Can Government Meet the Silicon Valley Challenge?

Published on May 8, 2015

There appears to be varying angles at play when it comes to the federal government taking a page from Silicon Valley.

On one-hand, we are seeing the Obama Administration making IT leadership appointments with key technology talent from the west coast. This includes naming Google’s Megan Smith as the new U.S. Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Skype, PayPal, eBay, and LinkedIn veteran DJ Patil taking over as the new chief data scientist position for the government. These appointments show that government just might be starting to win the Silicon Valley “war for talent.”

However, a recent article from The Hill highlights a different story: the flow typically goes from government to Silicon Valley – not the other way around. To counter this challenge, the Department of Defense (DoD), and the Air Force are opening offices and cyber units in Silicon Valley.

As highlighted in this recent Washington Technology Op-Ed by AJ Clark of Thermopylae, discussed how it is possible to stave off the flight of talent from defense and government IT. But, for both government and industry, major steps need to be taken to win this war for talent. Senior level appointments of innovative thought leaders in emerging technology and how it is leveraged are important, but how far out are we from this truly permeating a defense culture and the capabilities provided to the Government Civilian and Millitary personnel?

In the article, Clark discusses how we need to create stronger team-oriented cultures that focus on innovation in a faster-paced environment. This can be achieved by creating internal innovation contests and task forces who challenge employees to develop solutions that solve real problems.

In addition, perhaps we need to instill a sense of pride about supporting the federal government in mission success. From developing the right cybersecurity solutions, to next-generation citizen engagement tools, there are plenty of opportunities for technology workers to be fulfilled in their roles in supporting government.

Being able to develop solutions that can save and improve citizens’ lives is the ultimate job. Clearly, we need to do a better job, collectively, of reminding the most talents technologists that serving government can be extremely rewarding if the right environment is cultivated for that talent to be effectively leveraged.

Otherwise, we will continue to see this talent drain occur, so long as the economics support the strong growth Silicon Valley has been observing.


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