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White House Sends CTO Todd Park Back to Silicon Valley As Recruiter-in-Chief

by IEEE SpectrumSeptember 4, 2014

Photo: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Todd Park

Airlines serving San Jose might consider adding a few more nonstop flights to Washington, because the route between the two cities seems to be getting a lot of traffic lately. Todd Park, the Chief Technology Officer for the U.S. government, will move west to Silicon Valley to take on a new, as yet unnamed position recruiting Silicon Valley tech talent into government jobs. Google engineer Megan Smith, currently a vice president at Google’s X lab, is reportedly on deck to replace him. Meanwhile, former Google reliability manager Mikey Dickerson, who last autumn was recruited by Park as part of a team of technologists to fix the website HealthCare.gov, is joining the White House staff full time.

Photo: AP Photo

Park’s replacement, Megan Smith

Dickerson will lead a new team aimed at identifying and fixing problems in government computer systems and web sites. According to Dickerson’s LinkedIn page, his new title is Administrator, United States Digital Service.

A big question from the engineering community, Dickerson reports in the video below, has been whether or not he’ll be wearing a suit to work, because what he has to wear will reflect whether or not the government community will truly listen to its tech hires, or just go on with business as usual. At this point, he says, he’s not wearing a suit, though he has traded in his t-shirts for shirts with buttons.

As for Park, he was the second to hold the post of U.S. CTO; he came on in March 2012. The first U.S. CTO, Aneesh Chopra, was appointed in April 2009. The post is rather loosely defined and doesn’t carry a lot of power, perhaps one reason for Park’s move west, though he has yet to make a public statement about the change.

Park already has a track record as a recruiter of tech talent. Besides bringing Dickerson in to fix HealthCare.gov, he lured Code For America founder Jennifer Pahlka to Washington, as well as Twitter’s Nicole Wong. Wong, a lawyer, just announced that she’s leaving Washington, perhaps to be replaced with someone with more technical expertise—that’s likely one post Park will be looking to fill in his role as recruiter-in-chief.

So the political world will, if Park has anything to do with it, become more technical. Meanwhile, the tech world is becoming more political. Uber, for example, just hired former Obama advisor David Plouffe, recognizing that the challenges ahead for the company are as much or more political as they are technical. And other tech companies are reportedly looking to hire political talent.

Perhaps Park can set up an exchange program…

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IEEE Spectrum
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