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Ana Monroe

GSA celebrates women in technology

| GSA Blog Team
Post filed in: Careers  |  Jobs  |  Technology

Ana Monroe has that West Coast tech vibe, open and curious, with a ready-to-collaborate approachability. As a strategic design leader, she specializes in #HumanCenteredDesign. She’s often asked to speak in organization and agency workshops, bringing a fresh voice to the discussion. 

She lives in the Pacific Time zone, but doesn’t work for a big-tech company. Monroe is an employee at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), working near GSA offices in Los Angeles and designing programs inside the agency that improve the experience of customers doing business with the federal government.

“I’m going to level with you: There aren’t that many designers working in the federal government,” Monroe says. “But it’s really worth it, because you get to work on complex problems at an immense scale.”

Through building the Service Design Program in GSA’s Office of Customer Experience, often abbreviated as CX, Monroe designs “all the things that are sort of invisible that support and surround a product,” she says. [For more on design and Service Design, you can read Understanding Design in 10 Questions, which she recently wrote for]

Landing in tech 

Monroe - the daughter of a radio station owner and a high school Spanish teacher -  always wanted to be a designer of some sort, but began by moving from her hometown in rural Georgia to Columbia University in New York City with an eye on law school. 

When law lost its shine for her, she focused on becoming a history professor, but she found the greatest camaraderie when hanging out with mechanical engineers and designers. She landed in set design in the fashion world of New York City. Then, she moved to Hollywood, where she worked on many diverse projects across a decade-long career.  

In 2012-2013, she developed a mobile application that encrypted text messages to a customized user group by using emojis. Venture capital was scant for women developers at the time, but she got a patent for the app, which helped her get a scholarship for graduate school at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. 

Then she saw the tweet. 

“This thing called the Lab at the Office of Personnel Management” was looking for “Human Innovation Fellows.” She applied on a then-new recruitment app called 

“Finally, here is this union of the intellectual rigor of history and the optimism and creative practice of design,” she thought upon reading the job description. “I took the applications very seriously. I went to the interviews prepared and I did my best.” 

At first, she heard nothing back. 

Patience and perseverance

Months passed before she realized that a job offer was contingent on the background check, like most federal positions. Monroe was a bit uneasy, not familiar with the federal process. 

Her fears were unfounded: She started to work as a designer with the title “Human Innovation Fellow” in August 2016, followed by a stint with the Office of Veterans’ Experience in the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

Monroe came to GSA in April 2020, among the second onboarding cohort to enter the agency fully remote during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Like the United States, she says, the GSA workforce is diverse, and “I think that makes us really interesting. I really love how unique the American experience can be - culturally and individually.”

GSA and data

GSA has a wealth of data, she explains. “I’m really glad I landed here. I am interested in the design of data, and specifically in the design of entire datasets of diverse origins and their use in concert.”

In her work with the Office of Customer Experience, Monroe wants to apply data to workforce performance and retention, specifically about women workers. In fact, she has been an advocate in encouraging organizations to help women stay in talent pools in the face of crises, shocks, and disasters. 

Coming back to work from family leave, she says, “The thing I like most about the federal government is that the questions and the problems that you take on are huge: in the Veterans Administration, my work literally affected peoples’ lives; here in GSA, we use our technology and business know-how to rapidly evolve how the government does business. I don't want to work in a place where my biggest problem is something like: How many pixels do we move this button to the left to increase our click-through rate by a percentage of a point?”

Lastly, Monroe echoes what many federal workers say about public service. 

“The most important reason why I'm here is because I believe in the mission, like, I believe in democracy. I love to serve the public. That's what keeps me here in the public sector. All the attributes about GSA: the people, the data practice, all of it, is what keeps me in this specific agency.”

Similarly, GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan has encouraged women in technology to consider public service as a career, saying at events like the Grace Hopper Celebration, “We want technology to be an enabler, not a barrier for people to access the information and services they need from government – and we need folks like you to help us make it happen. Our teams have a vision, a mindset and an atmosphere to create space for technologists to work and grow and do their best work in service to our country.”

Does a career at GSA sound interesting to you? We have opportunities for technologists – at any stage of their careers – to make a big impact. Check out our current job listings and learn about opportunities with our Technology Transformation Services, Presidential Innovation Fellows Program and U.S. Digital Corps.