Story Jam, Stories of Change Showcase Events

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Story Jam: Building the Digital Workforce of the Future

May 4, 2022

In May, we gathered in honor of Public Service Recognition Week to explore how we can build the government’s digital workforce of the future. The panel, hosted in partnership with the Digital Services Coalition, highlighted “boomerangers” who have worked in BOTH government and industry, including roles at USDS, 18F, USAID, state government and the White House.

Our four storytellers shared their experiences and discussed what type of public servants and skills are needed to meet government priorities, including improved customer experience, increased diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA), a more robust remote-focused workforce and increased digital transformation across government.

Read the event recap here.

Featuring speakers from:

U.S. Departmetn of Homeland Security

Holmes Consulting Group Inc.

GSA logo

The White House Washington logo


Robbie Holmes

Founder / CEO of Holmes Consulting Group Inc.
Robbie’s LinkedIn profile

Robbie HolmesRobbie Holmes has 27 years of experience across information technology, software engineering and civic tech at all levels of government and industry (including media, startup, consumer and telecommunications).

As a federal employee within the Executive Office of the President, Robbie was a member of the United States Digital Service where he led work on projects at the VA, DHS, DOJ, and the USDA. Within private industry, Robbie held roles at Sony Music, Johnson & Johnson, Zagat Survey and Google – starting out as a developer and moving throughout the ranks of technical leadership. More recently, he has led teams in consulting as the Director of Engineering at Phase2 Technology and the former Vice President of Product Development at Pluribus Digital.

Last year, Robbie founded Holmes Consulting Group Inc. and won a contract to lead digital services adoption and delivery as the Director of Digital Services and Software Engineering for Prince William County in Virginia. One of his passions is creating more diverse, inclusive, candidate-focused hiring processes and Robbie is an advisor on hiring reforms that create high-performing technical teams and cultures that improve the effectiveness of organizations and their missions.

Kara DeFrias

Senior Advisor for Technology, Executive Office of the President
Kara’s LinkedIn profile

Kara DeFriasKara DeFrias’ passion for designing engaging experiences has brought her to many exciting places, including the Super Bowl, the Oscars, and to the Obama White House as Director of Experience Design. She’s currently works as Senior Advisor in the Office of Technology at the White House. Kara’s background is a unique mix of private and public sector experience, including 4 years with TurboTax and an appointment to the first class of Presidential Innovation Fellows. Kara was as Director of UX for Vice President Biden at the White House, where she led the Cancer Moonshot work around cancer clinical trials. Most recently, she was Chief of Staff for the QuickBooks Online Platform product team at Intuit.

Previous work includes Senior Advisor to 18F’s Executive Director and senior leadership team, founder of TEDxIntuit, and part of the Emmy award-winning production staff on the Oscars. She also worked on the Women’s World Cup press operations team and the Super Bowl. A do-gooder at heart, Kara has done pro-bono digital strategy and communications for the likes of Team Rubicon and spent 10 days in rural India teaching micro-entrepreneur women human centered design, product management, and business skills.

Jessi Bull

Product Manager, 18F, Technology Transformation Services, General Services Administration
Jessi’s LinkedIn profile

Jessi BullJessi Bull is a technologist and strategist working to make the government more effective. In her current position in the Office of the Administrator at GSA she coordinates agency customer experience efforts to improve the way the government interacts with the public at key moments in their life. Jessi has worked in a wide variety of roles including leading project teams at 18F and Nava PBC, overseeing technology and operational portfolios for the WIC program, managing business development and strategy efforts at Nava PBC, and conducting performance evaluations for the City and County of San Francisco and the Government Accountability Office. She is an avid cook, reader, and cyclist and remains utterly convinced her dog Fisher is the best (full stop).

Mateo Haddad

Wheelhouse Group
Mateo’s LinkedIn profile

Mateo HaddadMateo Haddad is a communications and change management consultant for Wheelhouse Group. He brings diverse skills from both government and private sector in stakeholder engagement, behavior change, project management and organizational change management.

