First month at Nava

23rd September 2015

It’s been ~1 month since I’ve joined Nava! In addition to having a website that reminds me of David’s Tea, we have this audacious goal:

Create software that radically improves how our government serves people.

In some ways, I feel like I’ve turned back time to four years ago, and I’m back at Khan Academy in 2011. There’s this < 15 person team, everyone is passionate about huge positive social impact, and we’re all trying to figure out what that means together. We’re definitely shooting for the moon (or is it Mars?), but we’re taking these smaller pragmatic steps to get there. Though we aren’t a non-profit like KA, we are a public-benefit corporation, and I again find myself building useful services for people who are possibly in need and most likely not directly paying for it.

In other ways, Nava is distinctly different. Instead of education, it’s government. Instead of discussing growth mindset or throwing a cheeky “you can learn anything” at coworkers, casual conversations take on a more political / historical default. Supreme Court rulings, debates, lessons about WWII. “Did you know I was on the same flight as Ted Cruz?” comes up way more often than I would have guessed. I’ve learned so much about the surrounding ecosystem, and I’m starting to pick up all the three letter acronyms that everyone naturally speaks in (SEP: special enrollment period, CiC: change in circumstance, ESC: employer sponsored coverage, etc).

Engineering wise, it’s been fun. Since KA was such an early adopter of React (thanks Alpert and Joel), I’m pretty familiar with it, and one of my first Nava projects is to help us switch over to it. It’s a neat way to learn a new codebase + process, while still having React as a familiar face. Quite a few common English words have taken a more nuanced meaning to me: grunt, jasmine, node, babel (is this English?).

I’m still stumped when it comes to pronouns. When folks ask me about previous work at KA, I default to “we did that”, “we do this”, and “we’re planning to do that” — but at some point, I wonder if I’ll get used to thinking of KA as “they”, and then Nava as the only “we”? We shall see! We are hiring.

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