Sarah Toulson

6 minute read

Starting out: A career in public service

Tech consulting was never the plan. Originally, I went to college with the goal of attending law school and working my way into the realm of state politics. The dream: serve the people of my home state of North Carolina as a U.S. Senator. The work I do now on the Now Platform is somewhat of a second (or third?) career, but has fulfilled my original dream in a way that an elected office never could.

Life led me to postpone law school and instead pursue a Master’s of Public Administration. At the time I figured it was a good intermediary step, but ultimately my internships and roles in local government absolutely changed me. I fell completely in love with life in public service. Whether I was coordinating with elected officials, filling out monumental grant applications, or helping to plan the upcoming Arbor Day event, I was in the trenches every day, directly supporting and serving the communities I called home.

During my time in local government, I constantly found myself seeking ways to improve the way we conducted City business. Redeveloping forms, finding new ways to easily keep track of supplies and schedule meetings, and attempting to make our very manual processes easier for citizens.

Unfortunately, many of the software applications pushed on us often were too niche or too expensive to be worth investing in. Programs that were within our reach were often inflexible and outdated, ultimately adding more work to our daily routines rather than actually helping us manage tasks more efficiently. I often felt like I was spinning my wheels, spending hours on tasks that should have only taken minutes.

Finding ServiceNow: the solution to my frustrations with government service provision challenges

I was introduced to ServiceNow by a friend who over time became a mentor to me in the industry. Through this friend I was exposed more and more to what the platform was capable of doing for the private sector. I found myself thinking of all manner of ways we could utilize the automation tools, workflows, and request fulfillment capabilities to improve the way we served our citizens, kept the city running, and measured our effectiveness.

Over the past few years, I had been teaching myself graphic and web design and working as a freelancer on the side, so the idea of a beautiful, user-friendly Service Portal where citizens could easily make requests from their phone, especially appealed to me.

Finally, the need to grow and explore the skills I had developed pushed me out of City Hall, and eventually into the world of ServiceNow after a stint as a full-time freelancing designer. When interviewing for my first position as a ServiceNow developer, I pointed out very specifically that I saw huge potential for the platform in state and local government, and I hoped to find a way to work on projects supporting government digital transformations.

Going home: Using ServiceNow to serve state and local governments and the communities they represent

The desire to focus on building beautiful, efficient solutions for state and local governments is what led me to my current position as the Experience Lead for Servos, a premier ServiceNow partner.

One of our latest projects that really captures our work is the public Citizen Portal I worked with the Servos team to build for the State of South Dakota. We were able to completely replace the state’s website with an intuitive portal that allows citizens to easily access services and information for all of the state’s departments. It has been a joy to partner with the state to both design and develop this amazing piece of work on the ServiceNow CSM application. I love the opportunity to inject so much of a community’s personality into the portals we build, which can clearly be felt through the portal’s inclusion of the beautiful scenery, wildlife, and diverse people of South Dakota.

At Servos, I am part of an amazing, dedicated team that is truly invested in bringing quality solutions to state and local governments through the Now Platform. With every community we work with, we navigate the competing desires of departments, elected officials, and federal law compliance to build experiences that enable citizens to request services, report potholes, or apply for grants online with the same ease at which they might order their groceries. It is euphoric to see citizens marvel at how easy it is to navigate their government’s site and find what they needball without having to go downtown, take time off from work, or even sit on the phone listening to annoying hold music.

Just as important, the relief I see on the faces of the government staff when we hear their challenges and are able to convey, “Hey, I hear you, I’ve been there. And my mission is to make your life easier, ” then build them an easy, unified way to serve the public is its own reward. With every process we automate, with every paper form we turn digital, I see the friends I’ve made during my time in local government, and I know I’ve helped make their lives that much easier.

Through my work developing on the Now Platform, I’ve found a way to leverage all of the skills and experience I’ve gathered over the past decade. From political hopeful, to public servant, to designer, to ServiceNow developer, and now as a practice lead, I can say it’s certainly been a winding path. But it’s one that has ultimately led me home to my first love: serving communities.

Your own journey

Like I said, tech consulting, or even development in general, was definitely not the destination I had planned when I started my journey years ago. However one thing that has never changed, regardless of the hat I’ve worn, or the actual job I’ve done day to day, is keeping in mind the people I am ultimately serving. As a ServiceNow developer, my passion for development on the platform comes from knowing that real, everyday citizens living in communities just like mine are the ones at the other end of the technology I’m building.

I want to challenge you, whether you’re new to the Now Platform or a veteran of the industry that remembers a time when upgrades weren’t associated with cities, to approach your development every day with a mindfulness about the people you are ultimately serving. IT mishaps and HR requests can be so frustrating, but the solutions you and I build on the platform will make that person’s day just a little easier, even if they don’t realize it.

You have the potential to affect the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of people every day with the flows you build, script includes you code, and portals you design. Use ServiceNow to improve the lives of people, wherever you find them.