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San Francisco Taps Cyd Harrell for Digital Services Chief Spot

Starting next week, Cyd Harrell will succeed Carrie Bishop, who held the chief digital services role since 2017 and was the first person to do so. Harrell brings a deep background in the public and nonprofit sectors.

The San Francisco skyline.
Cyd Harrell, a 25-year veteran technologist with a deep background in the public and nonprofit sectors, has been named San Francisco’s new chief digital services officer.

Starting next week, Harrell will succeed Carrie Bishop, who held the chief digital services role since 2017 and was the first person to do so.

“I’m thrilled to announce Cyd Harrell’s appointment as our next director of Digital Services,” City Administrator Carmen Chu said in a news release. “Cyd’s wealth of experience in government technology and user-centered design will help us strengthen and transform how we connect services directly to people.”

Cyd Harrell.
Cyd Harrell

Harrell said she’s honored by the appointment.

“San Francisco deserves public digital goods that reach the highest level of quality and that open up more ways for all of us to exercise rights, access services, and participate in community,” Harrell said in the news release. “As a user and fan of Digital Services’ work, especially their pandemic data and vaccine work, I’m incredibly honored to join the team and build the next stage of beautiful, inclusive services for San Franciscans together.”

Since 2012, Harrell has worked in public-interest technology, serving as lead researcher with the Center for Civic Design, product director for Code for America, and chief of staff of 18F, the internal technology and design consultancy of the federal government.

Most recently, she served as service design lead with the Judicial Council of California, helping to improve the user experience of the civil justice system.

She’s the author of a 2020 book, A Civic Technologist’s Practice Guide, “an onboarding guide for tech professionals joining public-sector work,” according to the news release. Harrell has lived in San Francisco since 1994. She has also been a guest on “In Case You Missed It,” a weekly interview live show produced by Techwire sister publication Government Technology.

The position of chief digital services officer was created when the consolidated city/county adopted the San Francisco Digital Services Strategy in 2016.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Digital Services team built over 250 information pages related to COVID on, serving over 1 million users per month,” the news release notes. “The team worked rapidly to transition key city services, such as building permits, business permits, and grant applications, online so that operations could continue remotely. When the COVID vaccines first became available, they launched a vaccine finder showing real-time appointments to help get as many people vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Harrell showed her excitement about her appointment this week on Twitter. In a series of tweets, she wrote:

“I’m starting my dream job next week, leading digital services for my city (and county!) (!!!!) I’m beyond thrilled to join this incredible team & serve San Francisco ... and heck yes, we are hiring - more below!

“What’s the team? They’re the people who brought you easy vaccine signups in all SF’s languages, who are helping consolidate the sprawling web presence of both city & county, & who built SF’s simple housing portal, to name a few. I’m a longtime fan & I can’t wait to be part of it!

“I’ll be closing my consulting practice, including UX speaking, for the foreseeable future (but I can recommend great people! reach out for that).

“I’m staying on the volunteer board of @publicgoodtech & I’m still here for the #civictech field, but almost all of my mentoring & support energy will be focused inside my new team, also for the foreseeable future. …

“I’m all in, & if you could see yourself all in too, COME WORK WITH US & help us raise the floor for public digital goods! The team is kind, mission-focused, & accomplished, & the compensation is very solid for public-sector tech work! Open roles here

This article was originally published by Techwire, Government Technology's sister publication.
Dennis Noone is Executive Editor of Industry Insider. He is a career journalist, having worked as a reporter and editor at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies in California, Nevada, Texas and Virginia, including as an editor with USA Today in Washington, D.C.