The military has basic training that acclimatizes people and puts them on the path. In the civilian sector we don’t have any analogous capability other than the half-day orientation that you go through. You are supposed to take the oath to defend the constitution, but other than that, welcome to the team. But when you get hired in IT you are typically hired into some discipline:

·         SYSANA (systems analysis)

·         APPSW (application software)

·         Network Services

·         CUSTSTP (customer support)

·         INFOSEC (information security)

·         SYSADMIN (system administration)

·         PLCYPLN (policy and planning)

·         Data Management

·         OS (operating systems)

·         Enterprise Architecture

·         Project Management

·         Program Management

·         Records Management

·         Privacy

I doubt that this is the full breadth of the IT fields, but I think this includes most of them. The point is you were hired to do one of these things. This should be your bread-and-butter thing; the aspect of IT that you are best at. For the area in which you were hired, as you move up into progressive levels of leadership, you won’t need much help or guidance in your area. But there are 13 other disciplines in that list. How do you become at least minimally proficient in them?

That is what DoD has figured out and the civilian sector should learn from. Look at what DoD has done to ensure proficiency among a wide range of disciplines. In addition to the standard training programs, there are opportunities for people to compete for a slot in other programs like Airborne School, Pathfinder School or Ranger School. Each of these equips the soldier with specialized knowledge and experience and also will help to create a more well-rounded leader.

But then if I was hired to be a systems analyst, how can I accumulate the experiences in network services, enterprise architecture, and program management? Today, there is no good path to do that. I started out as a coder and then went to project management and then to program management. But I screwed up stuff along the way. There was no safe way for me to accumulate the knowledge and experience, and even now, I still feel like I’m lacking in some key areas.

Certifications can help to address part of this. My agency paid for us to get a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. It covers the following knowledge areas:

Project Integration Management

Project Scope Management

Project Time Management

Project Cost Management

Project Quality Management

Project Human Resource Management

Project Communications Management

Project Risk Management

Project Procurement Management

Project Stakeholder Management

In fact, this training was delivered strategically for the agency. We had several projects that weren’t going well and there was a disconnect between the mission offices and OCIO. The CIO at the time recognized this issue and put both OCIO staff and mission-oriented IT staff into the eight to 10 classes for the PMP. Each class was three to four days, and they were spread out so there was typically one class per month. The results were almost immediate. The first thing I noticed was that my OCIO counterparts and I started using the same language to diagnose issues. Then the remedies for those issues became less controversial and the methods we used to measure performance were standardized. The entire agency really elevated because of this investment.

Thus the first thing I would recommend is, if someone is motivated to go and get certification on his or her own time, we should strongly encourage that behavior and the government should pay for the class if the person passes the exam. When the government pays for the class/certification, he or she must also commit to stay in the government for a period of time. There should be some formula for this so that larger costs require larger commitments of service, but you can figure that out.

Another certificate that I think is valuable is the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). This exam includes the following eight domains:

Security and Risk Management

Asset Security

Security Engineering

Communications and Network Security

Identity and Access Management

Security Assessment and Testing

Security Operations

Software Development Security

Thirdly, everyone should complete the NARA Records Management Training. It includes:

Creating and Maintaining Agency Business Information

Records Scheduling

Records Schedule Implementation

Asset and Risk Management

Records Management Program Development

There are plenty of other certifications that touch on the range of disciplines. Any of those Six Sigma courses will help with the systems analysis domain. The ITIL helps with the systems administration and customer service. Also don’t forget about the Federal Acquisition Certifications (FAC) as that transcends everything we do.

In my opinion these certifications fit the same sweet spot that the Airborne School, Pathfinder School or Ranger School fit for the Army. These are essentially the electives that people may choose to pursue to increase the value that they can deliver back to the government.

Thus in order to be effective as a CIO you need to have knowledge, experience, and competence in a bunch of different disciplines. I think the certification route can provide a reasonable mechanism for people to accumulate some of the knowledge and experiences that will address that. The other half of the equation is to consider and address the leadership aspect.

Going back to my Army example, they have a lot of formal leadership development steps. The first step is Officer Candidate School (OCS) or ROTC or graduating from a service academy. The key for each of these is that they are developing leadership qualities. But that isn’t all. Second lieutenants go through the Basic Officer Leadership Course (BOLC), which steps up the leadership development. Captains then go through the Captains’ Career Course (CCC). Majors go through the Intermediate Level Education (ILE). Lieutenant colonels and colonels go through the Senior Service College.

This is a lot of leadership development and it is delivered in conjunction with each promotion. What they are recognizing here is that the leadership competencies that a 2nd lieutenant needs are somewhat different than what are necessary for captains. Each of these programs builds upon and expands the practices of the previous program.

We don’t have this in the civilian sector. We have the Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program (SES CDP), which seems to be a good analogue for the Senior Service College, but there is no broad leadership development framework that goes across the civilian sector. Instead each agency develops their own leadership courses separately. Most agencies have a supervisor program and that is something that I strongly recommend to everyone. Most agencies will also have some sort of pre-supervisory leadership development program for people grades 11-14.

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Demosthenes is a pseudonym for a senior Federal IT official.