Why I’m Coding for Canada: Evan Savage
January 15, 2019
When I mention to people that I’m a Code for Canada fellow, I usually get one of two responses:
- That’s awesome!
- You’re working with the government? Aren’t they slow-moving and terrible at everything?
That second response is, in a nutshell, why I applied for the Code for Canada fellowship. I figured that either it’s true and they need my help, or it’s untrue and more of my fellow developers should know that. (Spoiler alert: at least at the City of Toronto, it’s untrue!)
It’s no great secret that developers are in high demand these days, and that the public sector can’t match Big Tech’s salary, stock, and benefits packages. That said, between Cambridge Analytica, sexist hiring AIs, and a litany of high-profile data breaches, there’s never been a better time for civic tech advocates to ask: as a tech professional in an increasingly tech-driven world, what do you want your impact to be?
Joining Code for Canada as a fellow in 2018, I’ve jumped headlong into a civic tech world newly energized by these concerns. In my first three months, I’ve met multiple teams staffed by highly skilled people with a passion for bringing modern technologies and processes into government. The Geospatial Competency Centre coordinates hundreds of map-based data sources from nearly 40 City divisions; Cloud Services provisions AWS-based deployment environments for City projects; Open Data automates data publishing and maintains the Open Data Portal.
“There’s never been a better time for civic tech advocates to ask: as a tech professional in an increasingly tech-driven world, what do you want your impact to be?”
I’ve also found plenty of room to grow as a developer. This project offers a unique opportunity for me to level up my DevOps skills! I’ve spent much of my career working either for large companies where CI/CD, monitoring, and alerting tools are already in place, or on consulting projects where those tools would be overkill. Here, the project scope makes these tools the right ones for the job, and I get to take the lead in setting them up.
It’s also a great environment for building soft and cross-functional skills. Working closely alongside a designer and product manager, I’ve learned more about those roles than I’d ever had a chance to before. All three of us take an active role in conducting user interviews, running agile sprints, and communicating with stakeholders.
Are there still legacy systems, outdated practices, and slow(er) release cycles? Absolutely — but that’s changing rapidly as more and more skilled tech professionals make the leap to civic tech.
That’s why I’m coding for Canada: to be part of this long-overdue change, to put my skills to use in service of my city, and to learn from those who made this leap before me.