Alpha Geeks

Medium ran a piece two weeks ago profiling CTO Megan Smith and Deputy CTO Alex Macgillivray, who they described as the "White House Alpha Geeks."  I was struck by one part of the interview in particular.  Quoting Megan Smith: 

I realize now there’s two things we techies should do — one is go where there are lots of us, like MIT or Silicon Valley or whatever, because you can move really fast and do extraordinary things. The other is, go where you’re rare. People here are incredibly entrepreneurial, they are incredibly mission driven, they are really talented. They’re really good at economics, they’re really good at speech writing, they are really amazing at legislation. They’re not as technical as us. There is literally a seat missing of the technical person at the table and we need to add that. And so we need to show up. Just like the lawyers have clerking on their resume, we need to rotate in and out of government, or it won’t be as good as it needs to be.

Technologists need a seat at the policymaking table in Congress.  

It's not that this expertise wouldn't be embraced.  I often mention that when my colleagues on Rep. Waxman's Health Subcommittee wrote the Affordable Care Act in 2009 and 2010, we had three health practitioners on staff (out of a total 15).  But that's in part because there are programs that are bringing doctors and nurses and hospital administrators into Congress to bring that practitioner point of view and build the health policy ecosystem.  

Members of Congress would love to have specific, subject-matter level knowledge about technology.   But this kind of talent simply isn't making it through the door.  That's got to change.