FWDThinking Episode 10: Passing the torch

In collaboration with Coding it Forward

Published On May 10, 2021

All opinions expressed in in these episodes are personal and do not reflect the opinions of the organizations for which our guests work.


Talk to anyone who’s spent more than a short while in government modernization, and they’ll tell you it’s a people problem. The move from physical to digital delivery changes everything: What was once scarce (personalization, for example) is now trivially easy; what we took for granted (in-person identity) is now a deep, thorny problem. What was permanent in the physical world is easy to update in the virtual one. And getting people to recalibrate their behaviour in these new conditions is tough.

Compounding this is the public perception of government. Politics and a 24-hour news cycle mean that public service isn’t at the top of the list of career choices for many new graduates, particularly technical ones. While civic tech organizations like Code for Canada/Code for America bridge the gap between private-sector urgency and public-sector scale, reaching candidates earlier in their careers—only 7% of US Federal employees are under 30—is vital if we’re to navigate digital transformation and swell the ranks of a public sector that needs new ideas and tech-smart teams. 

Coding It Forward is a movement launched in 2017, when a group of students realized there was a real shortage of positions in public service for them to try out. Since that time, the nonprofit has grown to a community of hundreds of fellows, placing technical talent in government fellowships.

Alistair Croll sat down with Ariana Soto, the group’s director of strategic initiatives, as well as two of its fellows—Diana Negron, now a Policy Advisor at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority; and Rachel Stone, now Chief Data Officer in the Utah Governor’s Office of Management and Budget—to discuss the program, succession planning, digital transformation, and how the movement started.

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