Alumni Spotlight: Barry C. West

The Air Force Meteorology whiz rose to a CIO's position, overseeing a $1.5 billion budget, in a cabinet-level government agency—all by the age of 44.

August 2010

Barry West , Alumnus

THE RUMORS ABOUT BARRY C. WEST ARE NOT TRUE. He is not younger than every computer owned by the U.S. Department of Commerce. But at age 44, Barry is one of the youngest chief information officers (CIOs) of a government cabinet-level department. He earned that distinction when he took over as CIO at Commerce in June 2006. And if you’re wondering if someone so young is up to the task of managing an office that oversees an annual budget of approximately $1.5 billion a year, you only have to take a look at Barry’s resume to be reassured that he is.

With a Bachelor of Science in information systems from Northern Michigan University and a Master of Science in Administration from Central Michigan University, Barry certainly has the educational foundation to handle the IT part of his job. But he credits his UMUC programs with providing much of the preparation he needed to tackle the CIO jobs, first at the National Weather Service and FEMA, and now at Commerce. He earned his UMUC Executive Master of Science in information technology at the university’s Shady Grove Center in Rockville, Maryland, and in 2002 he completed UMUC’s chief information officer executive certificate program— a recognized program offered through the Federal CIO University, which is administered by the GSA.

“The CIO program really laid out the competencies needed to be a government CIO,” Barry explained. “I learned that the most important requirements are to be an excellent communicator and listener, have the strength to be a leader, and then be a technical person when necessary.”

A native of Smithburg, Maryland, Barry said he had always been a “big Maryland fan,” so UMUC—and its convenient Shady Grove location—was a natural choice for his advanced learning needs, especially with the demanding schedule he keeps. In addition to his “regular job” duties, Barry has managed to have a broader impact on federal IT, working with the full scope of technology all across the government. He was instrumental in developing, the government’s official Web portal, and assumed a leadership role in the government’s early public-key infrastructure (PKI) efforts.

Barry also lectures throughout the country and, for the past three years, he has served as an adjunct assistant professor in UMUC’s Graduate School of Management and Technology, teaching the capstone course in the project management specialization of the Master of Science in technology management program. He also serves on a UMUC advisory panel set up by the provost, and two years ago he was asked to sit on the State of California Information Technology Council—by the personal invitation of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

When asked how his new job at Commerce would differ from his old position at FEMA—the descriptions are similar—Barry replied, “At FEMA, my budget was $81 million. At Commerce, it will be $1.5 billion. I think that alone will be enough of a difference to keep things interesting.”