In this episode, we talk with Anita Cheng about designing better government services during Covid-19.
This is UX radio. Here are your hosts, Lara Fedoroff and Chris Chandler.
Today we’re talking with Anita Cheng. She is a former cancer researcher who went into tech to help people faster. She gets to do just that working for the government, currently for San Francisco digital services. As the content designer, she’s worked on COVID-19 response and cannabis business permits. Previously, she worked on the websites for affordable housing programs in San Francisco, as well as building inspection at the City of Los Angeles. Anita has given talks at AI conference.gov design Code for America summit, League of California Cities, and confab. We’re really excited to talk with Anita today about her significant impact on the government. Hi, and welcome to UX radio. This is Lara Fedoroff.
And I’m Chris Chandler. And today we are super excited to have a conversation with one of our favorite people Anita Cheng, who is a content designer at the San Francisco City digital services offices. Welcome, Anita.
Hi, I’m really happy to be here. And to see my friends here in a while.
You’ve had such an amazing background and in this circuitous way that you came about this path can you like start us off and just tell us about your journey?
Yeah, so I’m going to try and make a long story short. In a previous life, I was doing cancer research, I was a molecular biologist in a lab, and I really liked doing the benchwork like the pipetting all the stuff you see on CSI, but I was not that interested in keeping up the actual research into like reading the papers and all that stuff. And I wasn’t that interested in going to grad school because I was like, I like science, but not that much to do it like one project for like five years. I also didn’t want to go to med school. So I just sort of stuck around until I figured I’d find something interesting. And then I discovered UX kind of by accident. I like to tell people the story because it’s a little bit incredulous. But I discovered an alternate reality game for the movie, The Dark Knight. And after it was over, it was like one and a half years of all these puzzles and events and all this like content that sort of rained down upon us. And we had fun trying to sort everything out. And after it was all over, I was like someone should make an archive of this. And then my next thought was, well, that someone should be me because clearly, nobody else is going to. And that turned into my first website where I discovered IA (Information Architecture) and UX. And like that there was a name for all the stuff that I found actually found very, very interesting and exciting in a way that I had really felt before. And then after almost a year, I made this website of 475 pages, I learned front-end like HTML, CSS to do it. And then I was like, Well, if it’s been a year of me working on this, and I still love it, I should probably do it for a job. And that was really like the turning point where I decided that I was going to try and get into UX. And after a few years of cobbling together education and going to all the meetups and meeting Chris and Lara. Like the awesome people, and the LA UX community. I eventually got my first job actually in government, which was purely by luck, I’m sure. And I think like that, that was kind of the runway or the launchpad that really propelled me to all of these other amazing things, these opportunities that I couldn’t have foreseen before, but I feel that like those early days where I was learning everything and meeting everyone has really paid dividends. So that’s the longish, short-ish story.
Yeah. Tell us about that first job in Los Angeles. And then why did you leave us to move to San Francisco?
Yeah, so that first job was actually I was a UX team of one I was doing everything. And it’s interesting because, in the government, we don’t have proper job titles. We just call my job a Content Designer because that’s essentially what the role is, but my actual job title is Technology Expert 1, which means nothing. It’s just sort of a catch-all for everything. And I think in LA that was kind of the same thing I got in touch with a recruiter who found me randomly and was like, Hey, I think that you’d be good for this job. And it was like a Website Content Editor or something like that, where it was kind of a webmaster role. But then I looked in the description, and it was mostly IA like we were organized content. And I was like, I can do that, but ended up also having to code the entire site as well. So, the job that I had was at the building department in Los Angeles, which is like building permits, and inspections, and construction things. So I learned a lot about how buildings are made in Los Angeles, which is incredibly complicated. And just as complicated, maybe even more in San Francisco. I mean, complicated building permits are incredibly complex. And then I ended up making their Department website and it’s still online, it still functions essentially the way that I built it like five years later. So it’s like, well, I must have built it really well. If they’re still using it. Yeah, and then the reason why I moved up was essential because of my husband’s job, like he had found a job in San Francisco and, and I basically moved up to be with him. But at the same time, I want to make sure that I would find a job that was as impactful as the one I had in LA. And I really lucked out, like it did seem like a good stepping stone for me as the next step for my career, because it was essentially the same job as an LA but I will be doing somewhat less coding and a little more user research. So I was like, Oh, this is actually really cool. I would get to learn about, you know, affordable housing, which is just as complex and gnarly as building permits, probably even more so. But at least I would not have to, like, debug everything, which was very exciting. I was still a UX team of one, but at least like, well, I’m just gonna not do as much coding. So that was very exciting for me.
