Clementine Breslin: Why I’m Coding For America

My mother has worked for the government all of my life. I mean, quite literally, all of my life. I was barely a year old when my mother interviewed to be an Assistant United States Attorney. She got the job and has been working in the city of Newark, New Jersey for more than twenty years. My father also works in Newark but in an adversarial role; he is a defense lawyer. I know that both of my parents believe in the power of the government and its ability to affect change. That’s why they have dedicated their lives to interpreting the law and serving the city of Newark. And that is why I’m here today.

Visiting the Federal building in Newark is an experience one never forgets. I’ve seen strollers with infants in tow pushed through the building’s metal detectors. Clearly, security in government buildings is always high, but in this case it is doubly so, because the city of Newark has a reputation. Cory Booker has done a lot to change that reputation and Newark is developing, but the city still has a pall of crime hanging over it. Let’s just say the city is buffering.

What always struck me most about visiting my mother’s office was the outdated technology. Despite its armored lobbyway, labyrinth of elevators, and swipe access hallways, inside her office, my mother’s computer monitor and modem was a dinosaur. Tyrannosaurus-blegh. Even more embarrassingly, her office’s internet connection was dial-up for years and always glacially slow. And the federal website was about as low-tech as it gets. And if you are asking yourself if there were any applications or widgets? You can forget it. My mom will be the first to admit that bureaucrats do not enjoy the most cutting edge technology. That is not one of their benefits.

When I first heard about CfA’s mission, I knew I had to be a part of it. I am joining CfA, to work as Jen Pahlka’s assistant. After I saw Jen’s TED talk, I was floored. And when I saw the job posting to work as her executive assistant, I couldn’t believe my luck.

I am not a coder, in fact not even close. I am here because I am sharp, adaptable, and because I believe in Code for America’s mission. Most of all I have always wanted to learn about coding. I get a buzz from getting to work amongst CfA’s talented class of fellows. I may not always understand the languages they speak, but I am honored to be a part of what they do.

I believe in the power of technology to make government more efficient and open. And Code for America is working hard to change the ways government can utilize technology. My parents always taught me to never give up on government and I never have. That is why I’m coding for America.

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