Foreign exchange program exposes Middle Eastern girls to computer coding
July 29, 2015
The State Department program, started in 2011, introduces nearly 30 teenage girls from the Middle East to Java programming and advanced computer coding.
Lauren Bailey (@LaurenBaileyVA) Deputy Director, Online Communications U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
When I was looking for a serious career after graduate school, I was drawn immediately to government service. Working for a government agency, especially VA, combines the opportunity to contribute directly to a mission while providing services to the U.S. or a specific group of citizens.
My team starts as soon as we’re awake. I swear we all sleep next to our blackberries and iPhones. We meet in person at VA Central office at 9 and we’re off. My responsibilities are centered around ensuring that we are reaching Veterans online and implementing the department’s digital strategy. So, I split my day between helping my team (made up of Kate Hoit, Alex Horton and Josh Tuscher) get the right info to the right Veteran at the right time on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube Flickr and our blog VAntage Point, and meeting with our web colleagues throughout the department to hammer out web standards and governance for the rest of our web properties. We always always make sure everyone eats, hopefully together, to have a little mid afternoon downtime. We’re wrapped by 6 and (because my husband forces me to be home before they lock the office) we’re all usually communicating until I pass out (shameless around 9!).
Frankly, I’ve met a lot of SES-level people at VA who really are working to ensure that the younger VA employees have the opportunity to be cultivated. I think going forward, that mentoring and engaging with younger employees should be part of their performance requirements. I was lucky to meet so many amazing men and women at the SES level at VA, but I’m concerned that not everyone has the same opportunity because, let’s face it, our SESers are so busy trying to meet mission they might need a gentle reminder we younger employees need some of their time, too.
I’m fortunate enough to have four really great formal mentors, all of whom work at VA. My current boss, Brandon Friedman, Director of Online Communications, encourages me daily to not rest on my laurels and to push myself outside of my professional comfort zone. My most recent boss, Dr. Peter Levin, VA’s Chief Technology Officer, recognized my potential for leadership and execution and pulled me onto his team. He taught me so much about systems thinking, writing and navigating the bureaucracy. My first two formal mentors, Stephanie Burns and Genie McCully were instrumental to inspiring me to find my niche at VA and pursue projects that I’m passionate about. They’re also amazing strong female role models.
I’m a big eater so if I’m in DC for dinner (my husband and I live in Arlington) we hit up La Tasca in Chinatown or We the Pizza on Capitol Hill. We also love Ted’s Bulletin for brunch and Granville Moore’s on H Street for a low key date night.
This might seem counterintuitive, but I run. It’s the only time when I’m not checking email, Twitter, Facebook or fielding phone calls. It’s totally selfish but I’m completely alone and reliant on myself to get from point A to point B. It makes me feel strong and capable.
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