So what would you say is your current biggest challenge? What’s keeping you up at night?
What is well, I am actually, it’s been a lot better. Because last winter, like at the end of last year, I found out I was pregnant, I thought that I would have to do a lot more transitional work. In terms of like, Okay, if we’re still, like locked down, if we’re still in the throes of reopening, which is really complicated to keep track of, I will have to teach someone else to do this. And now, today, June 15, for those folks who are not in California, this is our big reopening day where everything is reopening. And so I don’t have to think about that as much anymore. Which is, which is such a huge relief. Because I was really worried about that. And I was like, I don’t know, I can teach somebody to like, read the health orders as fast as like, I don’t know how I can do that. So that’s really the part that’s keeping me up at night is trying to teach someone else to do what I do, just in case we have to be able to do it when I’m not here.
Yeah, well actually tell us a little bit more about the current role in that because, you know, I’ve been, you know, in the crazy year that we’ve all had, I think you found yourself in an interesting position. And actually speaking, you know about public policy and being an outspoken advocate for public safety. Like I really felt like, you know, you had a very interesting role in this last year. So say more about what you’ve been doing. You just had a little bit.
Let’s start from the very beginning, I hope. So when Cisco first declared a state of emergency, I believe, February 25, last year, and then that was mostly a way for the mayor to be able to take people from other departments from all sorts of departments and have us work a role just for that emergency. Because at the time, we didn’t have any cases, even in San Francisco, it was like, oh, but this is like a formality that like we have to use in order to say like, okay, you used to work in the HR department, but we’re going to take you and put you into the Emergency Operations Center, or the EEOC. And our team was asked for essentially a webmaster, like, you know, website content editor, whoever. And then we were like, well, we’re digital services. We don’t do webmaster things. So we’re gonna send a visual designer and a content person like we need a content person there in this emergency so people can make sense and like No, actually what is going on. And so in those early days, it was like everybody was trying to figure out how to work this particular emergency. Because usually, if you have an ESC it’s like for a fire or an earthquake. And it’s something that’s kind of short-term. So like, people were thinking, like, should we make everybody do 12 hour days for like two weeks, and then, later on, they’re like, well, this is gonna, this is gonna take a while. So let’s not burn everybody out. And those early days, we had like two weeks shifts. And I was actually the third content person for my team to go and I was the one who sort of lasted those two weeks because my brain actually loves all the context switching, which a lot of other people can’t keep up with just because you’re just doing five things at once. And I’ll say, Oh, this is great. I love it. And so I then was recruited to stay as a content designer for the entire year, and I will finally be demobilized on June 30, which is when we move out of Moscone, which is where the EEOC finally moved into. And my role originally was to take whatever the departments gave me in terms of content and put it up on https://sf.gov/, which was our new city website at the time, it was made to be user friendly, it was made to be accessible, we already had content principles for it, it was like, okay, we’re going to aim for grade five. So none of this, like legalize, health order language, because for this, like, we really need the public’s help in this pandemic, to make sure that, like we can save lives. And I think it was actually a really good thing that I stayed on so long because trying to make everything user-centered, I think a lot of people were aware of, but they didn’t know how to do it. Like a lot of people get scared when you try to change their stuff to redesign their stuff to rewrite their content is very scary for a lot of people. And the fact that I stayed there for over a year like people could see the work that I was doing, and people could start to trust me. When I would rewrite their content, it would be like, oh, like Anita is rewriting our content, but she’s making it better. Like she’s not taking away our power. She’s like, actually helping us make sure that people understand what we mean. And having that time, and that trust has been really invaluable.
