A few weeks in the White House has imbued chief technology officer Megan Smith with a newfound respect for Silicon Valley's number one enemy: regulation. While Larry and Sergey try to dismantle healthcare law, the former VP of Google X is complimenting "talented regulators" in The New York Times Magazine.
Her about-face is particularly interesting since Google X is the division with all the far-fetched futuristic ideas that put her old corporation at odds with federal authorities. Smith initially admits a government gig means dealing with outdated technology:
Now that you work at the White House, approximately how many times a day do you find yourself thinking, God, we did this so much better at Google? Maybe not Google, but corporate America in general. Sometimes it's frustrating, because of the I.T. stuff that needs upgrading — the president is really pushing hard for that to be done.
But you're not in I.T. Your focus is national technology policy. What are you doing with that? We're working with talented regulators, figuring out how to help innovators have a space in which to prototype and plan — what we call "sandboxing" — while we're still protecting the American people.
"Talented regulators" — was that a phrase you ever would have used before you started working in government? They are talented. I love how entrepreneurial people are here. I actually think that working in the federal government, or state or local, is one of the most significant things that a technical person can do.
Which is not something you often hear people in Silicon Valley say.
But so many kids at the top schools apply for Teach for America. I'd like to talk to those young people and say: Consider government. It's real service, and you can affect hundreds of millions of people. And if you're working for U.S.A.I.D. and the State Department, you can affect billions of people.
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