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My Personal Code for America Effect

I know that there are lots of opinions, both negative and positive, that are swirling around the local government community with regards to Code for America. It’s easy for us to get defensive about our jobs because, well, we’re used to having to be on the defensive. Government doesn’t have a positive image with the general public. We all know that.

It’s not my place to tell anyone how to feel about the work CfA is doing. However, I thought I would share the effect Code for America has had on me and my life.

At the 2011 NAGW conference, two CfA fellows, Jeremy Canfield and Michelle Koeth, and a Civic Commons employee, Karl Fogel, presented pre-conference and regular sessions. They also attended a lot of sessions. (By the way, they were truly in awe of NAGW, attendees and speakers). Karl and Jeremy and Michelle helped me open source a small project, my National Weather Service Parser, and get it up on GitHub. We also talked at great length, individually and during group discussions in a session or two, about open source in government, and particularly about sharing code amongst governments.

They couldn’t know it, but they helped me achieve (and set) some important goals. A year prior, my job stagnating, I had made a conscious choice to grow my skills in certain areas in the hopes of propelling myself forward, one way or another. The goals were mostly technical: learn a PHP framework and OOP; open source some projects; learn how to use a version control system like Git, etc.

They helped me achieve some of those goals, but more importantly, they helped me solidify a more overarching goal: to continue to work within government, on open source, collaborative, intergovernmental projects. Pie in the sky stuff, but it gave me a reason to keep pressing forward with my technical goals.

This fall I was fortunate enough to be hired by the City of Boulder to work on an open source, collaborative, intergovernmental project. For the past two years this has been the dream I’ve been working towards. I keep pinching myself to make sure it’s real. I’ve reached my pie in the sky 🙂

The point of this is that sometimes it takes an external force to affect an internal change. These three individuals from CfA had a very positive effect on me that literally changed my entire life. Perhaps more importantly, they showed me that there are people outside of government who appreciate my work; and they very consciously and unselfishly gave their time and effort to help me make positive changes from the inside.

That’s my personal CfA effect.

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Michelle K.

Congrats on the new position working in Boulder on open source projects, and I’m so happy for you that you’ve accomplished a career goal, and that as a CfA fellow, I helped you towards that goal. I hope your story inspires people to get involved with a local CfA Brigade (http://brigade.codeforamerica.org/) – another great way that people can explore working with open source and new technologies.