That’s amazing, especially how you’re able to overcome that trust issue.
It’s been also really interesting, because even early on, we had a couple of champions in the Department of Public Health who, who really, like supported us and championed for us, which was so important, because a lot of times when it’s just, you don’t have anybody, like in leadership really fighting for you. It’s just such a losing battle. But like, we got really, really lucky that we had a couple of like, really great champions. That’s great. DPH. Yeah, yeah.
You mentioned the content principles. And I know, there’s a lot of different methodologies for coming up with those, I’m curious about how you tackled that.
Most of our content principles we actually adapted from other content principles that other people had, such as https://www.gov.uk/. So we have some people on our team, who, who is from the UK Government, as well as a civic tech space. And I think that a lot of people acknowledge that they have really been the leaders and the pioneers in terms of content design. And so my boss is actually from Gov.UK, and we took their principles, and we remixed them for San Francisco because San Francisco is really special in that they really cared about equity. That’s something that San Francisco really cares about. And so we have to point out equity and like we are, and we are trying to give a voice to people who don’t usually have one. And so that’s how we came up with them. So the kind of principles I’m looking at in our documentation is:
- Start with people
- Make it easy
- Right for everyone
- Engage communities
- Earn interest
- Hold ourselves to account
- Digital first
…which was especially important in this pandemic, because a lot of government processes are done in person, but we could not do them in person during this past year. So it was really the point at which people had to acknowledge that they had to be digital. They were being forced to, and it wasn’t like a matter of like, Oh, I want to it’s like no, you have to.
I’m very curious. I don’t have any experience or know anything about doing user research in a government context. Like how do you manage that and how is it different do you think?
I did some user research when I was doing COVID work, it’s really hard because it’s just so busy all the time. But I did have a team who has been doing research as well. And I guess it’s also hard for me to say, because I’ve only worked in government and UX, this is sort of how it happens. But I think recruiting is a challenge. I believe recruiting is always a challenge, no matter what. For the housing department, I did manage to do some user research as a UX team of one by asking the program staff for people who had gone through the process and would be willing to talk about it. Yeah, it was actually a really interesting experience for me, because I had never talked to someone who had like, gone through the process before and just learning what it was like for them was like, wow, like, where you have to jump from, like this service to the service, the service, like the scenes are just like, gaping, and it’s like, wow, we should, we need to try and fix this, it’s gonna be hard, but we can do it. For COVID and especially digital services, we do make an effort to recruit underserved communities. So we have been working with community partners, and CBO’s, which are community-based organizations out in San Francisco that serve women who serve people with disabilities, and we really want to talk with them. Because those are the people who, who are often kind of left out in the cold were like, oh, digital-first, like, but it’s like, if you assume that everyone has a smartphone, if you assume that everyone like can see your colors, then then you will be missing a huge part of the population who, who needs those services. And we kind of figured that if we can make sure that our services work for people who like who don’t have smartphones, or who are color blind, or we use screen readers that it’ll just help everybody. So that has definitely been a challenge for us. And also COVID has been a challenge because in the before times, we used to sometimes do research, by doing intercepts, like out in the library, or out on the permit counter, we’d stop people and ask them to look at a page for like 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes. And we couldn’t do that anymore, because of COVID. And so everything was remote, which has good things and bad things. Because if it was remote, we could record it. And we could record it and take notes and caption it and then have a way to show people what we saw. And the intercepts, you’re able to do that. We also did some research in places like the women’s building where the men have a computer lab where we could sit with them and watch them do the thing. But again, it’s really hard to record another computer. So I don’t think we have recordings of that besides audio. Like we would have an audio recording of that. But not like the screenshot of them clicking around and with their arrows, and things but it’s definitely challenging.
