Federal Spotlight: Kevin Baker
Kevin Baker serves as the Associate Chief Information Officer (CIO) for Enterprise Planning and Performance at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview with Kevin Baker:
MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today?
KB: I have been lucky enough to serve the nation for 22 years in a variety of roles, both at the FCC and prior to that, in the Department of Defense (DoD). I currently serve as the FCC’s Associate CIO for Enterprise Planning and Performance. My most significant responsibility is ensuring that the FCC makes sound investments in Information Technology (IT). While transforming to a cloud-centric organization, we have lots of opportunities to improve our capabilities and reduce our costs, but only with careful planning do those results become reality.
For example, the FCC has a goal of reducing the total cost of ownership of the FCC’s IT system portfolio by 30% by October 2018. We have already seen savings as a result of moving a number of applications to Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings.
MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector?
KB: Really, it’s the everyday opportunity to see that what I do returns something tangible to the American people. I believe that working for America, whether as a service member in the DoD or a supporting a civilian agency, gives each of us a chance many in the private sector don’t experience. Of course, it’s the public and private balanced partnership that makes this country great. Staying passionate about what I do requires two things, first never accepting that the status quo is good enough, and second, continuing to grow my ability to lead by finding new challenges.
MC: What is one of your biggest achievements?
KB: I’m not someone who is big on citing personal achievements because I think nearly all of the successes we have are the result of teamwork – whether in the workplace, among family, or with friends. Certainly the thing I am most proud of is the privilege to lead such great teams both now at the FCC and before in DoD. Being able to bring together a diverse group, with folks of every talent and background, and work toward a common goal really makes me tick. From 2007-2012, I led the IT Operations team in a defense agency and had about 25 government staff and more than 150 contractors. During that time we moved the entire agency to a new headquarters, which required thousands of man hours and incredibly close teamwork. Without question, I learned more from that experience than any other in my career, and it was the great people that made it possible.
MC: What advice would you share on making public service a career and not a pit stop?
KB: First, understand that you are part of something bigger. Much like true fans don’t abandon their favorite team when the season is not going well, public service requires flexibility and constant adjustment. You have to seize opportunities to be part of change and not an obstacle to moving in a different direction.
Second, don’t be afraid to need a change based on your personal growth. The days of spending an entire career in a single agency are gone. Not only do we grow professionally by experiencing new workplaces, but we add to our bigger network of colleagues and lifelong friends. When you’ve rounded out your experience in all areas of your organization, it’s time to move to your next public service opportunity. Look for something different. If you’re in a small agency, look for a large one; consider a joint agency, etc. The key here is to remain challenged.
MC: What advice would you share with young people on entering government?
KB: Don’t believe it when you hear that government is a mundane existence or only for boring career fields. There are immense rewards to a career in government. Talk to friends and family who have experience in the government, and look for personal connections to find the type of agency that suits you best. Be patient with the sometimes complex process of coming onboard, especially if your job requires extensive background checks for a security clearance.
Most of all, you want to ensure you enter at the highest grade you are qualified for when applying. I see many people enter at a junior grade and then become unhappy with the pay and promotion potential. Sometimes it is better to gain experience in industry and then look at a government career. This can often put you in a mid-level grade and much closer to the senior level where you want to spend your career.
Public service is a great place to give back to your nation and is a wonderful experience if you put your passion into it every day.
*Answers reflect Kevin’s own personal views and do not reflect those in his official capacity.
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