This year, the Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation (ODDT) created the Excellence Award. The goal is to acknowledge, celebrate, and amplify team members who are rigorous in their work and who collaborate well with peers and project partners. Team members nominate each other for the award.
Winners of the Excellence Award:
- Show deep empathy for others.
- Produce work that exceeds expectations.
- Proactively identify creative ways to improve ODDT’s work.
- Are strong collaborators—seeking the expertise of others to achieve group success.
- Persevere when challenges arise.
- Communicate with colleagues in respectful and clear ways.
Arin Black, our content design and project management fellow, won the award because she has:
- Excelled at navigating complex subject matter through her phila.gov content migration work with the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I).
- Maintained good relationships with project partners.
- Consistently demonstrated empathy toward team members.
- Created an environment that’s welcoming.
This comment from a team member demonstrates why Arin won the award:
As someone new to the field, I feel that she’s provided a great example to follow.
We had Arin answer a few questions so you could learn more about why we’re so proud to have her on our team.
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Tell us about your background.
I have a deep background in both communications and in project and program management and came to the City after serving as executive director for a nonprofit organization. My background required me to be a jack-of-all-trades, and I think that adaptability is useful when working with so many different departments. Being an avid learner allows me to go into each engagement with curiosity.
What do you do at the City and what’s a favorite project of yours?
My position allows me to learn about all the wonderful ways the City works to help its constituents. I partner with departments to help them communicate their services, programs, and other offerings to the public in a way that is easy to access and easy to understand.
I’ve loved being able to work with all my project partners—from Parks and Recreation and Commerce to the Office of Administrative Review and the Department of Licenses and Inspections (a huge project on which I’m currently working with my colleague, Derek Beyer). Each engagement allows me to learn and grow.
I also conduct the web writing training with another colleague, Clare Cotugno. Those sessions give me a lot of energy, both because I love working with Clare and because I enjoy empowering others in City government to effectively share their work.
Why did you choose to work in the public sector?
After more than a decade working in nonprofits, I wanted to see what impact I could have in an environment that offered more resources—nonprofits often operate on razor-thin margins—but that also provided a mission-driven atmosphere. This fellowship offered me a great opportunity to transition into City government, and ODDT’s collaborative structure made it possible for me to apply my previous experience to my work.
What have been some of your biggest project challenges while working at the City and how did you overcome them?
The mechanisms of democracy and oversight that protect constituents sometimes mean that government can’t move as quickly as other industries and that it must balance competing priorities. That can sometimes mean that one has to get creative to solve problems and move projects forward. However, I feel like my experience has allowed me to see these challenges as an opportunity to be a creative problem solver.
Additionally, some of my work in graduate school focused on the literature of South African novelist, J.M. Coetzee. Those writings allowed me to think more deeply about the role of empathy in healthy societies. As a result, I commit to a practice of empathy in all I do. That practice helps me to understand the roadblocks departments might be experiencing in a way that I hope makes me a partner, and not a further hindrance.
Finally, I work with really wonderful and intelligent people. Together, we find ways to do our best possible work. I’m grateful for all of them and admire their skills!
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Congratulations, Arin, on winning ODDT’s first Excellence Award!