Yeah, I was wondering, like, do you get a lot of resistance from people who don’t understand the point or are nervous about getting that feedback? I mean, you know, I’m more used to resistance from the corporate world, right? where people are scared. Right? I want to get money. I don’t want to show them stuff. Right? Like, but in a government context, right? I mean, normally the public is kind of kept at arm’s length, right? Like, Hey, you got your two minutes to speak at the public meeting? And that’s it kinda.
Yeah, I think I’m trying to think about my own experiences, as well as my team’s experience, which I can’t speak to as well. But when I was doing the housing research, they were really happy for me to talk with applicants because they talk with applicants all the time. So when you apply for affordable housing, like it is an online forum now, but like a lot of people also prefer being able to talk one on one with the housing staff. And so they are almost like customer service people where they understand that it’s good to talk with the applicants because they will show you things that you have missed in your program. And so having that direct contact with our quote, unquote, customers, I think has been really important for our stakeholders to understand how important it is to do user research. Like the project that I had over COVID was actually the cannabis business permit. And we were writing creating the canvas business permit for San Francisco. So if you wanted to be if you wanted to sell cannabis, manufacturer, grow whatever. In San Francisco, you needed a business permit. And it was tricky to do the user research for that. But we had support all the way from the office because They wanted a good product like they wanted good service. We want people to be able to have a cannabis business in San Francisco. And that’s very important to them. And so they really want to make it work. And we were supported all the way for that user research because they had that goal of wanting to make this work. It’s not just like pushing out a new feature, or anything like that. I mean, this process is still incredibly hard and incredibly expensive, but in ways that better content or better online form cannot really help at the end of the day, just because it’s like, oh, like everything has to do with policy. Oh, man, okay, now that we’ve fixed like the forearm, you fix the server, like, you know, we fix the content, but the policy itself is still just really gnarly to go through.
I can explain it to you better, but it’s still a messed-up policy. Right? So complicated.
I can explain to you better, but sometimes I’m just like, oh, but why do I, man, I have to explain that? Man,
Especially with cannabis, there’s so much compliance around it as well.
Although I think it was like, in general, opening a business in San Francisco is really hard because of the permits process. I don’t think that’s a surprise to anybody, because there’s been a lot of reporting on that later. So that’s just part of it, too. So then, like, I’m actually pretty sure that the permitting process for, businesses and buildings is gnarlier than COVID. Because I have a colleague who’s working on it and your stories about having to work with these stakeholders, these 16 departments, and trying to get them all to work together. I’m like, oh, man, that is harder than COVID. I’m just gonna say.
Well, I’ll just say here in Santa Monica. I’m still waiting for our first dispensary even though the city had an RFP two and a half years ago. So they still haven’t permitted our first dispensary here.
That sounds familiar. That sounds it’s the same, like in a lot of places. Right now, but we are trying to fix it. But in order to fix that, we have to go all the way up to like, Okay, how do we actually make this policy work for people?
Right, yeah. You mentioned a little bit earlier about the community partners, the CBO’s. I think that’s tremendous work that you’re doing? Can you share a story with us about an aha moment there, or how you took something from those underserved community members that you interviewed and applied it to the design?
I don’t know if I can think of a specific example right now. Especially because just because we observe something, it doesn’t mean that we can implement it right away. It’s just like, oh, an observation, there was one user we talked to, who used a keyboard to traverse the site. And that is definitely like one way to test out if your site is actually keyboard accessible to see if someone who actually uses this feature on their computer can use it. And she also used a wheelchair, and also had a caregiver explaining everything and that was just so illuminating to see. And, the prompt was to find a COVID testing site. And that was actually really illuminating because it uncovered a lot of things that we hadn’t thought of before. Like we think code testing, oh, you just go in and you take a test, but then like, their concern was, am I able to bring my caregiver? Is that wheelchair accessible? That’s very, very important to them. Because otherwise, like, Why even bother going? That kind of thing? And, and like having those insights, like, just gives you way more perspective about what other people’s experiences are? And they’re completely different from yours. Completely different.
Yeah, absolutely. As for me, my adult son is disabled, and so we had a huge question about when we could get vaccinated. Right as his caregivers. So it was kind of interesting that we got included, and I don’t can’t remember now, I think it was county by county.