Prior to joining Wheelhouse Group, Mateo was a communications analyst at USAID’s Bureau for Global Health, working with senior leaders and staff to ensure a cohesive voice for the bureau. He collaborated with executive leadership, communications specialists, and technical experts from around the world to tell the USAID and U.S. Government global health story, supporting the agency’s response to COVID-19, Ebola, Zika, HIV/AIDS, and more.

From 2011-2014, Mateo served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ica, Peru. As a Youth Development Volunteer, he facilitated health education programs for young people, collaborating with schools, non-governmental organizations, local and regional health offices, and public-sector officials to develop and implement tools and resources to help address community needs.


Traci Walker,

Executive Director, Digital Services Coalition

Story Jam: Digital Transformation

January 26, 2022

We kicked off 2022 spotlighting change-makers who have successfully implemented a digital transformation. Our speakers, from government, industry and the Digital Services Coalition shared their stories of change, resilience, and impact. We heard insights and practical tips that can help leaders in the public and private sector get better at managing—and thriving—through digital transformation.

Read the event recap here.

Featuring speakers from:

Ad Hoc


Digital Service Coalition




US Department of Veterans Affairs


Traci Walker
Traci’s LinkedIn profile

Traci WalkerTraci Walker is the first Executive Director of the Digital Services Coalition, a nonprofit trade association representing companies which are committed to bringing digital transformation to the public sector. Walker recently left public service after 20 years in the federal government, where she most recently was the Director of Digital Service Procurement at the United States Digital Service (USDS). Her legacy at USDS was creating the Digital IT Acquisition Professional (DITAP) training & development program which assists acquisition professionals in understanding and purchasing in the digital service market to achieve higher quality outcomes using taxpayer dollars. Prior to USDS, she was a Senior Contracting Officer for the Office of Administration at the Executive Office of the President (White House).

Bill Fischer
Bill’s LinkedIn profile

Bill FischerAs the leader of Ad Hoc’s teams working in support of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Bill oversees a broad range of cross-functional teams working on everything from to API design to mobile apps. Prior to joining Ad Hoc, Bill served as CEO of Big Sky Associates, Inc and as co-founder and president of Growth Matters LLC. Bill lives in Alexandria, VA with his wife, four kids and two dogs.

Christine Rose Steiffer
Christine’s LinkedIn profile

Christine Rose SteifferChristine Rose Steiffer joined the Mediabarn and IRS teams in March 2020, getting to work on the evolution of along with enhancements to the Online Account tool for taxpayers. She loves working on projects that have impact across large, diverse sets of people, and has previously contributed to projects for government contractors at, redesigned an internal reporting tool for OSHA inspectors, and led the research efforts for an insurance enrollment tool used by millions of healthcare professionals called ProView. She enjoys sunsets and snowstorms from her home in the Blue Ridge mountains of Southwest, Virginia.

Kira Prin
Kira’s LinkedIn profile

Kira PrinKira Prin has been working in the Online Services team at the Internal Revenue Service since 2017. She’s the User Experience and Information Architecture lead on multiple applications, including the main website, with primary focus on informing design and content updates through user research and analytics. Before starting her federal government career, Kira was in the nonprofit world as a Webmaster and Marketing Specialist. She has 2 dogs and lives with her husband in the Northern Virginia area.

Mike Gifford
Mike’s LinkedIn profile

Mike GiffordMike Gifford is a Senior Strategist at CivicActions. His primary focus is on building digital accessibility confidence and capabilities in the public sector. Previously, he was the Founder and President of OpenConcept Consulting Inc., a web development agency specializing in building open source solutions for the open web. Pushed by a desire to build better and more inclusive world, Mike has been involved with accessibility since the beginning of the 90s. He has spearheaded accessibility improvements in Drupal since 2008, and officially became Drupal’s Core Accessibility Maintainer in 2012.

