Federal government IT professionals have always been committed to serving their fellow citizens. Long before there were IT departments or computers, federal employees were exploring ways to innovate and improve citizen services.
For example, in the 1880s the Census Bureau struggled to efficiently process data from a growing U.S. population. Bureau employee Herman Hollerith found a new way to process the increasingly large quantities of data the Bureau had collected during the 1880 census. Hollerith automated the tallying of data with a tabulating machine that became known as the Hollerith Machine and reduced processing tabulation time by nearly 900 percent.
In the 20th century we saw that same spirit of federal IT ingenuity displayed in the work of individuals like Dorothy Vaughn at NASA. Vaughn, whose story has been made famous by the film Hidden Figures, was a manager at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ (NACA) and took it upon herself to learn computer programming. Vaughn became critical to helping NASA incorporate IBM computers into its calculations. It’s important to note that Vaughn took the initiative herself to learn computer programming and understood the potential that emerging technologies would have on NASA’s mission.
These individuals became heroes at their agencies by taking risks and continually learning. This same spirit of discovery continues to move agencies forward today. Federal IT employees can improve how government serves the citizen and the warfighter and transform how their agencies meet their missions.
What does it take to become a federal IT hero? Start by tapping into professional curiosity, exploring emerging technologies and with experimentation.
Reconnect with your Passions and Tap into Professional Curiosity
Knowing the status-quo “current state” is not enough, you need to consider the evolution of technology and go beyond how IT has traditionally been applied to public sector opportunities. Does that intrigue you? Well, then start by tapping into your professional curiosity, which can be as simple as taking the time to read this blog. Study about new technologies and initiatives, learn from colleagues and attend events – then take the next step and consider what this could mean for your agency’s challenges. You, as a government IT professional, benefit by staying in close contact with private sector technology leaders and innovators, keeping your agencies informed of emerging solutions.
For example, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning represent emerging technology areas poised to impact government in the near future. To help you begin to think about the technology and its implications, check out this e-learning course focused on the machine learning as a resource for those curious about the newest trends impacting the network.
Don’t wait too long to research an emerging technology or learn a new skill – if you have taken the first step to learn more before a request arises, you are more likely to become your agency’s IT hero.
Expand Skills through Education and Training
Once you discover emerging innovations and technologies, the next step is to expand agency skill sets. This can be done through formal education, but can also be accomplished by taking advantage of no-cost training offered by multiple vendors.
For example, my company – Brocade – is currently offering a three-hour free online course on IP storage networking. These options give any federal IT employee the opportunity to grow their skills and become more valuable to their agencies. I also encourage federal IT professionals to download free technology like virtual routing, to learn more and experiment with how emerging solutions can impact their missions. Free downloads give you the chance to see how “useable today” technology can enable next-generation, high-performance networks.
Start Small and Experiment
The best way to start is on small projects where you have the flexibility and budget to experiment and ultimately identify better technologies for your agency environment.
As an example, start small by learning the language and downloading free Open Flow applications, many of which are available through resources like GitHub. Open Flow is an industry standard that aligns with software-defined network environments, ensuring better communication between SDN-aware devices. A network administrator at one of our customers who undertook a similar initiative took promising initial findings to his boss suggesting that Open Flow could improve efficiencies. Three months later Open Flow had been deployed into a couple of data center environments and reduced provisioning time by 75 percent. By taking a small and focused initiative, he became an IT hero and opened his teammate’s eyes to the promise of next-gen technology.
For many professionals working for government the motivation isn’t about pay or recognition. It’s about knowing that your work profoundly improves the safety, security and satisfaction of citizens, taxpayers and our great military. IT has become central to nearly all government missions, so taking steps to become an agency IT hero means creating opportunities to get actionable information into the right hands more quickly, finding ways to solve service delivery challenges or better equipping the warfighters who defend our freedom every day. It all starts by reconnecting with your passions, expanding your knowledge base and reimagining what’s possible.