GCN Award winners U.S. Army Arlington National Cemetery Explorer Project

Teamwork a theme at 25th GCN Awards Gala

The 25th GCN Awards Gala honored some of the stars of the government IT community Wednesday night, but the praise passed around during the evening often circled back to the unsung people at agencies who quietly succeed every day.

(Pictured above from left: Daniel Gardner, Major Nicholas Miller, U.S. Army Arlington National Cemetery Explorer Project, with Lockheed Martin's Linda Gooden and GCN Editor in Chief Paul McCloskey)

More than one speaker noted that, during an election season, public-sector employees often become convenient punching bags during stump speeches. But NASA CIO Linda Cureton, accepting GCN’s Civilian IT Executive of the Year award, pointed out that they’re also “the folks who find cures for cancers, rescue people during hurricanes and solve the Big Bang theory.”

The gala, held at the Ritz Carlton in McLean, Va., honored the teams behind 10 outstanding projects at the federal, state and local levels, along with the civilian, defense and industry IT executives of the year and, this year, a 25th Anniversary Award.


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That award went to Bob Woods, founder and president of Topside Consulting, who spent more than 40 years in government IT, leading projects at the Federal Aviation Administration, Transportation Department, Veterans Affairs Department and the General Services Administration.

“I was in government for 44 years, about as long as I’ve been married to my wife, Betsy,” Woods said. “I don’t know which has changed me more.”

Woods entertained the black-tie crowd with a variety of tales — advice from his grandmother: “Make something up. You don’t have to be a genius, but you don’t have to be boring.” — while addressing the challenges agencies face in times of inadequate budgets and difficult tasks.

“Much of life is random,” Woods said. “What we do with it is not. It's all about what we do with what we get.”

Defense IT Executive of the Year Elizabeth McGrath, the Defense Department’s deputy chief management officer, echoed that theme, talking about how fiscal pressures have put the focus on IT back offices more than before. A child of a naval officer who has spent 24 years with DOD, she also talked about the importance of leadership, quoting Harry Truman: “Men make history, and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”

That kind of leadership and resourcefulness was evident among the teams that won the agency awards, from a circuit court in Florida that found a way to virtually supply interpreters in many languages to the Defense Information System Agency’s project to redefine how it uses e-mail. Ten other projects also received honorable mention awards.

The key to building something that lasts, Cureton said, is teamwork, an idea Woods also spoke about. “The bottom line is, you manage yourself, you lead others,” he said, “but you lead only with the consent of those being led.”

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