STORY: Alum Speaks on Benefit of World-Changing Civic Tech Roles

May 16, 2024

Originally from Millis, MA, Jessi Murray ’10 grew up the second-closest to the Olin campus in the college’s fifth-ever graduating class.

“I had a lot of choices in front of me when selecting a college, but during Candidates’ Weekend at Olin I was struck by the camaraderie and instant connections that I made with other students,” says Murray. “I was also intrigued because at the time, they were still building the college and learning by doing, which meant I’d have the ability to learn a cool set of skills while also helping to shape the institution’s vision for the future.” 

Now the chief product officer for the MA Department of Early Education and Care, Murray is passionate about civic technology, a career that calls on her early professional background and blends many of her interests.

An avid artist from a young age, Murray took lots of design classes at Olin to marry that creative passion with her engineering education. She was also an active volunteer with Amnesty International and saw Olin as a continuation to making an impact in the world.

Portrait Jessi Murray'10

I gravitated to classes like User-Oriented Collaborative Design, where you can imbue a sense of empathy into engineering and learn to think about the problems that you are solving versus making something that you’re just trying to push on users

Jessi Murray

Class of 2010

Learn more about User-Oriented Collaborative Design

After graduating with a concentration in systems engineering, Murray moved to Seattle and began working for Microsoft as a program manager on the Windows User Experience team for three years. She then spent several years as the user experience technical program manager lead for LabKey Software, whose core product was an open-source data platform for disease-specific researchers.

Over time, Murray’s personal activism had morphed into policy interests, which led to her running for a position in the Washington State House of Representatives in 2020. After that campaign concluded, she began applying for civic tech jobs that leverage modern technology to help governmental programs run better. She began working with the product systems that undergird the MA Paid Family and Medical Leave program, first remotely from Seattle and then in-office after moving back to Massachusetts.

“Most of my focus was the employer portal side, but we also conducted research to get the wheels in motion on a multilingual client experience to allow access to a broader range of citizens,” says Murray.

When that project finished, Murray was recruited by a colleague to bring her expertise into the Department of Early Education and Care as their first chief product officer.

“When I joined Early Education, they had about a dozen different public-facing technical systems—background checks, licensing for childcare facilities, financial assistance workflows—all with varying user experiences, and they wanted a product organizer to make sense of it all,” says Murray, who has been in the role for about a year. “It’s been a wild ride, but it’s really gratifying to think critically and creatively about how to build an authentic experience that meets people where they are and addresses the problems they actually face, instead of the ones people think they might face.”

For Murray, working in civic tech is an excellent way to use her engineering, technological, and problem-solving skills to make people’s lives tangibly better.

“Civic tech is a particularly cool path for people in the Olin community because a lot of us want to change the world,” says Murray. “This is a big way to do it.”

Finding Purpose: Supporting MA Families as a Civic Technologist

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