Yeah, it was early days – county by county.
I was surprised to learn that we were counted in Tier One, as medical professionals as yeah, as caregivers. And then he as a 22-year-old male didn’t, didn’t qualify until the next tier with his disability, so that you’re focused on caregivers first.
Right, right. Yeah, that’s really interesting. Like, a huge part of the work that I’ve been doing the past year is like, Okay, this is the policy, this is the rule. But then what does that mean when you go into these like, specific cases of like, well, what if this and this and this, and then you’re like, Oh, I just blew it up. Now. I have to talk to somebody at DPH about what this actually means.
Even just rewriting content so that it’s understandable. I mean, we could probably spend an hour just talking about that, how to turn the government speak, into human speak.
Yeah, that is something that they definitely have to teach somebody else to do, especially about COVID. Because I had certain strategies I was using, it has been interesting, because most of the time when you do content design, it’s like I am interpreting very government-speak into something that’s task-based, and something you can use. But for COVID, we were also trying to insert a lot of behavior change into that, too, which you don’t usually get the room to do in content design, because you’re just basically telling people what to do. But then it’s like, well, we’re telling people what to do. But like, we also don’t want to say like, you have to do this because like that was part of San Francisco strategy is not to punish people for disobeying the health orders. Like, we want to encourage you to do the right thing. But we’re not going to like, like, scold you for it. And so that was an interesting approach of doing that work.
And I’m gonna say, in your Twitter feed, I feel like I might have heard a little more scolding, Anita, from you, a little bit. Yes.
But it was your personal, thing. Where you’re just sort of like watching this. And you’re like, Oh,
How are you feeling now? Like, as things are opening back up? And how does your team feel about that?
I’m actually feeling pretty good. I’m wondering if that’s because I have such an inside look at the whole process. Because starting, I want to say, late last year, they started to bring me into early and earlier meetings, which is a content designer, like this is what you want, right? It’s like, please bring me in early enough. So I can actually design this thing that you’re talking about versus like, like, Oh, I have no time and therefore I have to either panic speed read or like to slap it on the website. And then I think early this year, I was invited to the DPH clinical policy meetings, which is where a bunch of people from DPH actually get together to discuss what to reopen in San Francisco and why and that was just so illuminating because it’s not like rewriting content that you’re given, but also learning what people’s thoughts are, in terms of their opinions, how they think things are working, and their mental models. And just seeing where these conditions were in terms of like, Okay, this is where we are right now, in terms of like cases, here’s the situation with around the world with, like, similar situations, because they were doing a lot of research, like, into the papers are being published, like around the world about like, transmission, and stuff like that. And trying to find other examples from other places of like, well, if we reopen locker rooms, what does that mean, in terms of like aerosols, and people being around each other, that kind of thing. And I saw how much discussion was happening and how democratic it was. And I just feel better about the whole process. It’s like, oh, like, we are going to reopen thanks to the support of a bunch of people. It’s not just one person deciding at the end of the I mean, so at the end of the day, it is the health officer who decides what to open, but like, it is a democratic process. And like, people do discuss it. And I saw that process happening and just made me feel very confident that we were like, doing things the right way, or at least, like, the best that we could, given the constraints that we had, because we’re also beholden to like the federal government, as well as the state, it’s like, we can’t be too different, because then people get really confused so that as well. But I’m feeling pretty good, just because like, I have seen, like, that whole process behind the scenes and also like vaccines, like the fact that we have this just like, wow, go science.
