Letter: Older feds are frustrated, too

I read with interest the article on retaining younger workers [“Panel: Feds must adapt to the next generation of workers”]. As a 30-year employee of the federal government, I also have moved around/between jobs (all within the same Cabinet-level agency). My job titles have included local-area network administrator, policy specialist, economist, program analyst and a few others.

Although I admit many managers don't get it when they see people move around, many do. Unluckily, these are the managers who reach supervisory capacity and languish because they are more interested in providing a place where people can employ their abilities for the best use and creating great places to work rather than playing the politics needed to reach the next level.

Having said that, it is not only the younger generation that wants the latest greatest tech. Many of us "older" feds get frustrated with the same-old same-old. As an example, I have a project that cries out for collaborative wiki software. Given that wiki software is well-tested and many licenses are free, one would think that this would be a no-brainer. Imagine my surprise when I was told that I was looking at a six-month or longer wait for the software since it was "new" and not on the approved list. I even volunteered my little project as a test bed that could be roped off if the information technology staff had worries about security. Still waiting.

I can see why younger feds are getting frustrated. Once they come through the doors in the morning, they revert from 21st-century open communications (cell phones, texting, IM, wiki, social networking, blogging, etc.) to a mid-20th-century mind-set (IT lockdowns, no streaming, no customization of even your desktop). Government IT departments and managers in general need to start asking themselves: How can the technology support what we do — not how can we support the technology given to us?

I would suggest even that agencies create a new position, what I would call a technologist — someone who might not be technically skilled in the nuts and bolts of software development or hardware but rather can look at the big picture, seeing what technology is capable of and where it can be used to advantage within the agency, now or in the future, in current applications or entirely new applications.

Anonymous


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