TheBridge profile: Matt Cutts
Name: Matt Cutts
Current city: Washington, DC
Current job: Director of United States Digital Service (USDS)
Past job: Head of Webspam Team at Google
Q. Favorite spot for a coffee meeting? Teaism on H St.
Q. Describe how a skill you learned in a previous job helped you in your current job. Public speaking. More than just talking at a group, the ability to connect with people and explain things differently is particularly useful in our work. Bringing modern technology to the federal government means helping a diverse group of people understand and apply technical concepts in order to meet their needs.
Q. Job advice in three words? Enable other people.
Q. How are you (or your company, org, nonprofit) currently bridging the gap between politics and tech / innovation and regulation? We have a lot of people coming in from the tech industry who can serve as translators between government and technology. Our goal is to improve government services for all people. To do so effectively requires understanding aspects of both worlds.
Q. What can Silicon Valley (innovators) teach DC (regulators)? The government can learn about how tech companies build good things quickly. A few lessons we espouse at the U.S. Digital Service includes talking to potential users early and often. Sometimes things that appear risky aren’t particularly threatening. Learn from the efforts (and mistakes) of others. Don’t reinvent the wheel, and look for existing solutions and build on top of them. Resist the urge to build custom code every time.
Q. What can DC (regulators) teach Silicon Valley (innovators)? Silicon Valley starts with early adopters in mind while government has to think of all its users. Government also does a better job representing the entire diversity of the United States. Silicon Valley could learn from civil servants’ deep understanding of mission-driven, meaningful work. That sense of purpose is harder to find in the technology industry compared to government.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you’re still trying to master? Work on important things, not just urgent things, or whatever’s in your email inbox.
Q: Favorite app? I really enjoy how Strava, a fitness app, lets me give kudos to my friends for a job well done and they can give me good wishes as well. It’s a great example of how technology can help us empower each other to be our best selves.
Q: When was the last time you were totally unplugged? The other weekend I rented a kayak. Paddling on the water was really nice. But it’s not a good idea to bring your phone kayaking with you. I also went skydiving right before and decided not to write any emails on the way back down.
Q: My morning routine? I normally wake up and go for a 2-3 mile run in the morning. I have better energy and focus if I get some exercise in the morning.
Q: How often do you work from home? Whenever I’m home.
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