Let’s switch gears a little bit here. Because we usually ask our guests if they have any advice for, you know, people entering the field. And I want to ask you about that. And I but I want to tell you, that I, I use you as a model, often when I’m giving advice because I think, you know, there are a few other people I know, but in particular, I felt like you really dove into the community, you really gave a lot to the community. And I feel like that worked out and it paid off. And so I’m sort of curious, like how you felt about that? Was that like a deliberate strategy like you continue to give to the community of UX. And I think that you’re that’s why I say you’re a good example when Junior people are saying, how do I get into the field? So yeah, getting the first job is tough. But there are all these organizations that need help. And we’d love you, we’d love your hard work. So yeah,
Yeah, thank you. Yeah, it’s been actually a really amazing journey. Because yes, so the first job that I got in the government at the city of LA, I did come upon it sort of, by luck. But the important thing to note is that that was the very first job that I had to apply cold, like everything else after that I did by referral. And that and that is because like, I invested time to meet other people in the community kind of all over. And it’s not even that I was like, good friends with the people that I got referred to, it was like, I knew someone who knew someone and, and like one, one really powerful thing that I learned early on was that like, people are just excited to be the same thing to be excited about same thing that you’re excited by. And so if you have that, like eagerness, and like willingness to help, like other people will help you and that’s, that’s just, that’s just an amazing, powerful thing to realize. And another thing I also realized is that what really gets me going at the end of the day is helping people. I like to over help, sometimes I feel, but it really, really excites me to be able to empower someone in that way. And I think that’s why I decided early on to participate in the design communities, even though I still didn’t find my first job that way. But like everything else after that has been so much easier, because I have the community to like, refer to I have people that I can ping whenever I need, like, help or advice. And, and to learn from because like I’ve learned so much from other people, which I think is super important in the tech space because tech is changing so fast that by the time you read it, even on a website, it’s kind of outdated reading a book, it’s like forget history like this is I mean, it’s, it’s good to know, kind of the like the basics and it can’t be just from courses and books and websites, it has to be from other people because people are at the forefront of everything in tech.
When did you discover that you have the superpower of live-tweeting, because that was the first hour of yours that I was introduced to it was like, holy cow, what a skill to be able to bring people along who are at this event?
Yeah. And live tweeting, I think, I discovered this really early on, because I remember my first time it wasn’t even an in-person event, it was an online event. Like early on, I was still taking design classes at Pasadena City College, like it was anything called a day for design or something. And I was just live-tweeting all of these talks. And it was a way for me to take notes, honestly, at first, because if I don’t multitask, my brain just sort of gets bored. And so I was like, Oh, this is a way for me to take notes and also share with other people what I’m learning. And it was only very recently that I also discovered that live-tweeting was actually great practice for this COVID work because I have to take all this content from the health order from the directors from like, the guidance from DPH who have so many things to say – it’s not bad content. It’s just a lot of it. Like there’s just so much stuff that they want you to learn that it’s like, okay, like you’re overwhelming people. It’s all great content. It’s and if people want to, they can refer to the long stuff, but like the people who don’t have time who are stressed out, how do you distill that into a couple of sentences. And that was something that live-tweeting taught me, just because I think for like, three or four years, I was doing it really regularly at every event I was going to just because I was just like, Oh, this is how I’m going to take notes. And this time I’m going to synthesize what I am learning.
That’s so clever. I was trying to remember, did we meet you at the LAUX meetup? Did we first meet at the IA summit? Like I went through all the things.
Yeah, LA. It might have been a World IA Day kind of true. Maybe? Yeah, yeah. I think I went to one in like, Pasadena Art Center.
That’s the one I was. Yeah. And Chris spoke at that one.
Well, yeah, so hey, let’s level up right there was live-tweeting at events in that and now you’ve actually been organizing and participating in the organizing of conferences and events like relay day. So that’s a little bit different but also super valuable.
It’s also another way for people new to the industry to really level up. Because when you volunteer at those events, volunteer conferences like you get to meet and work with a lot of people like the movers and shakers, right. And it’s just such a fulfilling experience to participate and be part of this project. I feel like you aren’t really close to someone until you’ve worked on a project or struggled with them somehow, just like for COVID. It’s like, I have made so many friends during this experience with COVID, where we’ve known each other for weeks, but like we’ve worked together so closely, and like we’re all going through the same struggles that like you, you have this like, meeting of the heart, who’s to be like this together, we’re in this together, and we’re going to get through it. And when it’s over, we’re going to like, like, have a pool party or something.
So when you think about all of the amazing things that you’ve done in government, and then thinking about your future, what would you like your legacy to be?
