Steve Geller is eSimplicity’s VP of Digital Services. He has enjoyed a lengthy career working in product management at tech startups, large corporations, and more recently, the federal government as part of the U.S. Digital Service. Steve joined us several months ago and has played a crucial role on our leadership team, helping eSimplicity achieve the kind of growth it expects over the coming months and years. We talked to Steve to delve into his career, including his work at USDS, leadership roles, and where he thinks eSimplicity will go from here.
Tom Hindle: Tell me about your role as VP of Digital Services.
Steve Geller: I help on the leadership, strategy, and growth side of the company. I spend time working on strategic planning and proposals for upcoming government projects, as well as building relationships and partnerships with companies that we plan to work with to help the government modernize and become more agile. I also focus on mentoring and coaching our digital team, helping them work on skills or learn new things in areas they feel are important for their roles or careers. I help ensure we build the right teams with the necessary skill sets and culture for delivering successfully. Finally, I help our leadership team focus on driving growth and ensuring current teams are performing well and exceeding expectations.
TH: I see you have an extensive background in product management. For people not familiar with that term, can you tell me a little bit about it?
SG: Product management takes on different forms. It depends on the kind of company you’re working in, the business model, and how the company develops and delivers its products and services. Typically, product management is about helping set and execute the vision for products or services based on customer pain points, user needs, and your competitive advantage. Basically, we help create and improve user experiences across many domains and platforms. That can take different forms in terms of an actual product manager’s duties, where you could spend a lot of time on user research, working with stakeholders, on UX Design, on building teams, etc. As a product leader, I help set the vision and roadmap for products or services I’m working on, and empower the product team to deliver to that vision, even as it evolves based on user feedback, qualitative and quantitative data, or a changing market landscape.
To take it one step further, a product manager is often called the glue of the product development team, making sure the team understands, essentially, the why behind what they’re doing, and enables the team to deliver. Why are we working on this product or project? Why are we improving this experience? Who are our end users and what do they need? Why are we delivering these new features — what outcomes are we seeking? Product managers also ensure that the team is moving in one direction, and that communication is productive between leadership, folks on the ground involved in the development, and any internal or external stakeholders or partners.
TH: You’ve worked at various types of organizations before coming to eSimplicity — including some recognizable large companies. What was it about eSimplicity that caught your attention?
SG: eSimplicity has really demonstrated that it’s an emerging digital services company in the federal space, and in a short period of time has really been able to prove that we can solve impactful problems for the government. This role is a great combination of my product management background, my experience in federal government with the U.S. Digital Service (https://www.usds.gov), and the direction that eSimplicity is going in providing modern digital services. I am excited to join at a relatively early stage of the company to help take it to the next level of growth.
TH: You mentioned USDS. If you could summarize it briefly, how would you describe it? And what was your experience like there?
SG: USDS is about delivering better government services to the American public through technology and design, by understanding user needs and building with users, not for users. It’s about solving critical services and providing fresh perspectives for modernization and transformation efforts within the government. It was an amazing experience because it’s a relatively small group of people, but we manage to make a huge impact on government services that help many people in need. And the people that we bring in are extremely talented (hello, impostor syndrome), whether they come from the private industry or the public sector, with many different talents and experiences. So, you’re constantly learning from the other people that you’re working directly with, but you also get to work with truly dedicated civil servants who really care about improving government services and learning as much as they can along the way. It sounds funny, but we try to put ourselves out of a job by setting up our government partners and projects such that we’re no longer needed for them to continue to be successful.
TH: What was that transition like from being inside the federal government as part of USDS to a federal contractor, on the outside?
SG: I would say there are similarities in that I am trying to help bring an outcome-driven mindset through agile, HCD, modern technologies, and innovative thinking to the projects that we’re working on and planning to work on. Being on the outside, though, gives me a much different perspective on the government procurement process for finding the right companies to help understand and solve its problems. And I can just see how much effort has to go into bringing in the right companies.
TH: Finally, where do you see the company going from here?
SG: Since it was started, the company has intentionally only been in supporting roles with our federal contracts, while working on important and innovative projects. However, we are now ready to take a leading role on some impactful work in the near future that really demonstrates how eSimplicity can deliver a vision of modernization across culture, processes, technologies, etc. We will execute in a way that shows we understand their needs, and are collaborative, communicative, and transparent, to build the right kind of partnership with our government partners, delivering to the right outcomes.