Hey hey, ho ho, where's Obama's CTO?
As Senate hearings for the new Administration's cabinet members continue, tech folk are eagerly awaiting word on the status of the brand-new CTO position. So who's it going to be?
Speculation at this point seems to alight on candidates who already hold the job in other organizations. In the public service sector, the name that seems to come up most frequently is that of Vivek Kundra, currently serving as CTO of Washington, DC and a recent veteran of Obama's transition team.
Before taking those jobs, Kundra was Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia; before that, he was VP of marketing at Evincible Software and CEO of Creostar. Comfortable discussing and deploying new technologies (he's taught courses on doing so at U-MD), Kundra blogs and has used crowdsourcing techniques for picking and developing apps for citizens.
A number of candidates from the high-tech industry have also been suggested, from the improbable to the intriguing. In the former category, most of us would put Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and even Steve Jobs (whom one online commenter insisted has withdrawn from leading Apple not because he's sick but because he's Getting Ready; this may have been the most hopeful thing yet said about Mr. Jobs' current situation).
Two of the most prominent private-sector suggestions at this point are Padmasree Warrior, CTO of Cisco, and Charles Phillips, president of Oracle. Warrior has previously served on FCC and NSF panels, and she previously held the CTO spot at Motorola. Phillips also has experience in both the public and private sectors, the former as a commissioned Air Force officer and the latter as a managing director at Morgan Stanley. (He also holds both an MBA and a law degree.)
President Obama's pick could come down to what sort of job the federal CTO is destined to be -- the biggest unknown of all. It's not a position buried 'ssomewhere in GAO, or in the Department of Homeland Security, or squirreled away in any of the many government agencies that have or claim to have a toehold on federal tech. With so many constituencies both in need of guidance (not to mention, based on what we're all hearing about the ancient technology deployed around the federal government, in need of an passport to the 21st century) and edgy about losing political capital in the new administration, it's about not only technology acumen but politics.
But what if, just for fun, we cast the net a bit wider? Few would argue that security is, or should be, a major issue for our new CTO. Additionally, many tech folk would like to see an open-source maven at the helm -- and heaven knows that the art of managing big open-source projects is in large part about juggling the worries and demands of far-flung and vocal constituencies. So how about Window Snyder, the just-departed Mozilla CSO?
She's done her time at a big company (at Microsoft, she was security lead on XP SP2 and Server 2003), she's got the entrepreneurial experience (co-founded Matasano), and as of about a month ago she left Mozilla to "go work on something I have always been passionate about. I wish I could tell you about it now, but that will have to wait for a while." Most importantly, she has a known fondness for cephalopods -- and anyone taking on technology for the federal government could probably use a good understanding of things that are octopus-like.
Ms. Snyder was, sensibly enough, not available for comment by our deadline.