Michael Conlin, DoD Chief Data Officer, Inducted Into 2020 Wash100 for His Efforts to Push Data Science and Talent Recruitment to Shift DoD’s Culture

Michael Conlin
Michael Conlin

Executive Mosaic is honored to introduce Michael Conlin, chief data officer for the Department of Defense, as an inductee into the 2020 edition of the Wash100 Award for his role in pushing data science in the department and working to improve talent recruitment to shift DoD’s culture. This honor marks Conlin’s first Wash100 win

In April 2019, Conlin opened the Potomac Officers Club’s 2019 Data Management Forum with a keynote address focusing on enhancing oversight and management while trying to improve affordability and performance for DoD.

He expressed a strong desire to change the culture within the department and stressed the importance of data science. He noted that building a data science team and hiring talent are important to the Pentagon’s future.

“I need talent to change the culture,” Conlin said in his keynote speech.

During a forum early last year, Conlin cited the structure of data and workforce development as the two major challenges to DoD’s adoption of artificial intelligence and that the department needs “well-tagged and well organized” large volumes of data to set algorithms on AI-based tools. 

“The more data you have to train your algorithms, the more accurate the algorithms are and the faster you get your results,” he said. 

The Office of Management and Budget held an orientation and Evidence Act training session in September for chief data officers and Conlin said the training focused on establishing a set of expectations for federal agencies to follow in implementing the administration’s data policy documents.

He also mentioned the “literacy classes” his team has held for senior executive service-level officials with a focus on descriptive statistics skills and basic data quality.

In an interview with SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile live streaming studio theCUBE in August, Conlin spoke about navigating the cultural challenges within the department, gaining data visibility and the evolving role of CDOs.

“This is ultimately about improving affordability and performance of the Department,” Conlin said. “What’s the data, who can access it under what policy for what purpose, roles and responsibilities, identity management, all of this is a combined set of solutions that we have to put in place. That’s the essence of the role.”

Conlin stressed the department’s initiatives to develop internal staff and hire industry experts to implement data management and common data enterprise efforts.

“Industry is where the art of the possible is created every single day with data science,” Conlin said. “That means we need to place our people with industry to get that practical experience with the art of the possible and bring them back in.”

Conlin became the first CDO of DoD in August 2018. He acknowledged that legacy information technology systems prevent public sector organizations from maximizing their data, which can only be accessed through applications’ user interface during an interview with ExecutiveBiz. 

“The public sector’s reflexive habit of classifying data as the default further complicates this challenge. This combination effectively locks away the data, preventing anyone from using it,” he added.

Conlin previously served as chief technology officer for the U.S. public sector at DXC Technology. He also held several IT-related leadership roles at Hewlett-Packard and its former subsidiary EDS.

Executive Mosaic congratulates Michael Conlin on his 2020 Wash100 Award selection. His drive to improve DoD’s workforce, its culture and its use of data science have catapulted him to a top level in the GovCon sector befitting a Wash100 Award winner. 

About The Wash100

The Wash100 Award, now in its seventh year, recognizes the most influential executives in the GovCon industry as selected by the Executive Mosaic team in tandem with online nominations from the GovCon community. Representing the best of the private and public sector, the winners demonstrate superior leadership, innovation, reliability, achievement and vision.

Visit the Wash100 site to learn about the other 99 winners of the 2020 Wash100 Award. On the site, you can submit your 10 votes for the GovCon executives of consequence that you believe will have the most significant impact in 2020.

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