Today's rising stars, tomorrow's leaders

Editor's note:This story was updated at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 25. Please go to Corrections & Clarifications to see what has changed.

Government and industry leaders attending the Rising Star Awards dinner spent Thursday evening talking about the future.

The awards program, hosted by Federal Computer Week, is intended to recognize the contribution of younger employees who do a lot of important work in the federal information technology community but who rarely get the limelight.

Highlighting such success helps the community identify up-and-coming individuals who might take leadership roles in the years ahead, said FCW Editor in Chief Christopher J. Dorobek.

“The government desperately needs to find and encourage the next generation of leaders," he said. "And we know that because at every stage of this program, it's exceeded our expectations.”

A call for nominations yielded nearly 200 candidates, a larger pool than anticipated. The panel of judges, with no obligation to reach a specific number of awards, ended up selecting 53 winners from federal, state and local government and from industry. The process was based generally on FCW's Federal 100 Awards program.

The idea for the Rising Star Awards program came from the Young AFCEANs, of the Bethesda, Md., chapter of AFCEA International. It was strange that no one had proposed the idea before, Dorobek said. “The concept was so simple yet so powerful: recognizing the outstanding work that young people were doing,” he said.

Prasad Karunakaran, a member of the Young AFCEANs, first approached FCW with the idea for the awards. During an interview at the dinner, he said the Rising Star program might very well identify future winners of the Federal 100 Award.

“When I look at the Fed 100, they're at the management level,” said Karunakaran, who is president of software development firm Zenyon. “There are lots of folks behind them that make them where they are and there's no way for them to get recognized. I'm happy this turned out the way it did.”

Dorobek thanked Karunakaran for agreeing to serve as a Rising Star judge even though it meant giving up a probable Rising Star award.

Philip Kiviat, president of AFCEA's Bethesda chapter and partner of consulting firm Guerra Kiviat, said the program served to “recognize...and motivate” young feds in government service. That was vitally important because "young people are the lifeblood of any organization,” Kiviat said.

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