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FCW : August 15, 2016
August 15, 2016 FCW.COM 15 Technology challenges Scaling up water data collection means overcoming some serious technology hurdles. David Blodgett, a civil engineer and project coordi- nator at USGS’ Center for Integrated Data Analytics, explained what the government is contending with now. “Our data challenges are largely around privacy and trust with use of furnished data,” he said. “Another sig- nificant issue is around compatibility and interpretation of information that can inform a water-use estimate but requires some level of integration or interpretation to be meaningful. Nor- malizing these kinds of data across the country is a huge task that is, neces- sarily, a manual effort.” USGS software and IT services are largely provided in-house. The agen- cy worked with a contractor to build database software, and USGS main- tains the code. “Recently, we have started to use the open-source R programming lan- guage to build [quality assurance/qual- ity control] tools,” Blodgett said. “This has allowed internal IT professionals to help water-use specialists craft and maintain their own tools in a way that follows best practices and should be more sustainable.” USGS has two main water-use data- bases, said Nancy Barber, a USGS hydrologist who serves on the agen- Recruiting a top tech exec into government BY MARK ROCKWELL The General Services Administration’s search for an exceptional candidate to lead its Technology Transformation Ser- vice cannot rely on simply posting an ad on the federal jobs website. As GSA Administrator Denise Turner Roth told FCW, the next commissioner of TTS must be an extraordinary leader and a visionary IT thinker. A traditional job search won’t suffice. “It’s a different kind of effort,” she said. The agency formally kicked off its search to replace TTS’ inaugural com- missioner, Phaedra Chrousos, on July 11. Although GSA did place an ad on USAJobs, that listing is more of a place- holder, according to Roth. And although both Chrousos and Roth have said the hire could come from within government, the TTS commissioner slot is not being treated as a career Senior Executive Ser- vice position. TTS is home to some of the federal government’s highest-profile digital trans- formation efforts — 18F, the Presidential Innovation Fellows program and the Fed- eral Risk and Authorization Management Program. Each has been controversial on occasion, and all continue to evolve. Roth said finding the right person for such a highly visible position requires active recruiting in Cambridge, Mass.; Silicon Valley; Seattle; and other tech hot spots. And it involves working contacts at top universities and technology compa- nies across the country. Chrousos herself came to GSA via a nontraditional path. The co-founder of two New York City-based startups, Chrousos met then-GSA Administrator Dan Tangher- lini through the Partnership for Public Ser- vice and became the agency’s first chief customer officer in June 2014. In 2015, she was named associate administrator of the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies and was tasked with overseeing 18F. She became commissioner of TTS when 18F, FedRAMP and the PIF program were rolled into the new organization. Roth said finding the right person for the position is less a science than an art. “It can be word-of-mouth” that brings in the right person rather than tradi- tional recruiting techniques, she added, although she left open the possibility of hiring a headhunter to boost the agency’s reach. The job, however, isn’t like a typical executive leadership position in the cor- porate world, Roth said. The fact that it’s a public-service job is one of its strongest selling points, she added. Companies compete for top-level executives by offer- ing huge incentive packages and perks, but instead of cash, the TTS commission- er’s primary reward will be the opportu- nity to propel the federal government into the 21st century with new technology and acquisition methods. She said the message to prospective candidates is simple: “You can change the world.” n The message to prospective candidates is simple: “You can change the world.” — DENISE TURNER ROTH 0815fcw_014-024.indd 15 7/27/16 8:36 AM
July 30, 2016
August 30, 2016