U.S. CTO Chopra on the Public Sector and IT

By Donald Sears  |  Posted 2009-12-28 Print this article Print

Dennis McCafferty over at Baseline has an excellent question and answer interview with the CTO of the U.S. government, Aneesh Chopra, who works with President Barack Obama daily. Be sure to read the full interview for insight in to what a day in the life of a CTO in government is like.

One interesting bit of caerer wisdom Chopra discusses is on the vetting process in public sector and its differences from corporate America. For those of you considering government or public sector work, Chopra hints at the bureaucracy embedded in the process, but also understands some of its role.

Here are a few excerpts from the interview pertaining to that topic:

How did your experience as Virginia's first secretary of technology help prepare you for the White House job?

Chopra: It helped me appreciate the differences in how business gets done in the public versus the private sector. There's a new language to learn in the public sector. You have "stakeholders," not "shareholders."

When you want to get something done in the private sector, you convene a meeting, come to a decision and execute it. There are internal processes, tied to the cost of investment and the problem that needs to be resolved, but the lines of accountability are so much greater in the public sector. There's more vetting and need for transparency. Each step is a formal process, with legal review. The level of freedom isn't the same.

You sound as if you get frustrated with that sometimes.

Chopra: Yeah, for those of us who like to act quickly, it can be frustrating. But, in the end, I appreciate the need to do things right. The expedient answer may feel better at first, but the long-term approach assures good decision making.

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