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Office of Digital Strategy - The White House

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• “Don't be afraid to go where your curiosity takes you.” (P.Welsch)

Peter Welsch (MIS/MLS’05) has been Deputy Director of Online Platform for the Office of Digital Strategy at the White House - Washington, D.C. since April 2011. He recently described the variety of duties, challenges, and rewards of his position in an email interview.


Main Job Duties:
I'm the technical lead for the Office of Digital Strategy, which uses digital media to promote the President's agenda and is working to make this the most open, participatory administration in our nation's history. In addition to serving as a project manager, contributing to strategic discussions, and overseeing the developers responsible for maintaining WhiteHouse.gov, I'm part of the team behind We the People, the White House petitions platform.

The White House Blog

Favorite Job Duties:
The United States is a huge country; it's home to hundreds of millions of people. It's not possible for everybody to visit the White House, sit down with President Obama, and talk about the issues that matter most. At the same time, new technologies are helping us give the American people an unprecedented ability, not only to see what's going on at the White House each day, but to engage the President and other policy makers in a conversation about the future of our country. It's an honor to help make that happen and it's my favorite part of the job.

A Current Project – or Professional Activity:
The We the People platform is a great example. It allows anyone to create a petition on WhiteHouse.gov and, if that petition reaches a certain number of signatures, the White House issues an official response. It's an enormously popular program; more than 10,000,000 users have logged over 15,000,000 signatures on 260,000 petitions. More importantly, We the People petitions have helped shape important policy discussions throughout the Administration. While we're using We the People to open up the White House, we're also working to make the platform itself as flexible, open, and transparent as possible. Last year, we released the code on GitHub and Drupal.org under an open source license. Earlier in 2013, we released the We the People API, which allows developers to retrieve data on petitions and signatures from the system. Now, we're working on a new set of API methods that will allow apps and other sites to collect and submit signatures to We the People petitions without sending users to WhiteHouse.gov.

Tips for Students:
Don't be afraid to go where your curiosity takes you. Do independent studies, work with research groups, and take classes that pique your interest even if they're not a part of the traditional path. Draw your own map. You should also consider the White House Internship Program; it's an amazing experience and a great way to earn professional experience while serving your country.

Posted September 25, 2013