Last spring at Cisco Networkers, I remember some jokes being bandied about regarding John Chambers as a potential candidate for president. It now seems that Cisco is actually quite close to having a representative in Obama’s administration.
According to published reports, Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior is one of two candidates currently under consideration for the newly created post of federal chief technology officer. President-elect Obama is expected to reveal his choice in a couple of days. According to BusinessWeek:
One of the sources says the selection is being held up because it’s not yet clear how the person selected as CTO will interact with the government’s chief information officer, a position now held by Karen Evans, and with the new cyber-security czar, another position that has not yet been filed.
Warrior’s competiton for the position is CTO for Washington, D.C., Vivek Kundra, who is already an advisor to Obama’s transition team on technology issues. In Washington, Kundra “runs his 600-person staff like a startup, experimenting in cloud computing, open source software, social networking, and other cutting-edge technologies,” reports BusinessWeek.
A few obvious questions already floating around in the blogosphere:
1. Exactly what sort of responsibilities will be given to this new CTO?
2. Who is better suited for the job: The (relatively) hard-core techie or the Washington insider?
Regarding the significance of the position, in the best-case scenario, this new CTO will play a large part in Obama’s plan for getting our nation up-to-speed (quite literally) in Internet access. As Data Center Knowledge reports:
President-elect Obama has outlined an ambitious agenda for national broadband access, and the initial economic stimulus proposal contains about $6 billion in grants to bring high-speed Internet access to underserved areas… Members of the Obama team say that is the first step in a larger investment in broadband infrastructure, with more details to come later in 2009.
My skeptical side wants to predict that at worst, whoever gets the job could end up a sort of useless figurehead. I also wonder, should Warrior go to Washington, just who might be able to fill her shoes at Cisco.