It's a brave, new, academic world for former fed

Stephen H. Holden

For those of you who have met me or heard me speak at any of numerous rubber-chicken events over the last 10 years, try not to groan if some of the things I'm about to say sound familiar.

My customary throwaway line used to be: 'I'm from the Office of Management and Budget, and I'm here to help.' I used it during speeches in my OMB days. Now that I'm an academic, am I supposed to warn folks that I'm from the ivory tower before I dispense bon mots and sage advice? For those of you who are wondering why this is even remotely relevant, let me introduce myself.

GCN's editors have agreed to let me provide periodic commentary on information technology, public administration, information resources management, electronic government and other topics. Suffice it to say they've given me wide editorial license. I am encouraged to call 'em as I see 'em, even if it means ruffling a few feathers now and again.

Given my academic training, work experience and general inclination to speak my mind, I believe I'm up to the challenge.

Let me take a moment, though, to tell you about what might qualify me to speak on this broad array of issues.

I recently left the civil service after 16 years. I spent most of my career at OMB and later toiled for the IRS. As a representative of those two esteemed organizations, I went from being reviled merely by my fellow civil servants to being truly despised by the American taxpaying public.

I began my federal career as a presidential management intern assigned to the Navy. I went on a developmental rotation to OMB and stayed.

At OMB, I worked on the management side, the budget side and in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, where I got to dabble in governmentwide IT management issues.

At the IRS, I worked on tax systems modernization, electronic filing and business systems modernization.

During my IRS tour of duty, I learned a lot'mostly the hard way'about being a manager and executive, ultimately joining the Senior Executive Service ranks.

Along the way, I completed a doctorate in public administration and policy, giving me a trifecta of college degrees in bureaucracy. My dissertation addressed federal IT management policy.

Welcome to Catonsville, hon

Having never really applied this credential in an academic setting, I decided to forestall a midlife crisis by making a radical career move. My government ID and proximity access cards are a thing of the past. I am now ensconced at the University of Maryland's Baltimore County campus in its Information Systems Department.

Just to be clear, and not because this is a sore spot, UMBC is not College Park. We are just outside of Baltimore, down the road from Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

I'm going to be teaching and conducting research on IT management and policy, especially e-government. This semester I'm teaching decision support systems, and next semester I'm going to teach a graduate seminar on managing systems projects.

With that somewhat dry introduction, let me share a few reflections on having just departed federal service. Even though it has been only a few months, there are some things I already miss about working for a federal agency.

In no particular order, I miss:

• Free indoor parking with a guaranteed spot. Admittedly, this was a perk of being an executive, but parking on college campuses'or at least mine'is a bear.

• Feeling quite young, both chronologically and career-wise, compared with most of my colleagues at the IRS. Walking around campus, seeing how young most of the students appear, has suddenly aged me considerably.

• The sense of direct involvement in delivering programs to the public and developing public policy. There is nothing like going from the inside to the outside to realize how quickly one can fall out of the loop.

So much for the introduction. I'll be providing occasional musings from academia on such topics as training and the IT work force, what I learned about e-government at the IRS, and why the change in administration matters to IT professionals.

Stephen H. Holden, assistant professor in the Information Systems Department at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County, worked 16 years in the federal government. E-mail him at

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