Before I began working in government, at times I was shocked and frustrated by how long what I perceived as simple tasks – getting an invoice paid or having a decision be made – took to be accomplished.
Now that I've been inside government – coming up on four years in April – I appreciate the complexity of these tasks.
Working in the public sector means interacting with many different people, policies and systems in order to get to a basic outcome. In some ways this is a good thing (checks and balances, and all that stuff) but in other ways, the slow pace can lead to cynicism and negativity.
If you've ever studied or had to deal with burnout, you know that a telltale sign is a feeling of ineffectiveness. No matter how hard and long you work, the lack of consistently and repeatedly accomplishing something of significance – in my case that means shipping and having people use what I make – can be deflating and discouraging.
Before government, I came from the software design and development world. I've worked for start-ups. I've been part of teams who made products that succeeded and others that failed. As a result, I'm conditioned and desire to make things, deliver things and seek to have people make use of (and find useful) what we've built.
So, with this in mind I'm starting something. Something that I can directly control, contribute to and more quickly make grow.
Along with a good friend of mine, we're going to build a new software-as-a-service (SaaS) product to be launched later this year.
Thus far, we've done some initial customer and market research, idea validation and lightweight prototyping in the form of sketches and wireframes.
We've asked potential customers what features of their current solution they use most, what features they never or rarely use, what they wish would be fixed or improved, and the pros and cons of their present solution. It's been a very interesting, enlightening and soul-warming experience.
Our next step is to move from these illustrated prototypes to a functional, yet bare-bones product. We'll test what we make with the people we've already met and see what they think, then iterate on our creation.
Today we only have an ember. Today we only have a start. But, no matter how small, the fact is it's ours and together we'll work to bring our new product to life.