A driving force at FTS

You won't see the General Services Administration Federal Technology Service's

new commissioner out playing golf with her co-workers on a sunny weekend

afternoon. More likely, you'll see her decked out in leather and a helmet,

zooming down the road on the back of her husband's Harley-Davidson.

Sandy Bates, a lifelong government employee and a longtime force behind

FTS, is a motorcycle enthusiast. "Everyone knows how much I love cats...but

the one thing that usually gets people off-guard is when I tell them that

one of the things that I truly enjoy doing is riding with my husband on

a Harley-Davidson," she said.

Bates takes over the top spot at FTS this week, but she is not new to the

agency. She started working at FTS when she was 16 — living proof that the

federal summer internship program works.

In her new job, Bates said she will push to make GSA a stronger customer-focused

agency, putting more emphasis on finding out what agencies need and then

creating solutions or contracts that can help.

"We need to listen, to find out, to be a partner with them on what are

their needs — what they need from us in order to be successful in accomplishing

their agency's priorities, and then for us to craft our solutions to support

them," Bates said. "We need to shift our focus to listen and learn and then

develop solutions, rather than to lead with the solution and then listen...to

the customer."

GSA as a whole has prided itself on its transformation to a customer-centric

agency, but this philosophy will require even more change on the part of

FTS employees. Bates warned her staff members as soon as the leadership

change was announced.

"I kidded with some of our staff and said that the only thing about

change that will change is that we're going to increase the pace," she said.

"I think that it's important for FTS that we move ahead."

Bates has been a driving force at GSA as second in command to outgoing

commissioner Dennis Fischer. But her passion for turning the agency into

a customer-centric organization stems largely from the portion of her life

she did not spend at GSA.

From 1979 to 1996, Bates worked at NASA's Office of Space Communications.

She eventually was responsible for the agency's telecommunications networks.

As a customer of FTS, she said she expected the best. "I think I was a tough

customer. I demanded excellence from them, but I always knew they could

do it," she said.

Bates also feels strongly about being active in interagency groups.

"I firmly believe that while each individual needs to contribute to their

agency, they have a responsibility to the larger community — the interagency

community — to contribute," she said. "There's a lot to be gained for the

taxpayer by government agencies collaborating, sharing experiences. It makes

us more efficient, and [it makes us] work better."

This week, Bates will make her first public appearance as commissioner

in one of the most public ways possible: at GSA's FTS user conference in

Dallas. The annual convention brings together agency customers, industry

partners and FTS employees to talk about changes for the year ahead. And

there will be plenty of changes this year. One of the biggest changes is

the expansion of the conference itself.

In the past, the user conference has focused almost solely on FTS networking

and telecommunications offerings. This year, FTS is bringing in people and

offerings dealing with IT solutions, notably the information security and

information assurance offerings put together by GSA's Office of Information


Much of this expansion simply is a symptom of the changes FTS and the

industry have been headed toward for years — the merging of IT and telecommunications

technology and policy. Bates said agencies rarely can think of networking

without thinking of telecom, too, she said.

The conference will be the perfect launching pad for Bates to start

working with customers in her new role. "I've attended every user forum

we've had, in one capacity or another, so I'm a known quantity to many of

our customers," she said. "But what I want customers to know is that I will

continue in this job with a customer focus and will make sure that as I

view every situation and every opportunity that I take the time and look

at it through the eyes of a customer."


Title: Commissioner of the General Services Administration's FederalTechnology Service

Background: Bates started at FTS as a summer intern when she was 16.When she wasn't working for FTS, she was a customer, "demanding excellence"from FTS during her stint at NASA from 1979 to 1996. She has served on manygovernmentwide programs, including as chairwoman of the Interagency ManagementCouncil in 1995.

Employment: Bates oversees the management and creation of some of thegovernment's most widely used information technology and telecommunicationscontracts, ranging from outsourcing desktop management to securing networks.

Personal: She met her husband while working at FTS, and the two spendmany weekends taking trips to their beach house or riding her husband'smotor-cycle. They meet fellow riders at Patriot Harley on Route 50 in Fairfax,Va. "We enjoy riding the Harley, and the folks around here get a big kickout of thinking of their commissioner with my helmet and my leathers andmy full regalia."

Quote: On her first FTS job: "The family that lived across the street fromme, the man worked at GSA and headed up the finance office. He told me aboutthe fact that GSA was hiring summer employees, so I said, "Well, gee, canI apply?' "


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