Technology Committee Brings Together Solution Seekers
Open-minded engagement helps group tackle IT problems worldwide.
Technology is evolving at an incredibly rapid pace. IT professionals today, whether in government or industry, must stay current with new technology trends and skills to secure the jobs of tomorrow. And given the speed of change and progress, IT professionals must constantly be learning, unlearning and relearning technologies to remain relevant. Having a support system with like-minded technologists and the opportunity to network with a diverse group of government, industry, academic and scientific experts can help immensely. That’s where AFCEA’s Technology Committee comes in.
Headed by Carey Bandler and co-chaired by Anitha Raj, the purpose of the committee is to enhance AFCEA's outreach to the IT communities; cultivate partnerships among government, industry, academic and scientific leaders; and focus on finding solutions for the IT and related management problems facing government, military, industry and nonprofit sector leaders worldwide.
“We have an interesting committee because a lot of what we do crosses the other committees, obviously homeland, cyber, intelligence,” says Bandler. “We have liaisons with all of those, as well as a lot of engagement across the committees. There may be a project we’re doing that touches homeland or vice versa so there’s a lot of collaboration there, and I know [AFCEA President] Gen. [Robert] Shea is really happy with that. That’s been a good thing for us to leverage and something that has gotten better over time, especially the last three-to-five years,” he adds.
Among other things, the committee manages AFCEA’s annual technology awards program. “That’s everything from defining and selecting the awards categories to reviewing the nominations and voting on the winners,” says Bandler. “It’s something our committee members take a lot of pride in because a lot of the time it’s recognizing their peers and their clients,” he adds.
The committee partners with George Mason University for the annual Critical Issues is C4I Symposium, which focuses on the “technical side of things,” Bandler says. During AFCEA’s annual Army Signal Conference, the committee is the lead for reviewing the abstracts submitted by industry and making selections by vote on which companies get to sponsor and present their topic on stage. They also help identify speakers for those events.
The Technology Vectors presentation is another large undertaking of the committee. “That’s something we picked back up in 2018. It’s been very well received,” Bandler says. “We identify a number of very innovative technology areas such as advanced manufacturing, block chain, quantum mechanics and provide a 101 course, kind of a technology for dummies in that area,” he explains. The 2021 Technology Vectors report is now available, and a Technology Vectors Webinar on August 26 will feature several of the authors of the report discussing the technologies in more detail.
“We’re looking at things that federal agencies are really going to need to understand well for their mission, maybe not today, but maybe they need to know it better today so they can plan for what they’re going to need in three-to-five years,” adds Bandler. “Each year, as we are starting committee season, we put out the current vectors and ask for input about any that should be retired, changed, added, and as a committee we vote on that.” The technologies are big buzzwords that get a lot of attention but often they are things that a lot of people generally in industry and government don’t have good understandings of. “So the tech vectors are there as a good resources set, and the way it’s focused is not just on why it matters but the implications to agency mission,” he says.
Bandler thinks that’s really the best way to lay out what the next five years will look like for the committee, “continuing to lean forward with those [vectors] and as technology changes those are going to be dynamic every year.”
Bandler has a long history with AFCEA. His dad was a member, and Bandler remembers getting SIGNAL Magazine delivered to his house as a kid. He also served as president of the Young AFCEANs for five years. “AFCEA really is worth everything you put into it. I got professional development by learning more about different military programs, budgeting, technology, all those sorts of things,” he says. That’s usually the spiel he gives prospective new members.
He also tells them that in 2004, he served on the NOVA IT Day planning committee. “I was 30, so a middle-aged Young AFCEAN, and sitting there at the table with all these retired general officers, recently out of uniform, who were talking about the programs they ran, the folks that back-filled them, who is where. It was just this plethora of valuable information and insight that you couldn’t pay for,” he explains. “So I quickly got to network with people—have face time with very important folks—and for someone who was in sales and engineering moving into a business development role, it was perfect for me,” he adds.
Current Technology Committee members include C-level technologists from a good mix of small, mid- and large-sized companies; thought leaders from academia; and liaisons from government agencies, according to Bandler.
When looking for new members, “we want a mix of business people and technologists. We’re looking for folks with a technical background or at least an understanding so they can contribute to the conversations,” he adds.
“I would say to those who may think they would be getting in over their head to engage [with the committee]. Open-minded, honest engagement is never shunned. We all bring stuff to the table; everyone has strengths to bring to the group,” Bandler exclaims. “One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about the Technology Committee is that some of the people in that room are just Einstein-like, but they’re open to hearing other people’s perspectives,” states Bandler. “We’ve had heated discussions; there’s lots of ego in the room; but everyone is professional, everyone is welcoming, and it doesn’t matter the mix of people we have in there. It’s always a good group and it’s always productive.”
AFCEA is celebrating its 75th anniversary in the September issue of SIGNAL Magazine. Join AFCEA now to ensure you receive this commemorative issue.