Leanna Miller
Leanna’s LinkedIn profile

Leanna Miller headshotLeanna Miller supports the CTO of the Department of Veterans Affairs through the US Digital Service. As the Mobile Product Lead, she works to improve and simplify Veterans’ digital experiences at VA. Last summer, her team launched VA’s first “flagship mobile app,” which brings together the most common tools in an accessible, user-centered, native experience. The 4.8 star-rated app exemplifies Leanna’s commitment to a Veteran-first approach to digital transformation at VA. She splits her time between Asheville, NC and Washington, DC.

Jessi Bull
Jessi’s LinkedIn profile

Jessi Bull HeadshotJessi Bull is a strategist and technologist with 14 years of experience in the civic sector focused on improvement of services through innovation and technology. Jessi is currently a product manager with 18F – an office of federal employees within the General Services Administration that partners with federal, state, and local agencies to improve the user experience of government services by helping them build and buy technology. She previously led the strategy practice at Nava Public Benefit Corporation and worked to strengthen the digital services community as a member of the Board for the Digital Service Coalition. Jessi has worked at the local, state, and federal level of government in a variety of roles including program and project management, policy and program implementation, oversight, and procurement.

Joiwind Ronen (host)
Joiwind’s LinkedIn profile

Joiwind RonenJoiwind Ronen is a partner at Wheelhouse Group and has spent the past 20 years pursuing her passion to help mission-driven organizations better serve the needs of the American public. She uses her skills as a strategist, change agent, and facilitator to engage stakeholders and increase their impact. At Wheelhouse Group, she leads company strategy, builds partner relationships and oversees a portfolio of client engagements.

Story Jam: Stories of Change

May 6, 2021

On May 6th, 2021, during Public Service Recognition Week, we gathered for our first-ever Story Jam to share our Stories of Change, tales of resilience and innovation inspired by the tremendous challenges we’ve all navigated this past year. Our storytellers were six leaders from the government and private sector who enlightened, delighted and enriched us with new perspectives—and hope for the future.

Below is the full video from the 90-minute event, followed by clips of the individual speakers. We strive to communicate in a way that is accessible to everyone. Our Stories of Change video includes an audio description and captions. Here is a full transcript with image descriptions.

Individual Storyteller Video Clips

Amy Fong

Amy Fong, a Statistician at the Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy, showed us the power in vulnerability. Her story from her time at the Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration, where she managed programs that support tribal transit, celebrated the benefits of perseverance and patience in pursuit of racial equality.

Anne Shepherd

End-user experience is the main concern for Anne Shepherd, Associate Chief Information Officer for User and Network Services at the IRS. In her story, Anne introduced us to Winnie the Chatbot, AI technology created for the internal IRS technology helpdesk employees to assist in workload management. Winnie’s dramatic journey from suspect to celebrated team member will leave you inspired.

Dennis Watkins

Our event kicked off with award-winning 3rd generation magician and mentalist Dennis Watkins, who told how he recaptured the wonder of magic for himself and his audiences through his virtual magic shows after COVID made the art of live performances disappear.

Judith Zawatsky

COVID’s impact on Judith Zawatsky, Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Systems Management within GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, was profound. Her revelations about motivation, collaboration, and output have changed her definition of what it means to lead an effective team.

Larry Goldberg

Larry Goldberg, Head of Accessibility at Verizon Media, told how his company not only talks the diversity, equity and inclusion talk, it walks the walk. We shared Larry’s pride as he explained how Verizon enabled 95% of their employees to work from home, including employees who needed assistive technology and other accommodations. He also gave an exciting sneak peek into the future of immersive technology for people with disabilities.

Richard Crespin

The story from Richard Crespin, CEO of CollaborateUp and Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies took us into the Southern African Bush to learn how reluctant, distrustful technology adopters warmed up to and embraced modern collaboration tools to prevent wildlife crime and protect the world’s charismatic megafauna.