Why I'm proud I chose a government career

Ira Hobbs

'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.'

Say that in many communities across the United States, and at best you will get a hearty chuckle. The belief that the government's goal is to help people, that federal employees in particular choose their careers because they really do believe that they can help'well, many consider that idealistic.

But the simple desire to help is why I chose a career in government some 22 years ago, and it is why I am still here today.

As a civics student in the ninth grade, I learned about the power of the federal government to transform the lives of citizens. This had a profound and lasting impact upon me. I learned a lot about our country and its system of government. I learned that the federal government could and did bring about real change.

Those lessons inspired me to pursue a degree in political science and a graduate degree in public administration, all in preparation for a career in government at the federal level.

This desire and academic training served me well in the inaugural class of the Presidential Management Internship Program and guided me to a position at perhaps one of the most challenging of all federal agencies, the Agriculture Department.
Today, as the department's deputy chief information officer, I can say unequivocally that helping people remains a vital part of my job.
At USDA, the Office of the Chief Information Officer oversees some $1.3 billion in information management and technology investments. These investments help our employees do their jobs better. And that translates into a higher quality and quantity of support to citizens who rely on USDA programs to strengthen American agriculture, fight hunger, create jobs in rural America and ensure the safety of the nation's meat and poultry, among other vital services.

Today, the rapid pace of technological change is propelling us to deliver programs and services in ways we never thought possible.

In doing so, CIOs in all government departments and agencies must address similar challenges, whether federal, state or local. We find ourselves immersed in trying to figure out how best to move to an online marketplace, keep our computers secure and our customers' information private.

Equally important, CIOs must attract and retain our most important asset, a qualified work force'a topic I will be addressing regularly in this space.

The bottom line for me is whether the customers of my organization see improvement in the efficiency and effectiveness of the services we provide.
Therein lies the true test of the caring equation.
I am proud to be a public servant, and I am confident that government continues to make a difference. I want to say with confidence: I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.

Ira Hobbs is deputy chief information office of the Agriculture Department and a member of the CIO Council.

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