This week I was able to pick the brain of IT Queen and super active GovLooper, Lauren Modeen! She took some time to chat and I ended up with one awesome interview! Thanks Lauren!
1. What do you do exactly at Computech?
Aha – – what do I do exactly at Computech…a solid opening question. First, let me give you a little background on what my company does. Computech is an Information Technology consulting firm serving clients in both the federal and commercial markets. Over the last 30 years, we have provided IT services ranging from development of custom software applications to program management oversight. We’ve worked for a pretty diverse batch of clients – spanning from the Department of Energy to Billy Casper, a premier golf Management Company, to the national telecommunications agency of Mexico (Cofetel). Ultimately, we’re in business to solve the IT challenges of our clients. Now, of course, the IT space is competitive. Large business, small business, the list continues. And all of these companies have something to offer. So how does a company communicate its unique capabilities so it’s not lost in the crowd? This is where my position comes in. I’m the firm’s Marketing Manager, so it’s my responsibility to identify our strongest core competencies and build up a springboard – getting us closer to the right opportunities when they arise. To put this in more concrete terms – on a daily basis I manage our web content highlighting our relevant work, collaborate with sales/BD to produce outreach materials, communicate our initiatives and culture with a quarterly newsletter (fondly called CQ), learn about the needs and pain-points of our potential clients and engage with them where they are, interact in the social media-sphere – listening/creating/responding, and voraciously reading as much as I can about happenings in the news and keep an ear on the water cooler. I love what I do. I consider myself very lucky.
2. What’s the best part of your job?
Marketing is my forte and technology is in my DNA (I have what you call a “technology family”). My favorite part of my job is that I work for a technology company in an age where the channels of marketing are being re-written at a pace that is only accelerating. While the core values of marketing (the marketing mix, or four Ps for example), hold steady, new innovation gives new flair to marketing principles, forcing marketers to blaze new territory and get out of the well-worn tracks.
3. What’s the worst part?
Technological innovators push the envelope. Yet while this group can “lead a horse to water…”
I just wish everyone loved Web 2.0/Gov 2.0 as much as I do.
4. How has being an active member on GovLoop helped you in your job?
To be more in tune with Government issues from the inside out – the challenges, changing climate, etc. While I find it very helpful to attend industry events, read agency strategic plans, the GovLoop community is an exceptionally concentrated group of individuals dedicated to a common mission. And with the real-time, connected-like-never-before aspect, the opportunity for networking, learning, and collaborating is as blue-skies as it gets. I’ve learned a lot from reading blog posts on GovLoop…and met some pretty cool people…
5. A lot of your GovLoop blogs are related to Twitter, what’s the best thing you’ve gotten from your Twitter experience so far?
Discovering new thought leaders or thoughts in general and having the opportunity to “keep the conversation going” long after an event ends. Also, Twitter allows me to find others near and far interested in the same topics as I am – and Twitter is the best online portal I’ve ever seen with regard to putting something out there and starting a conversation – virally.
6. I see you’ve used the term, technology anthropologist. Describe that.
As with anthropology being the study of human beings – what are our physical traits…how do we behave…social organization and culture?– I see technology anthropology as the study of how technology evolves over time – and what sticks – and what doesn’t and why, etc. I used the term “technology anthropologist” in my blog about Twitter on its 3rd birthday – Twitter Turns Thwee! – an outline of Twitter’s history from birth to now. By studying the development and behavior of Twitter, perhaps some light will be shed on why and how it grows and morphs and interacts with other technologies and why it survives, doesn’t, etc.
7. If you had ended up in any other profession, what would it have been?
English Professor. Or perhaps study social psychology with a keen emphasis in technology…
8. Where do you see the immediate future of IT and Government going over the next year?
With the Obama Administration pushing the transparency envelope, and increasingly more agencies picking up blogging, Twitter, Facebook – and seeing the value in making data open – I think the Gov 2.0 frontier will continue to gain momentum slowly but surely. Of course Gov 2.0 and security will have to be balanced and the policies drawn up – but as Sonny Bhagowalia, CIO of the U.S. Department of the Interior said last week at a Bethesda AFCEA Chapter Breakfast – the “law of entropy finds a way,” in that “if you’re not going to provide a solution they will…” (I am not sure of his exact wording, but this was the general message conveyed).
9. I always ask this, what book are you reading right now?
Of the pile of books on my floor, Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business – is on top. Written by Danny Meyer, CEO of one of the world’s most dynamic restaurant organizations and owner of 11 restaurants (including Gramercy Tavern, my personal favorite), this book is centered on the concept of what he calls “enlightened hospitality.” This is not to be confused with “service” which is “the technical delivery of a product.” He aims to hire people with skills divided 51-49 between emotional hospitality and technical excellence. He describes the “Five A-s” for addressing mistakes: awareness, acknowledge, apologize, act, additional generosity. I find this book thought-provoking, especially in light of the economic down-turn and the increasingly competitive landscape companies are facing. As things shake up and out, it seems logical that the firms that have the highest quality product/service with the best delivery/experience weighted as equally important, will be the ones best positioned to weather the waves.
This notion of being customer-oriented vs. product-oriented reminds me of a timeless article titled “Marketing Myopia” by Theodore Levitt, who was then a lecturer in business administration at the Harvard Business School. In this article Levitt introduces the famous question of “what business are you really in?” Quite famously, he uses the U.S. railroads as an example. He expresses that “the railroads did not stop growing because the need for passenger and freight transportation declined. That grew. The railroads are in trouble today not because that need was filled by others (cars, trucks, airplanes, and even telephones) but because it was not filled by the railroads themselves. They let others take customers away from them because they assumed themselves to be in the railroad business rather than in the transportation business. The reason they defined their industry incorrectly was that they were railroad oriented instead of transportation oriented; they were product oriented instead of customer oriented.” Levitt’s “Marketing Myopia” won the McKinsey Award in 1960.