Career advice: Are government jobs technological backwaters

Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader

Rosa Akhtarkhavari

Title: CIO

Company: City of Orlando

Akhtarkhavari is this month's Premier 100 IT Leader. If you have a question you'd like to pose to one of Computerworld's Premier 100 IT Leaders, send it to

I have to move back to my hometown, and I'm looking for a job there. I've been involved in databases and business analytics at Fortune 500 companies in New York. The jobs I'm seeing back home are at very small companies, local law firms and the city government. The city is by far the largest operation, but I'm worried it will be a technological backwater. What do you think BI is no longer a practice reserved for Fortune 500 companies. Many businesses and local governments understand the value of information for the business and the decision-making process. I would recommend you have a try. You may be surprised to find that your skills are required, and that BI and predictive analysis are on their road map and your skills are what they are looking for, or you can influence a change. Many local governments are keeping up and sometimes leading in the adoption of proven emerging technologies. BI and predictive analysis are a perfect fit for public safety, intelligence-led policing, financial decision-making and many other government functions.

My degree is in computer science, and I have four years of experience in information security. I'm becoming interested in computer forensics. Are there good employment opportunities for that With an increased focus on cybersecurity, I would expect that the demand for computer forensic experts will continue to rise. Many jobs, for both the government and the private sector, are available. The challenge will be in finding an entry-level position in the field, since most e-firms seek experienced forensic experts.

Your background in computer science and information security give you a strong background for digital forensics. If you are currently in a job that has an incident response or forensics section, ask to shadow them for a day or week. Start reading books on computer forensics to learn how to handle evidence (both criminal and civil). Learn how incident response is handled (live forensics) compared to "dead box" forensics (handling computers already powered off).

I have five years of work experience in application development and strong knowledge of C, C++, Java and more. What should I be doing to be ready to move into a senior or team leader positionMy advice is to get domain knowledge because pure programmers are becoming commodities. You want to develop a deep understanding of the business or industry you are working in, then leverage that knowledge to understand customer needs and develop practical solutions. Be willing to reinvent yourself and don't focus too hard on being a specialist -- generalists usually have more options.Additionally, I would suggest volunteering for tasks, activities and projects (outside your defined job expectations) that require leadership and collaboration so others can see your leadership skills that would transfer to a real job opportunity.


By Rosa Akhtarkhavari

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