FRAMINGHAM (07/17/2000) - At only 35, Lt. Cmdr. Joyce Allen-Kendrick has responsibilities that would give pause to some civilian CIOs. Allen-Kendrick is the executive officer and second in command at the U.S. Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station in Puget Sound, Wash. She was just selected for commander and will be promoted to that rank in December.
Computerworld's James Cope recently spoke with Allen-Kendrick about her career and how the information technology challenges she faces compare with those of her civilian counterparts.
CW: How does your role as executive officer of a major Navy communications installation compare to that of a civilian CIO?
Allen-Kendrick: The military IT infrastructure isn't all that different than on the civilian side. We use off-the-shelf software like Microsoft Office. I need to keep up-to-date on the latest and greatest technologies and ensure that we're following industry standards. Training is also important.
CW: Are there any differences between civilian and military IT?
Allen-Kendrick: Our reaction time [in implementing new technologies] is slower.
To some extent, that's the way government works. But we're also looking at PCs on every Navy desktop, including those at sea. And we're talking 369,000 people.
CW: Any other differences?
Allen-Kendrick: Well, there's money. . . . We have to work within our budget constraints. And we're competing for the same talent pool but [offer] fewer incentives.
CW: What's your main leadership challenge?
Allen-Kendrick: Strategic planning. . . . You have to put people who report to you in a visionary mode instead of a reactionary mode. This is the best job I've had. I have a lot of strategic thinkers on staff.
CW: Any hot projects in the works?
Allen-Kendrick: Indeed. It's the Defense Messaging System (DMS). This is a modern messaging system that's an alternative to many legacy e-mail applications now used by the Department of Defense.
CW: What's different about DMS?
Allen-Kendrick: All communications will occur in real time and will be delivered directly to the recipient's desktop.
CW: How do you deal with security issues?
Allen-Kendrick: We have the same challenges that companies have. For example, we got the "I Love You" virus but fixed it early.
Keep in mind we really do work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can deal with these issues much more quickly.
CW: Why the Navy? Couldn't you make more money as a civilian IT manager?
Allen-Kendrick: I think about that. But I always wanted to be in the military.
When I was 5 years old, I wanted to be a Marine Corps drill sergeant.
We provide computer and telecommunications services to all the Navy commands in the Pacific Northwest - aircraft, submarines, surface ships - a total of 23,000 people.
I feel like what I'm doing for my country is important. There will be opportunities after the military. I'm living my life's dream right now.