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White House Names Google's Megan Smith As CTO 74

Posted by timothy
from the let's-see-about-getting-that-cable-fixed dept.
itwbennett writes that, as expected, The White House has named long-time Google executive Megan Smith as the government's new CTO, in charge of improving technology and the use of data across agencies. Smith most recently served as vice president at Google's tech lab, Google[x]. She previously served as CEO of PlanetOut, helped design early smartphone technologies at General Magic and worked on multimedia products at Apple Japan in Tokyo. She holds bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT, and just might be, as noted in a previous Slashdot post, the first US CTO worthy of the title. Also on Thursday, the White House named Alexander Macgillivray, a former general counsel and head of public policy at Twitter, as deputy U.S. CTO.

White House Names Google's Megan Smith As CTO

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  • Oh boy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04, 2014 @05:41PM (#47830191)

    improving technology and the use of data across agencies

    That is the exact opposite of what we need right now.

    • by rsborg (111459) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @05:51PM (#47830283) Homepage

      improving technology and the use of data across agencies

      That is the exact opposite of what we need right now.

      The NSA and the security industrial complex don't need stinking laws and the approval of the public to aggregate and track you. They're already doing it. I doubt this role will help them (or hinder them). What integrated data could provide is more effective programs and less paperwork, and possibly more APIs.

      Worrying about the CTO "improving things the wrong way" is the same as worrying about sharing your bank password with your spouse while storing your password file in cleartext on a malware infested desktop.

    • No, the exact opposite of what we need right now is a series of executive orders enforcing implementations that hurt technology, rather than foster it.

      Example? If one came down the pike demanding that all government agencies use only Microsoft-built operating systems (or worse, one forcing the use of .docx, .xlsx, etc in all government documents...)

    • by Anonymous Coward


      Every time I hear someone say this the reasoning ends up being "because the government is incompetent at all IT projects, and isn't capable of keeping things in good order, just look at all the current evidence about how badly the government organizes things, it wastes money, and ruins everything."

      I can only assume that the reason for the gigantic waste of money is exactly because people like you stop them doing things in more efficient ways all the time.

    • Yeah, less interagency data sharing is better given the propensity of government to abuse it! I'm right there with you!
    • by jrumney (197329)
      There's improving the use of data across agencies in ways that improve efficiency and the service offered to the clients of those agencies, and then there's improving the use of data across agencies purely to violate privacy. Lets give them the benefit of the doubt here and assume that they're talking about the one of those that they don't already have covered.
  • So Obama should logically be the CEO, appointed by private board members ?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by s.petry (762400)
      Do you really believe that it's working any differently? Look who funds him (the same big banks he promised to prosecute), look who he attacks (whistle blowers and liberty minded individuals), and look at his list of accomplishments (the US is a whole lot more fucked up today than it was when he was elected either time).
    • That position doesn't report to the President. It's under the Director of White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, under that Director. "CTO" is just a catchy name some consultant thought up, although it is a hell of a lot shorter than the alternatives.

    • by silfen (3720385)

      We usually refer to him as the "Crony Capitalist in Chief"

  • "Mechanical Engineering" has basically no common grounds with Computer Engineering/Software Engineering/Computer Science. She may be a good CEO, but the job of a CTO is still an engineering one (if often abused) and she has not what it takes there. No argument that her predecessors where even less qualified.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04, 2014 @06:09PM (#47830425)

      Do you know anything about Mechanical Engineering? I have two degrees in it - all about Scientific Computing/Applied Computational Mathematics. Computational Fluid Dynamics, Finite Elements, Control Systems Engineering .... ringing any bells? Yup. All under the stunningly wide umbrella of mechanical engineering.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Wired describes her as "n addition to being a gifted programmer and technologist," and she helped make some of the first cellular technology for Apple.

      • by gweihir (88907)

        Ah, so there has been an extreme bastardization of "mechanical engineering" in the US? My apologies then, the rest of the world has kept its sanity in that area.

    • Control Theory is part of Mechanical Engineering.
      And a position like this is all about "control".

      • by pz (113803)

        Control Theory is part of Mechanical Engineering.

        And part of Aero-Astro, and Applied Computer Science, and Theory of Computation, and Applied Mathematics, and ...

        Personally, I'd put it in Signals and Systems, smack dab in the heart of EE.

    • by scourfish (573542)
      I work as a computer engineer, and some of the software and hardware design people got mechanical engineering degrees a long time ago, but migrated to the CE side of things and do excellent work.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by kit_triforce (3682453)
      I have a degree in Geology but have been employed as an IT consultant for 15 years. Degrees are a wonderful foundation, but there is no substitute for work experience, and working you often learn more then you ever could in a classroom. Roughly 80% of my technical abilities came from self-study and on-the-job training and experiences. Look at her work history, and what she has done. She is the best qualified person we have seen coming in to this position by quite a large margin.
    • Even if she doesn't have the academic background (I agree with others that ME is close enough to CE/EE to pass muster), she certainly has the experience.
    • Because Technology can NEVER be mechanical in nature. Never...
    • Since at least the 1970s we've had to spend a lot of time on computers to check designs, and whether it's patch cables, FORTRAN, python or even matlab, and even if they are short it's still writing programs to run on computers.
      "No common ground" my arse. I moved into dealing with computers full time after I spent more time wrangling a cluster than simulating heat transfer on it.
  • Sounds great! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pollux (102520) <speter AT tedata DOT net DOT eg> on Thursday September 04, 2014 @06:23PM (#47830511) Journal

    As if we don't [] already [] have [] enough [] corporate [] executives [] running the white house.

    • by geiss (587862)
      Where else do you propose finding people with the relevant experience to these government positions? Fairyland?
  • I miss the days of hiring people with talents like running a horsey show. /snark

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      not Bush's fault a damn hurricane showed up and spoiled that tried and true means of appointing cronies. You have to admit that vacant "deer in headlights" look Brownie had while corpses floated behind him in the street was priceless. Community activism is almost as good a criteria, can't wait to find out if Obama really wants to destroy ISIS or just "manage" them, or maybe just continue to tease us with the waffling.

  • "One nation, under Google+"

  • First an inept CIO position now a CTO position. I don't want the US government smarter about systems and data. They're already fucking things up nicely right now as it is. Some agencies with better technology and training could really wreak havoc; like the IRS. Screw that.

  • Basically an M&A due diligence apparatchik. After all MOST patent lawyers also have technical degrees. Doesn't make them scientists though.

Only God can make random selections.