Code for America Yearbook is an ongoing series of my interviews with 2013 Fellows about their year at CfA. Last week I sat down with Sheila and here’s what he had to say.
Name: Sheila Dugan
Fellowship City: Oakland, CA
Hometown: North Charleston, SC
Current Neighborhood: Lake Merritt, Oakland
Role: 2013 Fellow
Q: How did you find out about the Code for America Fellowship?
Since graduate school, I’ve been interested in how technology can be used to improve the provision of government services. Code for America was one of the few organizations doing meaningful work in this space. Instead of criticizing governments and focusing on what is not being done, CfA rolls up its sleeves and works with governments to find solutions.
Q: What lead to your decision to accept the 2013 Fellowship offer?
I knew it would be one of the biggest challenges in my professional career. It was an opportunity to be a part of a project from its inception and shape its development.
Q: So, your Fellowship city this year is Oakland — can you speak to what the government culture is like there?
Oakland was ready for the Fellowship. Most city staff members understand they need to find innovative solutions to problems. The City doesn’t have as much money or staff members as they had in the past. They are looking to change and have fresh ideas.
Q: What is your role on the Oakland team?
I have a background in public policy. I attend working group meetings on the process surrounding the provision of public records and think about how internal City policies impact our development.
Q: What are some of your favorite places to hang out in Oakland?
I love walking around Lake Merritt. I also enjoy buying books from Walden Pond Books.
Q: Describe your neighborhood in three words–Go!
I live near Lake Merritt. My neighborhood is beautiful, friendly, and diverse.
Q: Who are some people in government that inspire you?
Nicole Neditch. She has done an incredible amount of work in Oakland with so few resources.
Q: What books are you reading right now?
Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War Two by Keith Lowe and Dust Tracks on a Road, an autobiography of Zora Neale Hurston.
Q: What’s something that you’ve learned about government and/or tech that’s surprised you?
I was surprised to discover that there are people really willing to take risks in government. Currently, most city departments are using our web application. They understand that for us to build something that truly meets their needs, they need to use the web app while we’re still developing it.
Q: Do you have any advice for future Fellows?
This Fellowship gives you a lot of freedom. You have to feel comfortable setting your own agenda.
Q: Where do you see yourself a year from now?
I decided to stay in Oakland. I would love to work at a foundation that supports the work of groups like Code for America.
Questions? Comments? Keep the conversation going and tweet @SheilaLD with more questions!