September 10, 2012, 4:09 PM — Every year, Temple University's Fox School of Business chooses an IT executive for its Information Technology Leader Award, in recognition of the individual's leadership in the use and development of IT in business. The 2012 recipient was Adrian R. Gardner, director of the Information Technology and Communications Directorate, CIO at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and a member of the federal government's Senior Executive Service. Gardner is also an Air Force veteran and has held high-level IT positions at the National Weather Service and the Department of Energy. Here, he talks about what it takes to lead IT at one of the most famous government organizations.
Adrian R. Gardner
Running, martial artsWhat has been your biggest career accomplishment? Data.govWhat professional ambition would you like to accomplish? Leading an agency IT organization and eventually starting my own business.What's the best advice you've received? In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.What's the best advice you've given? Guide your own career path and recognize it's OK to be different.What's your favorite science fiction movie or book? Minority Report, because of all the IT. Also A Beautiful Mind. It isn't science fiction, but it is about a scientist.
Why do you think you earned the Fox award? For the work we've been doing recently -- I say "we" because it's really been a team effort -- with Data.gov and around openness and innovation. Data.gov is a website used to host government data from the majority of agencies, where we've decided as government to make data more open and transparent. It can be leveraged to stimulate business and give our citizens and stakeholders more visibility into what we're doing and to create more apps using government data.
How did you get into technology and the CIO role, considering that none of your academic degrees is in IT? I was always interested in science, and then I went into the Air Force and was a launch control officer for a nuclear weapons facility [where] my role was communications. That was my first foray into IT. When I got out of the Air Force, I was recruited by the Department of Energy and looked at large nuclear facilities and the technologies they had. So I had to get conversant in IT, and when the position of CIO was established in the federal government, I was asked if I'd be interested in filling the role. So I ended up in the cybersecurity area, and I worked my way up.