Talent on loan
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Apr 02, 2001
When Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and Secretary of Technology Marc Holtzman
approached Paul Quade back in the summer of 1999 to become the state's first
chief information officer, they didn't try to lure him with a salary, benefits
Instead, they asked Quade's bosses at Galileo International whether
they would consider loaning him out for an extended period of time. Essentially,
Quade would become a full-time state employee for practically nothing.
"When the governor and Marc first asked me about it, they checked with
me first to see if I'd be willing to do it. And I said, yes, I would be
willing to do it," recalled Quade, an information technology executive at
Galileo, which provides electronic global distribution services for the
travel industry. "[But] I said I'd be very surprised if [my bosses] go along
with the arrangement."
Owens and Holtzman contacted Galileo CEO James Bartlett and Executive
Vice President for Operations James Lubinski.
"And, of course, that idea was quite new to them," Quade said. "I guess
they didn't know quite what to think or how to handle it. So they thought
about it for a few days or a week and came back and said, "You know that
might be a very good contribution for our community.'"
In Colorado, it has become somewhat customary for state-based tech companies
to loan executives for six, eight or even 18 months in Quade's case to the
state Office of Innovation and Technology (OIT), headed by Holtzman.
Executives from high-tech companies, such as Qwest Communications International
Inc., Agilent Technologies, Hitachi Data Systems and XO Communications,
have served or are currently serving at OIT gratis. All loaned executives
have a similar arrangement: their private-sector companies continue to pay
the executives' salaries and benefits, while the state reimburses the executives
for travel and other expenses incurred during their stint.
By using loaned private-sector employees, Owens gets the best technology
minds without increasing the state budget, Quade said.
"And so what [Owens] was looking at was a way to get the type of resources
that he needed and highly qualified resources that he needed to advance
the technology message within Colorado and at the same time not put the
burden on the taxpayers," Quade said.
The practice seems unique to Colorado.
"I've talked to I bet you two-thirds of the other state CIOs over the
year and a half I was there, and there is no other such program that I know
in state government or in federal government that works like this," Quade
Representatives at the National Association of State Information Resource
Executives (NASIRE) and the Information Technology Association of America
(ITAA) said they haven't heard of the practice in other state governments.
"It sounds like a great program," said Danielle Germain, program manager
at ITAA's Enterprise Solutions Division. "I have not heard of anything else."
David Aldworth, a financial analyst with Agilent, joined OIT last November
to head the business development office, coincidentally replacing another
loaned executive from Qwest.
"It's not a contractual or necessarily a complex situation," he said
of his arrangement. "It's a goodwill situation between the state of Colorado
and the private company doing the offering."
Aldworth said he knew Holtzman while working at Agilent, a Hewlett-Packard
Co. spin-off that focuses on the communications, electronics, life sciences
and health care industries. When the loaned executive from Qwest was leaving
the state post, Holtzman put out feelers to find a replacement, and someone
Aldworth said he didn't want to leave his job at Agilent and knew the
state wouldn't be able to compensate him at the same level. So a 12-month
loan was arranged.
At the business development office, Aldworth oversees workforce issues,
advising mainly communications-based companies on how they can interact
with the state and with other businesses in their industry.
He said Agilent doesn't receive any compensation, such as a tax break
for an "in-kind donation"; they simply get recognition. As for Aldworth,
he's gaining a new perspective that will benefit his company.
"I feel I'll come out of this with an enormous amount of experience
working at a broad and abstract level with the state and bring that back
to Agilent," Aldworth said.
Quade said accepting the CIO post wasn't necessarily going to enhance
his career. But he was attracted to the challenges facing state government
— such as 19 separate agencies acting autonomously and 76 different procurement
systems — and the need to be more efficient and cost-effective.
"I wanted to go in and help fix these things," he said. "And I happened
to be at a point in my career where I planned to work another five to six
years, but, at that point, I felt that was something I really wanted to
do, and I was very willing to take a sabbatical from Galileo to do it."
That same sentiment attracted Louise Atkinson, vice president and general
manager of XO Communications, a telecommunications company. She is senior
adviser to the Governor's Commission on Science and Technology for six months.
Atkinson met Owens at a private luncheon with then Texas Gov. George
W. Bush about three years ago. Since then, her company has hosted Owens
and Holtzman at their Seattle offices. And Atkinson has continued the relationship
with them at several business and political events.
In 1999, she became involved with Metro Denver's efforts to brand its
technology area as the "Convergence Corridor" and, that same year, became
a founding member of Owens' Commission on Science and Technology. That gave
her more opportunities to work with government and get acquainted with the
"I felt very, very comfortable with these guys after working with them
after two years," she said of Owens and Holtzman. She said most of the work
for the program she was heading at XO was finished by October 2000 when
Owens approached XO's president.
"The reasons I did it were because I need to have broad, strategic,
high impact projects to keep me going," she said.
Atkinson is contributing her expertise toward the state's Multi-Use
Network project, a fiber-optic network connecting all state offices and
schools in Colorado's 64 counties, construction of a statewide public portal,
and getting more women interested in technology.
While Quade and Aldworth said they believed loaned executives amounted
to a community contribution, Atkinson said she believed it was a "business
proposition" from a public relations point of view.
Quade said he didn't know of any company benefiting from the arrangement
financially. He said Galileo, for instance, does not have a contract with
the state. "If [companies] had ulterior motives, I certainly didn't know
about it," he said.
Quade said in some cases the loaned executives didn't work because they
couldn't adapt to state government. Working in state government has a different
dynamic from working in the private sector, all three loaned executives
said. There's a greater need to build consensus with a greater number of
agencies than in a private company.
All said that they have had or are having good experiences working within
the state government and other agencies and that full-time state workers
have been responsive and cooperative.
Aldworth said institutional knowledge is important, but "there's something
to the expertise they bring in." All three credit Owens and Holtzman with
creating an atmosphere that encourages creativity and a progressive attitude.
Quade also said that if the initiative didn't come from Owens, companies
would have balked at the loan proposition.
"But I'll tell you the reason that it's happened in Colorado and no
place else is it has to come from the top," Quade said. "You're not going
to sign agency heads or people a little lower in the government going out
and advocating this because, to some degree, it maybe lessens their control,
it takes away from the job that they're doing."
Colorado state government and its citizens can only benefit from the
arrangement, the executives said.
"I think what you're going to see is little by little, at least in Colorado,
... that influence from private industry carry over into state government,"
Quade said. "And I think we've seen a lot of it already."