The White House

Working at the White House

My first day working at the White House was in January 2011. I had the privilege of running the digital technology team responsible for the security, stability, and scalability of President Obama’s digital presence: WhiteHouse.gov.

The White House is the people’s house, therefore, WhiteHouse.gov is the people’s website. The Administration uses this platform to amplify the President’s message and connect directly with Americans.

When I arrived, the website was exclusively used to publish content about the Administration’s policies. By the time I left, we had launched ‘We the People’, offering millions of Americans the ability to petition the government and engage directly with their elected president.

My Role at the White House

Led digital technology team developing “We the People” petition and advocacy platform.

Oversaw $7 million budget with a contractor team of five companies and 35 people.

Managed complex procurement processes and vendor selections.

Petitioning the government is so important that the Founding Fathers codified it in the last line of the First Amendment of the Constitution: “the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This was the digital realization of James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and other American luminaries from the Revolution.

To emphasize the significance of this initiative, we needed a name with historical gravitas, drawing a direct link between the founding of our country and the delivery of this digital platform. Nothing seemed more appropriate than the three most famous words in U.S. history — We the People — in the preamble to the United States Constitution.

President Obama Announces ‘We the People’

Very rarely, if ever, does one get the privilege of having the President of the United States mention their work, let alone to an audience of world leaders. On September 20th, 2011 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, the President gave his remarks in front of a room full of world leaders about the importance of open government. In his words, he made the commitment that we would be launching ‘We the People’ the next day, and ultimately open source the tool so any government around the world would be able to use it (watch the video below).

We the People - White House
Among our commitments, we’re launching a new online tool — called “We the People” — to allow Americans to directly petition the White House, and we’ll share that technology so any government in the world can enable its citizens to do the same.

The platform galvanized people around good ideas, and streamlined the process for bringing attention to critical issues. Over 500,000 petitions were posted, including 40 million signatures from people around the United States and the world.

One of the earliest high-impact petitions on the platform occurred in early 2012. After collecting over 100,000 signatures online, a grassroots movement pushed the White House to reevaluate its position on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), changing the course of legislative history.

Through ‘We the People’, the people spoke, and the president listened — a process made possible by open source technology.