'A visionary with a blueprint'
- By Colleen O'Hara
- Apr 10, 2000
Emory Miller has been around government for a while — 33 years to be exact.
But he still approaches his work with the enthusiasm of someone new to the
Such enthusiasm should come in handy. With information technology career
development and training taking center stage in today's tight labor market,
Miller is finding that his responsibilities are expanding.
As director for professional IT development at the General Services
Administration, Miller is responsible for developing programs to train the
government's IT leaders. When he joined GSA in 1996, he was in charge of
the Trail Boss seminar program. Since then he has launched the Strategic
and Tactical Advocates for Results (STAR) and CIO University programs and
revamped the Interagency Resources Management Conference. And he handles
all this with only a 10-person team.
But new ventures don't seem to intimidate Miller. A few years ago, at
the urging of his daughter, he launched a T-shirt company. He sold 25,000
shirts in one year and set up a World Wide Web site that accepted online
orders at a time when electronic commerce was just taking off. It was only
a short-term business, but Miller said he took from it some valuable lessons
about how to market and sell a product.
That wasn't Miller's first foray into entrepreneurship. Long before
launching his T-shirt company, Miller designed a children's game that consisted
of oversized city maps. They were designed so that no matter how the maps
were laid out on the floor, the roads always matched up. But Miller realized
that the heavy material used as backing would make the maps too expensive
It seems natural that with all his entrepreneurial spirit, Miller would
have chosen a career in the private sector. But Miller said he remembers
making a conscious decision to enter government after graduating from the
University of Virginia in 1968. Soon after, he joined the Army as a programmer.
Miller says the work of government is a noble service. "I think of myself
as someone who is impacting government for the good of government and the
good of citizens," he said.
His career took him to the Department of Housing and Urban Development
as a customer services engineer, and before long an opportunity opened up
in IT acquisitions. "That launched a very intensive career for me," he said.
He left HUD after seven years and accepted a job at the Internal Revenue
Service procuring its mission-critical systems.
"I found out that I really enjoyed doing procurement and acquisitions,"
he said. "And I learned a tremendous amount [about] how to provide good
leadership, how to put a team together and how to lead them and how to deliver
products. I learned that providing good management means providing a balance
While at IRS, Miller became the first Trail Boss of a major acquisition
at the Treasury Department and was part of a seven-member team nicknamed
"I learned that the best contribution I can make as a leader is to create
that environment where I benefit from the talent, the diversity, the knowledge
of my team," he said. "Since that time, that's the way I manage everything."
He learned, he said, that no decision is black or white. "It's our objective
to make the best gray decision" as a team, he said.
"Emory definitely likes working as a team. He believes in sharing information
with people," said Terry Weaver, a program manager at GSA. "My own favorite
description of him is as a visionary with a blueprint."
When the GSA job opened up, Miller said it was a natural for him because
of his experience with the Trail Boss program. However, the job quickly
grew in scope. "Very quickly we realized that there was a lot going on in
the federal work force, and the CIO Council had established some competencies
that they said were those a CIO organization needed [in order] to be successful,"
he said. That's when Miller decided to launch CIO University, which he said
is attracting more and more federal CIOs. The STAR program followed last
year as a way to train senior managers in program and project management.
"To me there is great emphasis on making sure that we're developing
people and growing them in project management," he said. "And then providing
strategic leadership in that development leads an organization forward.
These to me are the two major thrusts of the work force."