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FCW : March 30, 2016
March 30, 2016 FCW.COM 19 “Government is more hierarchical than you could possibly imagine...but it’s possible to break it down.” And that flexibility must go both ways, Wynn said. “Customer orienta- tion goes further than compliance,” she said. “While in theory ‘no’ seems easy, it isn’t.” The more she meets with differ- ent teams at NASA, she added, “the better we can integrate cybersecu- rity into all that we do and they do.... Getting to know what my clients are doing helps us manage the cyber aspects of our business better than just saying no.” 6 You need to make friends — fast Whether they are flexible or not, CIOs can’t do it alone. “As a CIO, your success is going to be greatly affected by your partners in finance, procurement, legal and HR,” said Casey Coleman, the former GSA CIO who is now at Unisys Federal Sys- tems. “Any initiative you undertake depends on their cooperation and assistance.” Those dependences can be espe- cially convoluted in government, and “you will find varying degrees of helpfulness,” Coleman said. “However, there are almost always at least one or two forward-leaning colleagues who share your vision for modernization. I strongly recom- mend that you find those people and make friends with them.” “If you have to navigate that learn- ing curve on your own,” Cooper agreed, “it slows tremendously your ability to move quickly...and accom- plish whatever it is that your new executives have asked you to take on. A new CIO must quickly find someone who knows your new envi- ronment and who can help you with the culture [and] unique processes.” Shive stressed that forging a solid relationship with the agency’s yet talented individuals keep jump- ing into the jobs — largely because the rewards of effecting change at government scale are hard to find anywhere else. Several CIOs stressed the appeal of public-service IT leadership, but Bray put it best: “It is an inspiring and humbling role. Success is tied to you championing your team... above all else, and such championing is only possible if you find joy and family support in what you do for the public. I am both thankful and inspired every day.” Dunkin said she was taken aback when her California visitor said, “You must hate this job.” Dunkin told her friend she had misunderstood: “I just said it was hard. I love this.” n “As a CIO, your success is going to be greatly affected by your partners in finance, procurement, legal and HR. Any initiative you undertake depends on their cooperation and assistance.” — FORMER GSA CIO CASEY COLEMAN top leaders is also invaluable. “Before you take the job, make sure you are on the same page as agency leadership when it comes to agency priorities and initiatives,” he said. “Validate with them that IT is integral and critical to carrying out those pri- orities and initiatives. If you get a lukewarm response, that might not be the right job for you.” And the alliance-building doesn’t stop at the department’s edge. “In today’s world, technol- ogy challenges rarely nest con- veniently within a single agency,” Wennergren said. “Your success as a CIO will depend on not only delighting your customer base within your agency, but also on your commitment to help solve technology challenges that impact the entire federal government.” Thankfully, he and others said, the career ranks of government hold plenty of talented potential allies. “There are amazing people in the government,” Dunkin said. “We beat the government work- ers up so much,” but the talent and commitment to the agency’s mission make for some tremen- dous teams. Cooper said his IT team at Com- merce boasts “extremely solid and comprehensive educational back- grounds” that compare favorably to anything he saw in industry. And they’re not limited to tech. “I’ve got folks in my office who have law degrees, they have Ph.D.s,” he said. “They’ve got a hell of a lot more aca- demic credentials than I do.” 7 It could be the best job you’ve ever had The pressures are intense, the pay can’t compare to what top compa- nies offer, and the range of public critics is like nothing most nongov- ernment CIOs have ever seen. And 0330fcw_016-019.indd 19 3/9/16 10:26 AM
March 15, 2016
April 15, 2016