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FCW : May 30, 2014
22 May 30, 2014 FCW.COM David McClure spent 18 years at the Government Accountability Of ce, moved into private-sector research and consulting, and then returned to government in 2009. He will retire from the General Services Administration at the end of May. This is your second departure from government service. Why did you leave the rst time and what prompted you to come back? There are telltale signs that it s time to do something different. When I was in government before, I was there for 18 years. I was asking myself, "Is this the only experience, from a work experience, that I want my entire career, or are there other things out there that I feel like I can do?" I think that s why I bowed out of government the rst time. I came back because the govern- ment was offering a unique opportu- nity, a period of innovation, open- ness, creativity. I m oriented that way and always have been, so when in came an administration stressing that agenda item, it gets you excited. So it was more about speci c opportunities or moments than some master career plan? Yes, I ll probably go against all career books, but I ve never had a speci c plan. If something presents itself, it s intriguing, and I feel like I can do that new thing and have fun and make a difference, then I ll do it. I did not expect to be in govern- ment ever. I was going to be an academic and teach. I became a presidential intern, and that changed my whole outlook on public service. I went to a not-for-pro t. I would ve never told anybody that I planned to work in that sector, but I m glad I did. I never thought I would be at Gartner doing world- wide consulting and research, but that happened, and then no one would ve thought that I would come back to government. And look --- here I am. When opportunities present them- selves, you have to weigh them, and if it makes sense, take it. Do you believe your sojourn in the private sector added perspective? Do you think it helps to bring in fed- eral leaders who have been on the other side? I do. I think the question is "when?" Oftentimes there s the thinking that when people are nished with government careers, they naturally go to the private sector. I don t think that s what we ought to be advocating. It ought to be an early and mid-career option, too, because until you walk in the shoes of the people who are trying to actually help you and you under- stand the world they live in, it s dif- cult to truly appreciate how to set up an effective partnership between government and its contracting partners. Do you see people making those earlier midcareer decisions? It s a good question. But there s not a year-speci c right time. When it makes sense is when you know that a different kind of experi- ence could help you round out your own leadership and management capability, or you can learn some- thing very valuable that you would not have any other possibility of doing if you stayed where you were. I think that s what you have to come to grips with, and that means one, ve or 20 years in. I don t think the timing matters. What organi- zations, both public and private, need to do for their managers and executives is to allow those options to exist where and when it makes sense, because otherwise you ve lost the moment. David McClure: Know when to shift gears FirstPerson The outgoing leader of GSA s Of ce of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies discusses the value of moving from government to industry and back
May 15, 2014
June 30, 2014