Those who join public service have a special calling.
Those who join public service have a special calling. They are generally paid less than their private-sector counterparts, they face more scrutiny and oversight, and they generally get less respect. Even government contractors are derided as Beltway bandits. Yet most people work in government technology because they get a thrill out of the government’s mission: protecting and serving.
That is why we were excited when the Young AFCEANs from the Bethesda, Md., chapter of AFCEA International approached us last year about starting a program that recognizes young professionals in the federal information technology marketplace who work for the government or for companies that are partners with government.
The government needs — almost desperately — to find and encourage the next generation of leaders. And we know the Rising Star Awards program has tapped into that need because at every stage, it has exceeded our expectations. We received more nominations than we expected — more than 180. And we have more winners than we expected — 53.
The Young AFCEANs came to us because they wanted to recognize the work of younger people. After several discussions, we decided to use Federal Computer Week’s Federal 100 awards program as a model.
The Rising Stars program is unique for several reasons. First, we developed it from the ground up by starting with young people. They understand how important it is to publicly recognize good work in a way that highlights the opportunities in federal, state and local government and with government contractors.
Second, the program recognizes people who have not received accolades. Most members of the government IT community are aware of the impending workforce crisis. In the next five years, half of all federal government employees will be eligible to retire.
The Rising Star judges faced a daunting and somewhat complex task. It was often difficult to compare one candidate to another.
Take, for example, Lee Kair, a member of the Senior Executive Service who leads the Transportation Security Administration’s efforts at Orlando, Fla., International Airport. How does one compare his accomplishments with the work of Corey Nickens? A project manager at the General Services Administration, Nickens started as an intern at the Federal Systems Integration and Management Center and, within four months, was writing acquisition packages for complex IT systems integration projects.
And then there is Airman 1st Class Bradford Curry, an application systems technician who implemented spyware technologies that the Air Force has adopted as a best practice.
The judges also considered the importance of young leaders in industry, whom people too often discount or ignore because, after all, they are well paid for their work. But many companies in the government IT market value partnerships with the government. For example, an industry group sowed the seeds for this awards program.
As you read the winners’ profiles on the following pages, you may be surprised by the accomplishments of these people — even though they are not agency chief information officers or company chief executive officers.
We honor and respect the good work of the 53 winners. If just one Rising Star remains in public service because we recognized him or her or if just one young person considers a government career because of the Rising Stars, the program will have been a success.
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