Letter to the editor
For the most part, I agree with your article ["Daniels: Fed IT workers "not the best']. However, it may well be worse than you implied, in reference to the statement: "The IT professionals in government are doing a good job, but "they are probably not the best the nation has to offer,' Daniels said. "I'm not sure we have cutting-edge leadership.' "
Within our agency, one-third of the IT workforce is talented, gifted and competent (the overachievers); they can hold their own with "the best that the nation has to offer." Another third is OK and, with appropriate training, could be an asset to the agency. The remaining third, however, should be fired on the spot. But I wouldn't leave the firings up to our management because they would probably fire the wrong third.
We do have some good managers, but they are few and far between. The majority wouldn't know either "cutting-edge" or "leadership" if they fell over them, and they certainly wouldn't be able to comprehend any sentence that included both of them.
How did we get to this state? Years and years of downsizing (since the 1970s) have ensured that very little new blood has been introduced to the workforce. The competent third is overworked, technically oriented and enticed by new products and technologies. They want to get their hands on all the new stuff, figure it out, put it up and see what it will do. They are specialists, they are self-motivated, they like what they do, and few have a desire to be managers.
Consequently, our managers come from those who specialize in "office politics" and/or who are connected to the "old boy" networks. My "group leader" is technically competent, the next person up the chain couldn't load his own computer if his life depended upon it, and his boss thinks that he is technically astute because he actually knows how to turn a computer on.
Appropriate training is almost nonexistent. Those who set up training have no understanding of what is needed or should be required. And even when they do get that part right, the training is usually only scheduled sometime after you have already figured everything out the hard way.
And the worst part, most of the entire IT workforce (good, bad and indifferent) is eligible to retire within the next five years. This year, they finally reevived the IT intern program, but I doubt that even these few new interns will get much exposure to existing "corporate IT knowledge" before the individuals who hold it also retire.
Name withheld by request