Episode 14 - Good Enough for Government Work - Junior Developer Toolbox

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Today, we’ll be looking at what it’s like to be a government software developer, and how this area differs from working in the private sector. We’ll touch on differences in work life balance, how branches of government can affect your work, the impact of the things you’re building, and considerations for all your citizen users.

This week we’re excited to welcome not one, but two special guests!

BJ (Beej) Burns is a junior software engineer at the State of TN, and a colleague and mentor of Dave’s. You may know him as co-host of our sibling podcast, “The Complete Developer Podcast”!

Jason Weakley is a graduate of Nashville Software School, and also a software developer for the State. He hosts a meetup group the “State and Local Government Developers Network”.

There are lots of industries and workforce segments that need software developers, so we want to start exploring a few different ones and how the work and processes differ from one another. For someone job hunting or thinking about an industry transition, let’s discuss some things to consider about working in a government role.

Erin’s first software developer role was with the State of TN as a contractor, in their general “IT department”. Many departments tend to have their own IT/software/etc. departments, but this was like the high-level IT hub of all departments.

She was part of a transition project in which the team was taking ownership over some 80+ applications developed by a third party vendor in which the department decided not to renew a contract with.

The whole team working on this project was brand new (she was one of the first hired onto the team about 2 months after they’d made the decision to not renew the contract and bring everything in house, and they filled the last positions about 2 months or so before the hand-off date).

Each individual was brought on a contractor with the intent to convert once/if they became eligible (certain number of hours worked and if there was an FTE position open).

Public Service vs. Private sector – pros and cons?

Pros:

  • Job Stability; retiring after 20 years
  • Flexibility – what kind? work/life balance – work 37.5 hours a week vs. traditional 40
  • Time off
  • Benefits
    • Health insurance (supposedly offers some of the best coverage for the most reasonable price)
    • Pension Plan (one of the few organization that still offers these)
    • Student loan forgiveness after 10 years

Cons:

  • Bureaucracy
    • Erin – finding the bureaucracy/red tape situation very similar in my current healthcare position. Maybe it has to do with the amount of personal information your organization deals with (PHI for healthcare, criminal records, etc. in government)
  • Slow salary growth, less competitive (only about 85% max of what you’d earn in the same job in the private sector)
  • (LCD – workers who do the bare minimum?) (stereotype)
  • Lots of rules around interactions with vendors, 3rd party companies, etc. They cannot buy you meals or otherwise give you any gifts because for public service people it could be seen as a bribe for policy, even if you aren’t a high-ranking official.

Difference in mission – affecting people’s lives, vs always focusing on profits, bottom-line, etc?

  • Government departments aims to do well by the people because they are largely funded by taxpayer dollars;
  • Private sector – people can choose whether or not to pay for the services provided, so the mission is often different; can also aim to help the people at large by expanding the business and number of people they serve

Do you feel like you are making an impact?

  • Progress often gets caught up and lost in process. Processes are often there for a reason, but when you can’t get people to collaborate or agree on a mission or best practices, etc. you often hold up work getting done and reaching the end user in a timely fashion.

Thanks for listening! See you next time!

26 episodes available. A new episode about every 14 days averaging 46 mins duration .