Jennifer Pahlka

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Jennifer Pahlka
Jennifer Pahlka of Code for America, speaking at the opening of Open Up!.jpg
Pahlka speaking at the DFID/Omidyar Network Open Up! conference in 2012
Deputy Chief Technology Officer of the United States
Assumed office
30 May 2013
President Barack Obama
Personal details
Born 1969 (age 46–47)
Port Deposit, Maryland, U.S.
Occupation Executive Director of Code for America

Jennifer Pahlka (born 1969) is the founder and Executive Director of Code for America. Previously she had worked at CMP Media with various roles in the computer game industry. She was the co-chair and general manager of the Web 2.0 conferences.

Personal life[edit]

She was born in Port Deposit, Maryland, and raised in Austin, New Haven, and New York City. She is a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science and Yale University, and lives in Oakland, California, with her daughter, her husband, and eight chickens.[1] On 11 April 2015 she married Tim O'Reilly.[2]


Before founding Code for America, Pahlka spent eight years at CMP Media (now part of United Business Media), where she led the Game Group, responsible for the Game Developers Conference (GDC), Game Developer Magazine, and She oversaw the dramatic growth of GDC from 1995 to 2003, and launched the Independent Games Festival and the Game Developers Choice Awards. She was also the executive director of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), an independent non-profit association serving game developers around the world. During this time she also served on the advisory boards of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) and the GDC, and on the board of directors of the IGDA.[3]

More recently, from 2005 to 2009, she was the co-chair and general manager of the Web 2.0 events for TechWeb, a division of United Business Media, in partnership with O'Reilly Media. In that role, she proposed the creation of the Web 2.0 Expo, and became the co-chair for the event. She also played a key role in managing the Gov 2.0 Summit and Gov 2.0 Expo.[4]

In her role at the White House, Pahlka was responsible for the Presidential Innovation Fellows program and for other programs designed to use technology to improve the citizen experience of government. She set in motion the creation of the United States Digital Service within the Executive Office of the President, and helped start 18F at the General Services Administration.[5]

Code for America[edit]

Code for America is a San Francisco-based non-profit organization that, according to the Washington Post, "is the technology world’s equivalent of the Peace Corps or Teach for America… [offering] an alternative to the old, broken path of government IT." [6] In her 2012 TED Talk, Palhlka noted that we will not be able to reinvent government unless we also reinvent citizenship, and asked "Are we just going to be a crowd of voices, or are we going to be a crowd of hands?" [7]

Deputy United States Chief Technology Officer[edit]

After organizing Code for America fellowships for others on the local government level, Pahlka described the opportunity to serve in the federal government as her "own fellowship year of sorts.".[8] Federal CTO Todd Park originally tried to recruit Pahlka to run the Presidential Innovation Fellows, a program loosely modeled on Code for America. In her role as Deputy US CTO she managed Round 2 of the program and organized the creation of Round 3,[9][10] but her principal goal during her year at the White House was to create something more equivalent to the UK's Government Digital Service. Her efforts led to the launch of the United States Digital Service as part of the Office of Management and Budget, and 18F at the General Services Administration.


For her work re-imagining government for the 21st century, Pahlka was named a 2011 HuffPost Gamechanger.[11] Code for America also received a $1.5 million grant from Google as part of its 2011 Google Gives Back program.[12] She was a celebrity judge for the Federal Communications Commission's Apps for Community contest, along with Marc Andreessen and Newark Mayor Cory Booker.[13] She was elected an Ashoka Fellow in 2012.[14] She also gave a keynote speech at South By Southwest Interactive in 2012.[15]

East Bay Mini Maker Faire[edit]

Pahlka is also a co-founder, with Sabrina Merlo and Corey Weinstein, of the East Bay Mini Maker Faire.[16] In comments to The Huffington Post, she made explicit the connection between her work on open government and the Maker movement, saying, "There is a certain generation who have grown up being able to mash up, to tinker with, every system they've ever encountered. So they are meeting their relationship with government in a new way, with a new assumption: We can fix it."[17] The East Bay Mini Maker Faire currently attracts around 7,000 people annually. [18]


External links[edit]