow-our progress in our project board. We instituted accessibility, performance and readability as key metrics of our prototypes. We honored the expertise of the civil servants overseeing their programs, and we made sure they were at the table with us and that they would inform our assumptions.
Leading the team and the new way of work was truly inspiring, and I think the principles we created as part of that work remain in practice with everyone that was involved and those that remain serving at California Department of Technology and Office of Digital (Data &) Innovation.
And the COVID response efforts?
COVID response was a humbling experience.
Our team was tasked with launching the covid19.ca.gov response site and we did it in the span of four days. From there we supported the ever-evolving programs and policies that were part of the response. This required our team to be aligned with every state entity and leader that was participating in the effort. We worked closely with our colleagues at the Department of Public Health and had a seat at the table (most of the time) with critical partners in the response.
Our team grew by three times the size, and we led efforts in data reporting around cases, testing, vaccines and supported critical outreach campaigns to incentivize Californians to get vaccinated.We also established the funnel analytics reporting for myturn.ca.gov to gauge where and when people couldn’t sign up to get a vaccine and coordinated content strategy across every product being released.
I firmly believe that these informed policy decisions, and we were there capturing user feedback and pain points as Californians lived through the pandemic. We were there along each time the state released guidance on how people could stay safe and were able to capture their confusion, frustration and hope.
Being able to work in such volatile and ambiguous times was demanding for me as a leader and for our team. But we instituted healthy habits to keep us motivated and created spaces to recover. One of our team members just posted about this on a blog, and I’m glad that they were able to capture the spirit of our team at that time.
What are you working on now?
I left the state in mid-November 2021 and joined the Tech Talent Project team as the Federal Partnerships Director.
I lead the federal partnerships portfolio of the organization and one aspect of that portfolio is to work with leaders across all federal agencies and help them think through challenges and opportunities in tech and service delivery. I get to apply my California experience as an executive and a ‘dot connector’ in the context of our federal government while supporting their broader tech talent needs with a focus on recruiting modern technical leaders.
If you or anyone you know is curious about serving in government, or if you are currently in the federal government and seeking tech talent in your organization - let’s connect.