Kathleen Druitt: A program manager at heart
Kathleen Druitt has a passion for project management. As the information systems manager for the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board and project manager for FederalReporting.gov, she's had plenty of opportunity to exercise those skills.
In 2009, Druitt became the driving force behind launching the board's primary project when she was given the job of setting up the FederalReporting.gov and Recovery.gov Web sites — complete with the pressure of tight deadlines and a very interested White House.
“I love watching things get accomplished, putting everything together, working on the fine details, finding the risks, seeing what could be coming down the line soon,” she said.
As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, agencies must show how they've spent stimulus money and what it has done for the country’s economy. That means that the more than 80,000 companies and organizations that have received federal funding must report how they're using the money at FederalReporting.gov. From there, the information transfers to Recovery.gov, where it is translated into easy-to-understand maps and colorful charts for the public to peruse.
However, weeks before the official launch, Druitt discovered that no one had tested the two sites’ systems to make sure they were properly integrated to transmit data.
As the board’s then-chief project officer, Druitt worked overtime with her team to make the systems talk to each other. She enlisted the involvement of the board’s executives, contractors and colleagues from other agencies. When Druitt interrupted one man at a party to help her resolve some issues, she had to ask him to put his phone on mute because of the background noise.
They built the systems during the day and tested them at night, she said, adding, “All I could do was work and sleep.”
Board officials say they couldn't have done it without Druitt. She saved the project, said James Warren, the board’s chief information officer.
“Boy, were we lucky when we found Kathleen,” said Mike Wood, director of Recovery.gov. “She quickly became the backbone of the whole project.”
Druitt previously worked at the Transportation Security Administration, but she said the board reminded her more of her experience in the heady world of tech start-up companies. The dynamic nature of launching a company gives the work a certain intensity, and everyone involved has an air of excitement about them, she said.
Similarly, the recovery board needed to award a contract for the Web sites in less than a month. Time was the primary issue, she said.
To be successful, Druitt and Warren said they had to write clear requirements for the request for proposals because miscommunications between the board and the contractor could have had disastrous effects. Druitt said she made sure she spent enough time on getting the requirements right, even though she was under pressure to keep the project moving. They had to define their project's scope, have a definite end date and ensure that they had an agile team doing the work, she said.
In the end, the board awarded a contract July 10, 2009, to build Recovery.gov, and work on the project started the same day. FederalReporting.gov launched Aug. 17, 2009, and Recovery.gov went live Sept. 28, 2009.
Matthew Weigelt is a former FCW senior writer who covered acquisition and procurement.