Time For A New Adventure

Dr Tyrone Grandison
4 min readJul 28, 2016

Last week, I gave my two weeks’ notice to the Commerce Leadership team, which means that August 5th will be my last official day at the Department of Commerce (DOC).

It has been a truly exciting year working with the best possible co-founder ever, Jeffrey Chen (Commerce Chief Data Scientist). As the position of Deputy Chief Data Officer is appointed, all good things must come to an end.

Building a team of the best data scientists and engineers to support and super-charge the Secretary’s data mission has been a joy that I will cherish.

Creating and leading a startup within a large Federal agency — the Commerce Data Service (CDS) — has shown me what is possible when multiple dimensions in the government are aligned to execute on a singular, important mission.

Amongst the highlights for the year are:

Launched a new data startup. As a sustainable experiment in government, I led the onboarding of a tech team of ten talented individuals into the government in under two months. This Commerce Data Service (http://www.commerce.gov/dataservice) has worked with 11 of 12 Bureaus of Commerce to further the Department’s strategic goals.

Collaborated on a process for technology inclusion. Modern practices enable accelerated innovation. Thus, in this year, We’ve worked in partnership with the Department’s Office of the Chief Information Officer to craft the approval process for the use of free online collaboration tools such as Github, along with the approval of Amazon Web Services as a development and test platform.

Introduced Agile to the department. Agile development is a core pillar of impact-focused software development. Our initial engagements have shown the value of incorporating user-centered design into bureau projects (e.g. the re-design of the web presence for Bureau of Economic Affairs’ RIMS II multipliers), as well as sprint-based planning for delivering useful and relevant data products and services for everyone from the International Trade Administration (ITA) to the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) to the Economics & Statistics Administration (http://esa.gov/cdac/).

Prototyped NextGen data products. We have created a R&D practice that is experiment-driven. Working with public-facing agencies, we’ve built predictive models that increase outreach efficiency for the International Trade Administration (ITA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). Working with those who safeguard intellectual property, we’ve collaborated on the development of the data infrastructure for the Patent Quality Search tool for Patent Trial and Appeals Board data and enabling pioneering search features for the US Patent and Trademark Office. To help core operations, we’ve developed an analytics and visualization tool for optimizing the travel of principals in the Department.

Collaborated on strategy. Helped the National Technical Information Services with their shift to a more data-driven mission. Worked with the US Chief Technology Office to formally define the roles of Chief Data Officer and Chief Data Scientist.

Forged a new data education agenda. Launched an ambitious data education agenda to prepare DOC and the public for the data economy. Within one year, we launched the Commerce Data Academy (http://dataacademy.commerce.gov) that has offered courses to 3,900 participants in data science and development. To deepen impact, 15 DOC personnel were awarded programming education scholarships and served a three-month residency to build sustainable and high-impact products, resulting in products ranging from a R library for more intuitive access to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) to a visualization suite for archived and new economic development data for the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to a patent routing algorithm to help patent examiners be more efficient. Furthermore, in partnership with the private sector (Zillow, Microsoft), academia (Columbia University), nonprofits (Earth Genome) and DOC agencies, we developed a public resource called the Commerce Data Usability Project (http://commerce.gov/datausability) that provides advanced coding tutorials using Commerce data. Both initiatives are being replicated by other Federal agencies.

Engaged the technologist public. We’ve promoted the use of hackathons and challenges as a way to raise the visibility of social issues. Working with the White House Council for Women and Girls, the Presidential Innovation Fellows and the U.S. Census Bureau, we’ve brought socially engaged technologists to tackle the gender pay gap problem through the “Hack The Pay Gap” initiative http://paygap.pif.gov. and the school-to-prison pipeline for minority girls http://helpgirlsofcolor.org.

Collaborated for social progress. To accelerate the use of DOC data, we established a number of collaborations focused on social equality with the White House, the White House Presidential Innovation Fellows and the U.S. Census Bureau. Through this work, we’ve developed the Opportunity Project (http://opportunity.census.gov) that brings together technology partners to develop open data-centered applications that surface opportunities around the country. Redfin, for example, developed a neighborhood opportunity score using their housing data and open data sources and has the potential to revolutionize how the general public makes important life choices. Making Income Data Accessible As a Service or MIDAAS (https://midaas.commerce.gov) is an API strategy to expand the quantitative vocabulary of income inequality. By reprocessing Census data into finer measurements, MIDAAS offers the public the opportunity to contextualize inequality in very concrete and relatable terms.

Facilitated cultural change. Demonstrated the value of using open data and open source technologies to foster a culture of collaboration, responsibility, and innovation.

None of this would be possible without the amazing CDS team (Jeff, Star, Rebecca, Radhika, Pri, Mark, Negar, Sasan, Natassja, and Alison). With this well-tuned and efficient crew in place, and under the watchful eye of Jeff Chen, this is the perfect time for me to step back, take a break, and find my next adventure.

Thus, I’m taking the month of August to rest and will have exciting news for you in September.

Continue to “Solve real problems. Make positive impact. Deliver stuff people love.”

Cheers, Ty



Dr Tyrone Grandison

Techie, Data Enthusiast, Privacy Advocate, Security Nerd. Social Justice Geek. Well-Rounded Human Being.