As Karen Jackson, Virginia's deputy secretary of technology, tells it, her public-sector IT career took root largely because of serendipity. But it didn't happen entirely by accident. Jackson's understanding of both technology and business give her an advantage and a unique perspective.
Jackson's business background paved the way for her career in IT since the mid-'90s, when she was employed by the Virginia Center for Innovative Technology, a quasi-state agency that provides business consulting to entrepreneurs. During this time, the Internet and e-commerce were in their infancy, but as they took off, so did Jackson's career. Today she's tackling the Internet's newest challenges: how to best use and monitor Web 2.0 technologies, defining a minimum national broadband speed, and creating policies and standards for telework - in addition to working under shoestring budgets.
Jackson gained real-world experience with these issues as the director of the Virginia Office of Telework Promotion and Broadband Assistance and as former vice president for broadband programs at the Center for Innovative Technology.
She has worked tirelessly on legislation that promotes broadband connectivity statewide, especially in rural areas. Virginia, a leader in broadband development, recently created a comprehensive broadband coverage map - a feat accomplished at no cost to taxpayers, Jackson proudly noted.
"Right now, we're estimating based on the first map that we did, we have about 25 percent of the population left to go," she said.
Although Virginia is close to providing statewide broadband connectivity, Jackson acknowledges that there are topographical and other challenges. But she's persistent. "If I can leave my career thinking that the people who need and want connectivity can get it affordably and reliably, then I would be happy," she said. "My legacy will be that I just didn't give up."