Meet Emily Gardner: Engagement Manager at Excella. Emily talks about what made her switch to technology and what she’s learned as a 508 tester.
You started out in a different industry. What made you dive deeper into technology?
After completing the Georgetown Communication Culture and Technology Master’s program, I found myself trying to figure out what was next. While I had some experience in digital marketing, I realized that my interest was in technology. I was drawn to solving technological problems, and the transformational impact technology can have on companies and their clients. So, I started looking.
How did you find Excella?
I had heard that numerous former grad students had joined Excella and wanted to learn more. I found that Excella’s learning culture and community of forward-thinking, collaborative technologists really spoke to me. In that moment, I realized that was the direction I wanted to take my career rather than marketing or a different avenue, so I made the switch!
How do you feel about your career shift after 6+ years at Excella?
After six and a half years, I can say that it was the right choice. I’ve spent almost five of those years working on federal contracts for USCIS, such as myUSCIS. It’s been meaningful to see how many people technology has helped come through the immigration system, improving their experiences by modernizing the agency’s systems and reducing submission difficulties.
Seeing our new work out there in the world, the amount of people who use it, the impact on their lives—it’s transformational. You get to participate in the entire lifecycle of a product and really feel that you have contributed and made a difference to people’s lives.
Interested in joining people like Emily and making a meaningful impact on citizens’ lives? View our open positions and start making a difference today.
Can you tell us about a particular role that you really enjoyed as an Agile Analyst?
Excella has created a wonderful environment to be an Agile analyst—we work actively on Agile Scrum teams and contribute to projects in so many ways. One role that I really enjoy has been being a 508 tester, ensuring the products Excella builds for federal clients are” is accessible for everyone.
Can you share a bit more about what a 508 tester is for those unfamiliar with the term?
508 is shorthand for Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires that all federal departments and agencies ensure their information and communications technology is accessible to people with disabilities. As a 508 certified tester, my role is to make each of our stories and each piece of our products are accessible for people with varying sight, hearing, and motor skills capabilities from the very beginning.
Is there anything similar in the private sector?
No, outside of the federal government, private industries are not held to the same standard as the federal departments and agencies.
I was recently watching a video from a woman who is blind, who was looking to get new appliances for her kitchen. She was upset with some of the technological improvements on the appliances because she couldn’t use them. Everything was touchscreen, limiting what was available for her to purchase and enjoy. The technological innovations weren’t for everyone, even though they have the potential to be.
All organizations, whether federal or private, should consider their disabled client base that may face barriers to using their products, and the positive impact they can have on disabled consumers when they include accessibility in their designs from the beginning.
What is something Agile Analysts should know in 2022?
I have always thought that accessibility was important. But after becoming a 508 tester, I am a strong proponent of everybody understanding accessibility principles and the elements of section 508—no matter what your role is on a project.
What should candidates know about Excella?
You’re applying to a company that after 20 years continues to evolve. We think about how we can learn from the industries, clients, and customers to continue to grow and improve. That is our practice and approach to culture.