Yeah, I mean, one of the first things that struck me about this whole experience is that I can’t believe I was able to do it, to be able to participate in something like this. And to make this much of an impact. Like, this is not something that I first saw when I got my first job at the City of Los Angeles, I think it was just over five years ago. Like I think a couple of months ago, there was that tweet that was going around like everyone who tried to answer that on-the-job interview question, Where do you see yourself five years from now it was completely wrong. And I was like, Oh, yeah, oh, wow, I really hadn’t thought about five years ago, I was just getting started in this. Think that I would like my legacy to be just having an impact on people having the chance to empower people. It’s and it’s something that has driven me this whole time. And it’s also kind of nice, because like, it’s not just like at a huge scale. Like for COVID. It’s like, even if I help someone navigate the waters of career changes, which is what I love talking to people about, like the fact that I went from being a molecular biologist to a content designer, during COVID has definitely been a journey. and I want to help people navigate that. And even to do that one on one interaction. It’s very powerful for me to be able to do that. So just being able to scale that is, I guess, the next step, I don’t really know, what’s next after COVID I guess? Well, it is kind of good timing, that I’m having this baby, like right after COVID. So it’s like, Okay, I’m gonna do that. And then like, see where my head’s at, after that, because I would like to stay with my team for a while yet just because I really liked seeing things through and just seeing where we end up after COVID. And all the work that we’ve been doing about helping businesses reopen all that stuff, and then just seeing like, Where, where our team goes and helping other city departments try and go digital, try and have better services because I feel like this COVID experience like really opened a lot of people’s eyes to how important it is to have good robust services that people can navigate. And it is definitely an opportunity that we didn’t have before. Which is kind of like yours because I’m sure there’s a German word, where like, this is terrible, but this is also an opportunity. And it’s actually ultimately good for us as a team to be able to do this. But it’s also like it took a pandemic as it took it to like it really took a pandemic for people to say like, oh, government services need to be better. And then we should give that a chance.
That’s great. Thank you so much. What, how do people keep in touch with you or follow you? I know you’re still pretty big on Twitter.
Yeah, I’m still on Twitter. All the live-tweeting. I haven’t been doing a whole lot of live-tweeting because there have not been many events at all. And I’m usually multitasking but other things if I’m listening to them online, but I am at https://twitter.com/anitaycheng on Twitter, and I think that’s probably the best way to look for me.
Great. We will link this in the show notes and also your hiring, I believe, correct?
Yes, my team is hiring no design roles right now but we are hiring for a chief data officer, you can find all of our roles at the https://digitalservices.sfgov.org/joinus/. And we are hiring, we’re still interviewing for a chief data officer, we just opened a role for a project manager, which may include user research, organizing user research, I believe, we’re hiring a senior product manager for sf.gov. So to make that site better, it’s really exciting. And we also just opened a role for a senior web developer for our affordable housing application. So if you want to fix affordable housing in San Francisco, definitely look.
It’s been exciting to hear how much impact you’ve really had. And I’m sure you’re an inspiration to everyone listening. Thank you so much for being on the show.
Thank you, thank you. Just keep going people. That’s one of the first things that struck me after realizing how I could do this work. Well, was that a lot of the things that I thought were liability early on were actually an asset like the fact that I always think the context switch, like doing five minutes at once, kind of reads like a very frustrating thing for people. But that now, it turns out that I needed to be able to do that to do this work. And all of the things that I thought were maybe frivolous before, like the live-tweeting, like oh, like, like, to me, I was like, oh, but it actually helped me, practice for this work. And so if you find something interesting, just go for it and see where it leads to.
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More About Anita
Anita is a former cancer researcher who got into tech to help people faster. She works across silos to get usable services to end-users as quickly as possible, balancing user needs with technical feasibility. Her goal is immediate, deep impact that empowers the end-user.
Her skills include information architecture, content design, plain language writing, inventories and audits (Airtabling all the things!), workshop facilitation, usability testing, HTML, CSS, and just plain Figuring Things Out.