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Microsoft’s Teresa Carlson: “It’s a culture. It’s an upgrade. It’s an innovation”

Microsoft's Teresa Carlson: "It's a culture. It's an upgrade. It's an innovation" - top government contractors - best government contracting event

As the Obama administration settles into year two, the call for open government is growing. For a few ideas on which technologies will be leading the way “” and where contractors fit into the equation “” ExecutiveBiz recently spoke with Teresa Carlson, Vice President of Microsoft Federal Government. If there's any one IT initiative to watch this year, she tells us, it's the cloud. “The big question for agencies is how to walk into the cloud, and then eventually jog and run,“ says Carlson. That question has one immediate answer: Dialogue “” and lots of it. Since taking on her role in September 2008, Carlson has been engaged in concerted dialogue with public sector CIOs. “They want supporting help from industry to guide them a little bit on how they can get there in a safe, secure, efficient manner,“ says Carlson. Here, Carlson debriefs on Microsoft's efforts to get them there “” and how industry partners can help.

ExecutiveBiz: The Obama administration's open government initiative remains a top priority. What is Microsoft working on to help support that initiative?

Teresa Carlson: Several things. We have something called, “Open Government Data Initiative“ (OGDI). That's where we have reusable codes built on Azure, our cloud platform, that companies and government agencies can go to and reuse to open up information within databases. We're also working with GSA with terms of services conditions for search engines like Bing so they can use tools that are open and free for government to utilize. We have also developed a government 2.0 toolkit for all government customers who use SharePoint.

ExecutiveBiz: The 2011 budget is about to be announced. How do the government's budget challenges impact your business?

Teresa Carlson: On the more challenging side, to make a movement around modernization can be hard because it costs money to modernize and innovate. That said, many of the agencies have standardized on Microsoft and they can easily upgrade, they have access to all of the tools.  They also have a lot of innovation at their fingertips that they already own. In addition, they have a lot of the collaboration tools like SharePoint available to them, so that's a plus.

ExecutiveBiz: What can we expect from Microsoft a year from now?

Teresa Carlson: A year from now we'll have made some big announcements around the cloud. I think our mobile strategy will be very clear on our Next-Generation Secure Computing Base (NCSCB). We have Office web apps coming out that a customer can have on the cloud.  Also just on the consumerization front, our government agency will be able to merge their ability to use their tools in the enterprise with the way they are communicating. Government will be able to see how they can blend those tools nicely with the Microsoft tool sets along with all our great partners who do the integration effort in support of that.

ExecutiveBiz: What advice can you offer potential partners on approaching Microsoft?

Teresa Carlson: All the integrators to the medium to the small partners play a critical role in helping the agencies meet their mission. Everything we do is really through a partner-driven organization. We are very proud of that, by the way. My advice, then: Become a Microsoft partner and understand Windows. The federal government is in the upgrading mode. Most of them have been on Vista and are trying to upgrade to Windows 7. The other thing is the cloud.  There is a huge opportunity right now to become a partner with Microsoft and learn how to do cloud with them. Azure is our platform, and everyday agencies want to understand how to develop these apps in the cloud. It is an open market with cloud development and learning tools like Windows and SQL in the cloud.

ExecutiveBiz: Cybersecurity is obviously on this administration's mind. How is Microsoft responding?

Teresa Carlson: We support and advise our government customers that cyber is not easy and security is not easy.  It's a culture.  It's an upgrade.  It's an innovation.  It's a scorecard.  It's real-time threat analysis. It takes a real effort from the top down, bottom up perspective “” along with all of the right tools and culture in place.  That's how we really work with an agency, to provide the right tools as we consult with them on how they can deliver and change the culture by providing them the best practices that we utilize at the company.

ExecutiveBiz: Turning to you, personally: You reportedly loved math and science growing up. Where did that passion come from?

Teresa Carlson: I really did love math and science but I was so much better at science.  My father was a math teacher. I had to do math. I had him for seventh and eighth grade math and if we ever got in trouble he made us start at 1,000 and subtract by a fourth until we got to zero.  I did a lot of fractions at a very young age.

ExecutiveBiz: Today, public schools aren't generating as many future math and science leaders.  What accounts for that shift?

Teresa Carlson: In general, I don't think we, as a society, are doing a very good job evangelizing the STEM programs. As you know, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has provided millions of dollars toward trying to improve that.  We just have to do a better job, even at Microsoft most of our job openings are in the core area of engineering architecture. Between men and women we even have less females going into the industry than we do males.  We are closing that gap with programs like Digigirlz.

ExecutiveBiz: You've been highly involved in community and philanthropic work.  What advice would you give other executives about building relationships?

Teresa Carlson: It's never too late to get involved with something that you're really passionate about. When you work in this area of the tech corridor, your job never ends; it's really 24/7.  You have to take a breath and determine what's really important to give back to. Individuals at companies like Microsoft and others in this area do have a responsibility to give back to the greater community that we support everyday.

ExecutiveBiz: What's something most people don't know about you personally?

Teresa Carlson: I'm from a very small town in Kentucky. My maiden name is Hatfield, from the famous Hatfield and McCoys. That tells you I'm just a little bit competitive.

Interested in checking out more videos of Teresa Carlson?

To watch Carlson talk about her Red Cross involvement and the Fire and Ice Ball click here.

To watch Carlson talk about how she got her competitive nature click here.

To watch Carlson talk about her push for more future math and science leaders click here.

To watch Carlson talk about the White House technology initiatives click here.

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