Justin Herman (@justinherman)
Center for Excellence in Digital Government, Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, General Services Administration
What inspires you to work for government?
Public service has always attracted me for a career, from my service as an active-duty Air Force officer and later as a Congressional aide, to the work I do today improving customer services and saving agencies money. Combine that with the knowledge that right now is a historic time and place in the evolution of government and technology, and you’ll usually find me quite enthusiastic to put on a tie and head to the office in the morning.
What does your typical day look like?
When I have a typical day, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, each day I’m talking and listening to agencies across the government to inform the federal-wide programs, policies, and training we handle here at the Center for Excellence in Digital Government. My bottom line is to find social media solutions we can provide all agencies that will reduce overall costs, and improve services – not an easy task when the tools, tactics and culture rapidly changes. Each Friday I telework from a different agency as part of my “No Presentations” tour, styled after Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” show on Travel Channel. I don’t want to see a slide deck, I want to see the office first hand, watch the mission in action, taste the coffee from the third floor, and really get an idea of what the challenges and opportunities are. Always on my mind though is performance metrics – it’s my passion and mantra for the year, finding the best social media performance metrics and bringing them to agencies.
What advice do you have for senior level executives to help them cultivate the next generation of public servants?
Performance metrics. Senior level executives should provide a firm structure of accountability and performance reporting geared towards the goal – and then step out of the way. Especially with social media, the best solutions are the ones we haven’t thought of yet and we need the confidence of our leaders to try new things.
Do you have any mentors? If so, what role have they played in your career?
Sometimes in innovative areas of government like social media you can feel a bit like Major Tom from David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” traveling one hundred thousand miles in space, hoping your ship knows which way to go. You don’t get to spend a lot of time looking back unless its with a jukebox in the small hours of the evening. Luckily, however, there are richly experienced mentors who may not have walked the same path as you, but certainly planted far more flags atop mountains in the exploration of government innovation. I am blessed that I am literally surrounded by some of the best minds in the field – Dave McClure, Sheila Campbell, Gwynne Kostin, Tammi Marcoullier to name a few. Just last week Gray Brooks detailed over to our shop from the FCC to support the Digital Government Strategy – really, at some point you’ve got to feel a little sorry for any roadblocks we may face.
What’s your favorite DC hangout?
Wednesday nights is bocce night, so you’ll find an unofficial OCSIT team, “Oh We Wanna Dance with Some Bocce,” out in the park. We were undefeated in the Spring. Perfect season – no big deal. I’m currently enamored with shows by DJ Baby Alcatraz on U Street – she spins old 45’s of soul music from the 1950’s and ’60s. We have a saying, if you don’t like dancing to Baby Alcatraz, you cannot be loved.
How do you unwind?
What’s that? You know, I don’t find myself terribly spun up at the end of the day because I enjoy the struggles just as much as the wins in my job. Bocce ball gets me wound up, but government social media is like a more wonderful Rubik’s cube. When certain times do arise, though, I have been known to materialize at karaoke night on Capitol Hill. I’d like to think I sing like a bird made out of crystal, but as long as no one is recording then I guess I’ll never have to disprove that notion. Why? Because there’s no performance metrics for karaoke.