Federal agency officials talked about the art and science of data management and related workforce recruiting at FCW’s IT Modernization Summit on October 5.

Martin Quinlan, director at the Interior Department’s Business Integration Office, discussed the crucial role of data in government operations, and laid out some of the questions that agency managers need to ask about how and why data should be leveraged.

“The first question when dealing with data is always what is the business trying to do,” Quinlan said. Understanding the business goals of data use is key, as is the desire to understand what the data says, he said. “You have to do that work first,” said Quinlan.

“Then we come back and make suggestions,” he said. “These are your goals, this is what the data can tell us, and then go back and do the analysis and bring it back to them.”

“You have to have those controls in there,” he continued. “You can’t just take raw data and let people at it. You have to have those controls.”

In addition to getting the data, government need talented individuals who can effectively work with the raw data and create value from it.

Also speaking at the October 5 event, Fredy Diaz, analytics director at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), discussed some of the techniques that his organization is using to recruit and train talent for its data workforce.

“I’d say this question comes up at a lot of happy hour discussions,” he said, explaining that USPS focuses on both “making the talent and buying the talent.” In the former category, he said, “there’s a big push for upskilling.”

“On the buying the talent side, this is just us really strengthening our talent pipelines,” Diaz said.

“We’re not just posting and praying on USAJobs – we’re leveraging programs like student internship programs, and also other programs,” he said. “The Department of State has the virtual student Federal service that we just recently participated in and it’s a great way to bring in new talent into the agency,” said Diaz

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Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.