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Meet The Geeks: The D.C. Tech Corps’s Leading Edge

Here’s why these techies chose to leave startups and top tech companies to serve the public good.

When President Dwight Eisenhower established NASA in 1958, he called on the country’s top scientists to bring their talents to the government. At the time, outer space was still a vast, unexplored mystery, and by joining NASA, astronauts had the opportunity to discover the rest of the universe “for the benefit of all,” to use the organization’s motto.

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Half a century later, when President Barack Obama was elected into office, he issued a similar call to America’s scientists, but this time, there is a different mission at stake. Today’s government scientists are tasked with deploying the latest technology to bring the government into the digital era, allowing it to more effectively deliver services to the American people.

Obama’s Mod Squad, from left: Todd Park, Haley Van Dyck, Mikey Dickerson, and Hillary Hartley

A team of engineers, coders, and developers have answered his call, leaving startups and top technology companies across the country for new posts in Washington, D.C.

When we asked members of the tech corp why they chose to make the switch from the private sector to the public sector, they explained that saw an opportunity to use their specialized skills to improve people’s lives, from making Healthcare.gov as user-friendly as possible to ensuring that veterans receive support as soon as they need it.

For DJ Patil, the U.S. chief data officer, working for the government has been every bit as challenging–and as satisfying–as he had expected. “They say the greatest jobs are the ones you laugh in, cry in; work with the world’s best, and just maybe you’ll have a chance to change the world,” he says. “That’s every day in this job. Every day I get to wake up and work on things that will directly impact my kids’ lives and their future kids’ lives. That’s what I’d call the definition of epic.”

Scroll through the slideshow to learn more about what makes Obama’s techies tick and why they want to bring the latest technology to the White House.

About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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