Tom Cochran's most recent government position was at the State Department, where he oversaw digital platforms for public diplomacy.
Tom Cochran, the former White House digital director who launched the "We the People" petition platform and helped steer President Barack Obama's early open-government agenda, has joined Acquia as vice president and chief digital strategist for public sector. Acquia, a Boston-based platform-as-a-service provider, is built around the open-source content management platform Drupal, which is widely used at federal agencies.
Cochran's familiarity with Acquia dates back to his White House days, when he sought the company's help in addressing some stability issues affecting WhiteHouse.gov. He said the fixes resulted in a system that "was secure, stable and scalable," and "we really started off a strong relationship."
Cochran left the White House in 2012 to become CTO at Atlantic Media but found himself drawn back into government less than two years later by the "no-brainer" opportunity to oversee public diplomacy platforms at the State Department. As the son of a Foreign Service officer, the job was like "coming full circle," he told FCW.
"Working in an organization where there's a mission...is really important to me," Cochran said. "And finding a job outside government that does that is very difficult." So with his politically appointed term at State coming to an end, "the only thing that I could think of was to work for an organization that aligned with the public sector."
Cochran will be based in Washington and charged with growing the firm's public-sector business at all levels of government. Acquia has a large project underway with the government of Australia, for example, that he said could be a model for how governments standardize on a centralized platform.
And although he is clearly invested in the digital government efforts of the Obama administration, Cochran predicted that technology firms like Acquia would fare equally well under President-elect Donald Trump. The next administration might not continue "We the People" or the White House blog, Cochran said, but it will embrace digital in its own way.
"When you get down to the framework levels and the platform levels, I don't think the politics really care what those are," he said. "What they do care [about] is how they're used."
He added that "if you're making intelligent, logical, often cost-based or resource-based decisions, then I could argue strongly that it makes a lot of sense to continue down the path of open source."
NEXT STORY: Musical chairs for Senate Dems