The other side of the desktop
GCN Industry Executive of the Year Curt Kolcun's efforts for Microsoft help bring core configuration to life
CURT KOLCUN HAS THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS. As vice president of
Microsoft's Federal Division, he combines a knack for
technology with a passion for helping government agencies pursue
Kolcun said his career in information technology came about by
accident while he was a forklift driver as a member of an Air Force
logistical squad in 1979. 'I had a natural proclivity for
using technology and happened to be at a location that was going
through an automation process,' he said. 'I got
assigned to be the project lead.'
As it turned out, the project was a triumph and saved the Air
Force several hundred thousand dollars. Kolcun was named the 21st
Air Force Freight Traffic Specialist of the Year and flown to Air
Force headquarters to give presentations to top leaders about the
project. His IT career in the military took off.
He left the Air Force four years later for a job as a systems
engineer in the private sector. In 1989, he joined Microsoft as a
senior architectural engineer for federal business and was promoted
to his current position last summer.
In recent years, Kolcun has led the company's efforts to
improve the security of its products, particularly through the
Federal Desktop Core Configuration program, which seeks to create a
single standard enterprisewide managed environment for desktop and
laptop PCs running Windows XP or Vista. According to a 2007 Office
of Management and Budget mandate, federal agencies are required to
standardize PC configurations to increase security, reduce costs
and decrease application compatibility problems.
One of Kolcun's hurdles was convincing Microsoft and
government officials that it was possible to standardize
'We heard it wouldn't be possible to define a
configuration that could be consistently used across such a vast
enterprise as the federal government,' Kolcun said.
'This was an element that needed to be proven both internally
at Microsoft [and to government officials].' We had to work
with our product teams to make sure they understood what it was
they were trying to do.'
On the government side, 'we had to make sure we could work
collaboratively with the government and demonstrate we could do
this in a way that wasn't self-serving and make sure that we
could facilitate meetings to whittle down and define these standard
settings'and demonstrate through our technology that [a
standard configuration] could actually be deployed,' he
The FDCC effort has gone well. 'Agencies continue to move
forward and see results relative to both security and business
value,' he said.
Kolcun added that Microsoft's work with the government
involves more than selling products.
'The biggest challenge is overcoming the desire to sell a
product and actually listen and be a partner with government to
move things forward,' he said.
'Curt embodies everything you could possibly want in an
industry executive,' said Kim Nelson, executive director for
e-government at Microsoft and former chief information officer of
the Environmental Protection Agency. 'He served his country
as part of the Air Force, he has a long history of working in many
different customer-facing roles while driving increasingly larger
organizations, and he has great passion.'
That passion extends to charitable work that supports U.S.
warfighters. He is a member of the executive committee of the
United Services Organization of Metropolitan Washington and helped
establish USO's Salute Our Troops program. Kolcun also led
Microsoft's Above and Beyond Awards, which honor the
contributions of people who brighten the lives of U.S. troops