How’d She Do That? Amy Wilson, Presidential Innovation Fellow


Amy Wilson is a Presidential Innovation Fellow (PIF). The program “brings the innovation economy into government, by pairing talented, diverse technologists and innovators with top civil-servants and change-makers within the federal government to tackle some our nation’s biggest challenges.”

Fellows serve for 12 months inside the federal government as entrepreneurs-in-residence and agencies sign interagency agreements in exchange for services from PIFs.

Amy’s route to the White House to join an elite group of technologists and innovative thinkers isn’t exactly what you’d expect, although there is no standard PIF profile.

She’s an AmeriCorps alum who got her project management start in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, essentially applying an agile development approach to rebuilding storm-damaged homes.

Later, her work on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project gave her the “nuts and bolts” of “getting communities of people together around an idea.”

At Booz Allen Hamilton, she became the technical lead for a crowdsourcing project and learned how to write requirements and became a product manager, “before that was a thing,” she says. “As an innovative person you blaze a trail, then things start coming.”

She says she was “eyeing” the PIF program and applied, but didn’t score an interview. She then decided to go to India for a month.

“The second time was the charm,” she says. “The mentality of the program has changed. You get a mix of all kinds of people – data scientists, hacking, community builders, full stack developers, design thinkers.” But her role as a communicator is just as important. “No project will go forward without good communications and change management,” she says.

Want to find a job you love like Amy did?

  1. Stay true to yourself. “I’m wearing a purple suit here,” she says, to mean she’s not your stereotypical federal employee. “I found something I believed in and I learned what I liked to do.”
  2. Don’t take no for an answer. If you’re an innovator, “that’s inherent to what you do – naysayers. You’re going to ruffle some feathers. You have to defend what you do. It takes a dollop of that, with a pinch of humility.”

Alexis Fabbri is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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