Time for government, industry to meet again in person

Happy days can’t quite be here yet. But people obviously feel more secure when it comes to getting out of their dining room offices. What a contrast. Just as cold weather sets in for much of the nation, a spring-like thaw sets in when people can meet in person.

Wednesday evening I moderate the annual award ceremony of AFFIRM, the association for information resource management of the federal government. The long-standing non-profit organization brings the federal IT industry together with federal IT practitioners. Its goal is to improve the government’s management of information technology – an activity with annual sales of $ 100 billion. More, in fact, on top of the Technology Modernization Fund and American Rescue Plan funds dedicated to modernizing government IT.

AFFIRM wasn’t the first to have a face-to-face interview. But it was one of the earliest I knew to hold one in DC. Earlier this fall, the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC) personally brought its annual conference back to Hershey, Pennsylvania.

I estimate about 250 people attended the event in downtown DC. What a feeling of coming back to drive to a hotel switch and hand the keys to a servant. All industry event sponsors had people there. And the Federal Prize Winner visited, all but one or two.

Two awards went to those whose work directly enabled the government to move on when the pandemic broke out.

FEMA’s contract agents Bobby McCane and Lester Ingol were cited for quickly winning $ 10 billion in personal protective equipment contracts supplied by small businesses. Beth Capello, the deputy chief information officer for the Department of Homeland Security, was recognized for providing technology to securely support 70,000 remote workers.

But the AFFIRM event underscored how reliably the grunting work of the federal government continued when the people couldn’t be together. Example: Karen Pica of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy oversaw a new iteration of part of an important, albeit mysterious, portal known as the System for Award Management. SAM was called Beta for years. Since the General Services Administration was doing the technical work, SAM only stopped the beta last May after a major upgrade.

These first personal events feel like a homecoming. Lots of hugs, lots of handshakes. People checking who has gained weight, who has lost weight. One of my favorite people, Onelia Codrington, the head of Performance Value Management, scolded me in the hallway before the ceremonies for tying my now shoulder-length hair into a ponytail. “Yes, when you’re on stage!” She said. I did.

That brings me to the revival of the Presidential Rank Awards program. This switch-off and switch-on program is on again. To compensate for the cancellation last year, the Biden administration only made a small selection Mob of recipients – 230 to be exact.

In previous years, senior officials were celebrated at dinners and award ceremonies. Of course, the Presidential Rank Awards come with a good piece of dough. Awards from groups like AFFIRM come with a tchotchke, albeit a beautiful glass. Money or not, award winners will be in a hurry to be named in person and will have the opportunity to walk over the podium in the spotlight.

In addition, there is great value in speaking and networking these events. As I mingled with my martini at a couple of stand-up hors d’oeuvre tables, I overheard several téte-a-tétes looking for work, hiring and working with companies.

Industry and government have gotten pretty good at virtual events. In fact, some of the little flaws in the recent personal deals I’ve been to are to show we’re a little rusty. The difference: zoom gulps are usually uncomfortable or creepy. Personal mishaps can be fun. At a recent out-of-town event, I was asked to interview an online speaker from the stage who was appearing on two large screens. Only the connection was slow, so I had to ad-lib for two minutes in front of 600 people. This is forever if you haven’t. But we had some good laughs – which couldn’t have happened in a purely online format. There’s a reason TV yakk shows have studio audiences.

Not that they’ll listen, but my advice to the White House is to hold an evening gala for the winners. Choose a group to run it – for example, the Senior Executives Association. An organizer can easily get sponsors to cover the peppercorn and salmon plated risotto.

Many groups like AFFIRM, AFCEA and ACT-IAC have monthly meetings of all kinds. They have learned that having them online is valuable. More people take part because the time to get there and back is reduced. Organizers can create high quality video recordings for archiving. Online saves big bucks on venues, food, parking, badges and the rest. Thanks to the technology, it’s an efficient way to host presentations and interactive content. I’ve attended a million of them. And if I don’t have a ponytail thing around, it’s okay.

But sometimes you have to meet in person. This is certainly possible now. People want to do it. And it has valuable, if not tangible, benefits. It is also possible to stream the ceremonies online for those who still want to avoid the crowds in person.

Well, drop those little wrapped hot dogs over.

Almost useless factoid

By Alazar Moges

The reason popcorn pops is because a small amount of water is stored in a circle
from soft starch. The starch is surrounded by the hard outer surface of the core. As the kernel heats up, the water expands. As soon as the outer layer crumbles, the popcorn will explode. When it explodes, the soft starch in the popcorn will inflate and burst, turning the kernel inside out. The steam inside the core is released and the popcorn is popped.

Source: USDA

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