18F Official: We Have Benefits Facebook Doesn't


The GSA group can still attract millennials from top tech firms, even if they have to take a pay cut, according to Chris Cairns.

Agency chief information officers say they struggle to hire top tech talent, especially from the private sector where compensation is often significantly higher. 

But during a panel at the Professional Services Council's Acquisition Technology Conference held yesterday, Chris Cairns, director of tech-group 18F Consulting within the General Services Administration, argued "the government has more leverage to bring in talent than I think it realizes."

The "folks we're trying to recruit from the Googles or the Facebooks or the Apples of the world, we can offer something they can't," Cairns said. While those companies can pay a lot more, millennials are especially drawn to impact projects, he said.

Young tech talent, he said, often doesn't "get a lot of personal gratification working on . . . a to-do list app. The opportunity to come in and fix how the process is working or HealthCare.gov, these are real attractions to these folks and we are able to bring them in, even at a significantly lower salary than they are making now."

Cairns said 18F is also focused on speeding up the hiring cycle to onboard talent in weeks, instead of months. 

During a different panel, Anne Rung, administrator at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget, said her team was interested in hiring tech talent internally.  

"We've decided we're going to recruit career professionals from the agencies to be part of [digital IT acquisition specialist teams]," Rung said. "We purposefully are not recruiting from outside because we believe that we have talent here, and we want to make sure it's embedded in the longterm."

She added that her plan was to recruit detailees from various agencies for stints, and then send them back to their agencies once they'd helped out on specific projects. 

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