This year's judges offer their advice to Rising Stars and Rising Star wannabes.
What makes someone a Rising Star?
The person's accomplishments come to mind first — and are, indeed, emphasized in the nominations we receive. But our judges look for more than that. They're looking not for singular instances of past success but indications of future success. In effect, Rising Stars are people who, in the first third of their careers, have proven their ability to get things done. Given more time and more opportunities, they are likely to accomplish even greater things.
Based on this year’s list of winners, the future is bright indeed.
— John Monroe, Editor-in-Chief
Emma K. Antunes
Web Policy Adviser
What marks someone as a Rising Star: Someone who, through creativity or sheer determination, has gone beyond their job description and made a difference for their organizations. Also, the level of their work far exceeds the role they were expected to do. They are leading change from within and from below. They make things happen.
Advice to Rising Stars: It’s tempting to focus on the things you can't do and try to improve your weaknesses. But this only makes you average. What makes you great is focusing on what you do well. Don't get frustrated by the slow pace of change or by people who don't see your value. That's true no matter where you work. Focus on what you have already changed and what you can do moving forward. That's why your organization needs you so much — you will help map the course to the future.
Chairman and Founder
What marks someone as a Rising Star: Someone willing to take significant risks to improve government. The opportunity to improve the transparency, accountability and effectiveness of government while at the same time significantly reducing costs has rarely been greater than it is today. Rising Stars are the individuals who see the future and fight to make it happen despite the never-ending stream of excuses about why things have to stay the way they’ve always been.
Advice to Rising Stars: If you really want to make a difference, you have to spend at least as much time studying what’s happening outside government as you do becoming an expert on its inner workings. It’s amazing how many brilliantly innovative ideas are simply applications of obvious solutions in one domain to seemingly intractable problems in another. As you develop your brilliant idea, you will face a parade of people who will tell you why it cannot be done. You have to use each one of those naysayers to refine and improve your idea, the way you communicate it, and the politics of making it happen.
Robert D. Childs
National Defense University’s iCollege
What marks someone as a Rising Star: Someone totally committed to an organization’s mission, vision and overarching goals. Someone who builds trust and collaborates across all areas of their enterprise. Rising Stars should reach out continually to middle- and senior-level leaders and decision-makers in the military, federal agencies, private sector and international partners, looking to exchange information about how to improve and integrate the enterprise. Rising Stars should be leaders and advocates of change, and they must embrace the ever-changing direction of IT and cyber issues.
Advice to Rising Stars: Work hard and work strategically smart. Be part of a winning collaborative team. It’s all about starting with a vision of improving, crafting a strategy and building a team to hit the target. Don’t be afraid to do the hard work. Become someone who commits himself on a daily basis to make a contribution to the big picture and help others be successful. That creates the pathway to success. And remember to enjoy the journey!
Christopher J. Dorobek
Founder and Editor
What marks someone as a Rising Star: Going above and beyond — showing leadership no matter where you are in an organization.
Advice to Rising Stars: Just do it! Make it happen.
Professor of Public Management
Kennedy School of Government
What marks someone as a Rising Star: Going above your job description and working on an issue that is important to the performance of the organization.
Advice to Rising Stars: If you are in government, try to stay, even if you sometimes get frustrated. Government and, more importantly, the citizens you serve need the services of a new generation willing to make a commitment to helping the public. Look for bosses who challenge you and make you leave your comfort zone. Look for bosses and colleagues who help you remember the people you are serving. And volunteer for bigger and bigger assignments.
Director, Marketing and Business Development
What marks someone as a Rising Star: Leadership is about public and personal dedication for the greater good. What defines this year’s Rising Stars is their common ability to identify successful solutions, assume risk, deflect (yet respect) displeasures while constructively changing attitudes for a better world.
Advice to Rising Stars: (1) Get Jobs! Steve Jobs and I attended the same school, Reed College. Besides our shared alma mater, fondness for Apple and ability to rock a black turtleneck, I have no other palpable link to the legend, except for a strong connection to the following notion: Truly know and love what you do in life. As Jobs states, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” (2) Be Like Mike! Michael Jordan said, “I've failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.” Both Jordan and Jobs failed many times in their respective careers. The fact that these icons of success have failed, sometimes on a heroic scale, makes me want to emulate their successes even more. (3) Do the Right Thing! When you are looked upon as a rising star, especially within the interconnected environment of the metro D.C. federal IT community, it is important to acknowledge, empower and learn from the many other stars around you. As Spike Lee said, “I don't dictate; you don't dictate to Stevie Wonder, not successfully.”
Business Development Manager
Edge Professional Services
What marks someone as a Rising Star: Someone who goes above and beyond their day- to-day responsibilities. Rising Star winners exemplify passion and a desire to make their industry/organization/agency a better place. Not only do they excel in their careers, they have taken it upon themselves to help others do the same.
Advice to Rising Stars: Continue to be the leaders that have you been! The next few years are going to be increasingly challenging for both industry and government. Now more than ever, the rest of the industry/agency — and to a degree, the country — needs you to continue to do what you have been doing. Additionally, I advise each of you to take on a protégé — help create the future Rising Stars!
General Services Administration
What marks someone as a Rising Star: Someone who has the ability to focus on solving critical problems and, in doing so, produce meaningful outcomes and measurable results. All of this year’s awardees differentiated themselves in the ways they tackled their respective challenges: Leading from the middle or even the front line of their organizations, demonstrating the value that diverse teams and divergent views bring to the table, and exhibiting great tenacity in the pursuit of their goals.
Advice to Rising Stars: Work on problems you're passionate about solving. Work with people you respect and can learn from. Empower others and become a force multiplier. Stay focused on outcomes. And don't forget to take care of yourself — it's a long road!
Gary L. Winkler
Cyber Solutions and Services
What marks someone as a Rising Star: Someone who has demonstrated that they have the expertise in their field necessary to accomplish unusually challenging objectives, along with the potential to lead at higher levels due to their prior experience and successes. Rising Stars prove themselves to be highly effective in working with others to accomplish tough, complex missions. Collaboration is important because, after all, the really tough work lies between the seams of organizations and functions.
Advice to Rising Stars: Continue to challenge both yourself and your organization to achieve more results. Get involved in setting strategic direction and developing the implementation plans for executing those strategies, and then see it through. And don't sit still: Stay in an assignment long enough to accomplish some stated objectives and learn new skills, and then move on to new assignments and challenges. Never forget that teamwork is what got you where you are today, and teamwork is essential to lead and succeed at higher levels. Also, don't forget that your family and significant others play an important role in your success. They are one of the glass balls that you cannot afford to drop. Life is a team sport!