Silicon Valley is invading Washington, D.C., casual clothing style and all. In a newly released video from the White House’s YouTube channel, we shadow Mikey Dickerson, a former Google engineer who is the new administrator for the U.S. Digital Service team.
In this video we see Dickerson, once hired by the government to repair the flailing Healthcare.gov website, taking meetings and press conferences all on his very first day at the White House.
And despite sharing the air and working in the same building as President Obama, colleagues in the White House seem pretty approving of Dickerson’s untucked button-ups and slacks. Why? Because to them, all it matters is that Dickerson can get the job done— not whether or not he’s in a suit and tie.
“The first thing everybody wants to ask is well, is he wearing suits now, because he’s totally sold out?” says Dickerson, who led the team credited with fixing the botched rollout of the HealthCare.gov website.
Jeff Zientz, director of the National Economic Council chimes in: “My vote? No suits. Based on the Healthcare.gov performance, just do the same play over and over again.”
In referencing Dickerson’s superhero saving of Healthcare.gov, it sounds like Zientz is looking at the stylings of the casual-yet-ingenious developer and saying: Not broken? Then don’t fix it.
If upping the number of digital technology experts at The White House means having a few more un-ironed shirts walking around, then so be it. And it sounds like the U.S. government really is trying hard to hire those experts and get a little more tech savvy.
“There was a sufficient number of engineers, programmers, designers, everything you needed was already there, had been hired onto the project somewhere. They just needed to be coordinated and managed better,” says Dickerson, referencing Healthcare.gov. “And that, times ten or more, is the next challenge that they came along and said, well, that seemed to go pretty well, so why don’t we do that for all of the agencies, all of the federal government?”
Those inundated in Silicon Valley culture, like me, sometimes like to make a lot of noise about the fashion choices of our techie population. While it’s almost too easy to get down on our hoodie-wearing friends, the people at the White House do have a good point—it really shouldn’t matter what you wear, as long as you do a good job. If it’s good enough for the president, then maybe we should all get on board.
So while a certain level of techie casual can fly even in the White House, those used to the Silicon Valley lifestyle might not want to push it too far.
“People are putting up with me walking around EEOB, walking around the West Wing, just wearing whatever,”says Dickerson. “Not quite whatever. I’m not wearing a t-shirt—I made some slight concessions. I’m wearing actual shirts with buttons and collars.”