Can’t get a government website to validate you? Here is possibly why.

I’ve had multiple problems with multiple State of Washington or Government websites in the last year. Strange, inscrutable errors when trying to validate my identity, with no clear solutions.

Trying to get my updated social security info? It’s right there on the website. Except that the website won’t let me log in. I get a weird error. So, I have to go to the office to wait in line and talk to a person.

Trying to sign up on the state health care exchange? The dreaded: “Due to No Security Question Answer available. null” error. That error is well documented on the internet. The solution suggested every time? Upload all your documents to the website. That answer is wrong. In both cases, the government was trying to contact a credit bureau to get your personal information to test you on your knowledge about yourself.

I figured this out too late for the social security office, but figured it out for the health care exchange.

I froze my credit. You should too. It is a good (not perfect) guard against identity theft.

However, that frozen credit prevents anyone from trying to use your credit history information to validate your identity. This isn’t a great way to validate identity anyway since a lot of that information is available publicly.

The only solutions are to deal with their support teams (the front line folks never know about this and so you need to explain it to them), go to an office and wait in line to show them a physical ID, or temporarily unfreeze your credit.

Luckily, the credit bureau sites let you easily unfreeze your credit temporarily. However, that is a very poor security solution, since it is a blanket unfreezing. That is bad if you are doing it to apply for a new credit card. It is even worse if you are using it for ID Validation on some random website. In the case of the government sites, I couldn’t tell which credit bureau they were using, so I had to unfreeze all of them. Really bad.

We need better identity validation solutions that work securely over the internet for government to use. Luckily, I’m now in a position to help.

The next step

If you have a good job, a job that pays you well, a team you like working with, and a mission you believe in, deciding to move on from that role is challenging.

In leaving a good job, you are giving up security and certainty. You are well aware of the privilege you have because so many people are stuck in jobs that they hate, where they are not well paid.

However, sometimes leaving is exactly the thing you need to do. Even a good job is not necessarily the right job for you and for where you want to go.

I have enjoyed my journey with AstrumU. I am proud of the team that we built. I am proud of the things that we accomplished. I joined because I was interested in the challenge of creating something from scratch again: a team, a product, a company. I hadn’t done that in a long time. The AstrumU mission is something I genuinely believe in. Adam, the CEO, built an impressive team before I even joined, and that was also inspiring.

After ten months with the company though, I realized while the role was a good one, it wasn’t the right one for me. I wasn’t the right one for it either.

I’ve spent the last seven years of my career building and scaling larger technology organizations and products. Those are the challenges that I’ve come to enjoy. I’ve developed a skill set around scaling teams, and I want to continue to develop those skills. Eventually, I would be able to do that at AstrumU, but the company doesn’t need those skills today.

As I was pondering what to do, I got an exciting message from one of the founders of Onfido. Onfido is a company focused on validating identity. They use very sophisticated computer vision and machine learning paired with trained humans to help people prove who they are and help companies avoid fraud.

Onfido has been growing quickly and needed a CTO who could help them grow well. The opportunity is perfect for me. It combines areas where I have technical expertise with areas that I’m interested in developing deeper. There is a good size organization, that is growing rapidly. There is a massive opportunity, and the company is well positioned to capture it with the right leadership.

Most importantly, the founders realized the importance of establishing a strong company culture very early. The culture of Onfido reminds me of many of the things I appreciated about Spotify. It is a natural fit for me.

I will work in London, at Onfido’s main office. Seattle is lovely, and it has been great being back, but my family and I have missed living in Europe and are looking forward to returning. I started at Onfido at the beginning of April and will be relocating to London this summer.

In my first six weeks at Onfido, what I have seen has shown me that I made the right decision. I’m very excited to be part of Onfido’s future. I am also excited that I will continue to be part of AstrumU’s future, as an advisor to the company.