SSA exec Adams will leave for private sector

SSA exec Adams will leave for private sector

By Christopher J. Dorobek and

Frank Tiboni

GCN Staff

Kathleen M. Adams, the Social Security Administration's assistant deputy commissioner for systems, will move to the private sector next month, launching what she called her second career.

The well-known government information technology executive has had a 27-year federal career. Her departure exemplifies problems the government faces in keeping and attracting senior IT executives, industry and government officials said.

Adams told colleagues during a meeting last Monday that she would step down on Sept. 24 and begin her new career Sept. 27 as vice president of strategic accounts for the government sector group at SRA International Inc. of Arlington, Va.

Adams said she is leaving now because SSA's early-out program was available from July to Sept. 24. The program lets employees with 25 years of service take retirement and receive a substantial portion of their pension benefits. That opportunity swayed Adams, who said she was also enticed by the challenges of a private-sector job.

Adams has spent the bulk of her career'25 years'at SSA. She also worked at the Health Care Financing Administration.

She is most noted for leading the agency's year 2000 program and for serving as the chairwoman of the Chief Information Officers Council's Year 2000 Committee. SSA began tackling the issue more than 10 years ago and became the first government agency to fix and implement 2000-ready systems.

Now's the time

She downplayed the timing of her departure, just three months before the Jan. 1 rollover to 2000.

'I would not be leaving if SSA was not in good shape,' Adams said. 'SSA is Y2K OK, and the government in general is in good shape.'

Adams also discounted the government IT brain-drain issue. She said the turnover mirrors changes in the job force overall.

Few people stay in the same job for an entire career, Adams said. 'After nearly 30 years in government, my new job represents something completely different from anything I could do in government,' she said. 'I have an opportunity to learn things that I don't have a clue about.'

She said that she had climbed the civil service IT ladder at SSA about as far as she could and that her options for advancement were limited.

'I think the fact that I stayed in the federal service, and basically with SSA, for 27 years says it all,' Adams said. 'That is a long time to stay with one employer in this day and age. It has been a wonderful career, and I look forward to beginning a second career.'

Adams said she expects her experience managing SSA's systems planning, development and operations will help her serve SRA's government customers.

'We're thrilled to get her,' said Renato DiPentima, president of the SRA government sector group. 'There are people in government that stand out. She's at the front of that list.'

Adams and DiPentima know each other well. He worked at SSA for 32 years, leaving the deputy commissioner for systems post in 1995 for SRA.

DiPentima said Adams' ability to take the most complex task and make it 2understandable made her an attractive candidate. He said he also liked her ability to get a job done.

Adams said she started exploring her options in the private sector in July when she learned of the early retirement option. DiPentima said SRA was one of about five companies she considered.

DiPentima also downplayed government IT work force issues in Adams' decision to leave SSA.

'It was my government service of 32 years that prepared me for SRA, and I would not give a day of that away,' DiPentima said.

The lure of higher pay in the private sector has also enticed government IT executives to leave. Both Adams and DiPentima declined to talk about whether she received a raise over her current salary of $125,900, but he said money was never a focus when she inquired about a position.

DiPentima said Adams was more interested in what SRA does and what she could do for the company.

Adams' move is only one of a number of senior level departures in recent years. The departures resulted in part because of the opportunities available in the private sector, said Olga Grkavac, senior vice president of the systems integration division of the Information Technology Association of Arlington, Va.

'There is such a shortage of personnel, both executive and technical, that the opportunities are greater than they've been for a long, long time,' Grkavac said. 'I'm hard pressed to criticize them for taking advantage of these opportunities, especially among well-respected executives such as Adams."


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