Silicon Valley Is Plucking Government IT Talent

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Entrepreneurs and venture capitalists look to defense and intelligence agency employees.

While it has long been a practice of the Pentagon and federal intelligence agencies to scout out expertise from Silicon Valley, new evidence suggests that the tables are turning, with top federal operatives heading west and leveraging their insider’s expertise to launch new tech startups.

The New York Times reports that entrepreneurs and venture capitalists are scouting out talent from federal defense and intelligence agencies -- where employees have received training in national security issues -- to work in fields like big data and cybersecurity. 

“They have unique insights because they’ve been on the front line,” Matthew Howard, a former Navy intelligence analyst and now a managing partner at Northwest Venture Partners, told the Times. “Now, they’ve got commercial desires. The lines are blurring.”

In fact, many of these IT experts received scholarships through their respective agencies. But once the service commitments attached to those scholarships are up, many are heading west to pursue a “dream of riches,” the article states.

While the government’s strong mission and scholarship opportunities have long been considered top strategies for recruiting key IT talent, it looks like they may now work to the government’s detriment, at least in some instances.

Is your agency an incubator for Silicon Valley talent? What could the government be doing better to keep your expertise on board?