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Industry Terrain: Kevin Hope Part 2 - Government & Private Sector

In the second edition of our Industry Terrain series, Continental Mapping's Kevin Hope shares perspectives and insights on transitioning from government to industry. Hope retired from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency as Deputy Director of Source Operations with over three decades of experience across multiple federal agencies. His insights showcase what many government staff go through when they retire, and he expands Continental Mapping's ability to better serve government clients through understanding recurring themes across agencies, how senior leadership looks for results from geospatial data, and the innovation that results from public and private collaboration. 

The following conversation has been edited for style and clarity.

The Transition from Public Service to Private Industry

Kevin Hope: Well on this front I'm just getting started! Having had the opportunity to work with so many amazing and talented partners in private industry during my federal career, it seemed natural to examine the possibility of continuing to support the geospatial community by transitioning to private industry. When I left my government role, I wanted to focus on working with a company that had a solid reputation, had the potential to grow and explore new opportunities, and that could accommodate some flexibility in schedule. While multiple offers were on the table, I felt the opportunity to work with Continental Mapping provided the best fit for all of the criteria, and more, noted above.

Thus far, the transition has been fantastic! Moving from my last position at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), where I was responsible and accountable for over 2200 geospatial professionals engaged in true no fail 24/7/365 missions, to the smaller Continental Mapping environment has certainly been an interesting transition. I feel I have so much to learn from the great team here and expect I will get a first-class education in how private industry operates versus the federal government. At the same time, I hope I can help to bring a sense of how the government thinks, operates, and a sense of the emerging priorities to the Continental Mapping team to sharpen the focus and help us and the government move ahead together.

So far, it has been a great transition, made even easier by the great reception I have received from all of the team members at Continental Mapping!

"…much of the essential work in producing geospatial content, and the services required to enable that work, are quite similar."

Recurring Themes Across Agencies for Geospatial Data and Services

One perspective that my career has given me, working in geospatial agencies within Department of Interior (USGS) and the Department of Defense (DoD) and Intelligence Community (IC) is the commonality of themes that run across agencies. As an example, USGS and NGA have very different missions and customers that they serve around foundation geospatial production. However, much of the essential work in producing geospatial content, and the services required to enable that work, are quite similar. In many cases, only the scale of operations differs significantly. As we go forward in time, some of the recurring themes that permeate the geospatial domain across agencies would include the following:
  • Speed. Every user wants it faster, faster, faster. Decreasing the time it takes to receive a requirement and turn that into actionable data in the hands of a user is becoming increasingly critical.
  • Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning. It is everywhere. The need in all sectors to take advantage of automated processing of data against the backdrop of a tidal wave of data sources is critical. The ability to use multiple sources of data to extract value and make sense of that data to meet customer demands is a theme that resonates across the board. When we look at the automation hard problems across agency domains, there are many similarities in terms of priorities.
  • DevOps. Service and IT development are quickly becoming essential tools in the geospatial community. We're moving away from the historic method of massive, monolithic development efforts where requirements are piled onto a vendor and multi-year development efforts are spent to produce results are gone. A smaller, more agile partnership between agencies and the private sector that produce rapid results for the end user are and will become the norm.

I see Continental Mapping putting great efforts into developing efficiencies in tradecraft to expedite collection, processing and delivery to end customers. The DevOps staff are embedded with production teams to help identify pain points and bring Agile development processes to the table to conceptualize, build and deploy tools to increase speed, automate laborious processes, and improve storage and access efficiencies. What's really exciting is to see DevOps leverage artificial intelligence to support the human operator so that they can do more higher-level thinking on topics such as quality control.

A Senior Government Perspective for Fulfilling Geospatial Requirements

I'll answer that simply by saying it's about results. When you're on the other end of a phone call as a senior executive with a warfighter, a first responder, or a crisis response team, they care about one primary thing: who can fulfill my requirement. A senior role in government must be all about increasing agility, finding new ways to meet user needs, innovating, and pushing for new solutions. The end user wants a result, the government needs to be invested in figuring out better ways to accomplish that result. We need to do better at the "how" part of the equation.

It's fair to say that the qualities mentioned above are not always the government's strong suits. Historic inertia and the "we've always done it this way" mentality can be pervasive and hard to overcome. However, hanging on to purely historic methods and ignoring opportunities to innovate is a sure ticket to irrelevance on the government side.

Again, transformation is never easy, but I believe you will start to see a new breed of senior leader in the government that will begin to more aggressively push these ideas forward. This portends potentially exciting opportunities for private industry!

Government Benefits from Private Sector Innovation

The government is a major beneficiary of private sector innovation in the geospatial space. So many of the tools and technologies that government agencies rely on to meet user needs came out of innovative private sector break throughs. Whether its software, services, data processing, or artificial intelligence and machine learning, the private sector will often drive innovation that leads to positive change in the way government operates.

"Looking ahead, a major component in government geospatial sector growth will be the ability to support autonomous vehicles, both on and off the battlefield."

In the late 1990's, the government challenged private sector to come up with the capabilities to transition mapping from manual methods to digital. This transition did not occur without error, but today the government is a beneficiary of those early pioneers in the private sector innovating and coming up with solutions that made the digital revolution possible.

Cloud storage and processing is another area that is rapidly transforming government due to private sector innovation. The need for rapidly responsive massive capabilities to store, process, and secure data are all being led by private sector innovation.

Looking ahead, a major component in government geospatial sector growth will be the ability to support autonomous vehicles, both on and off the battlefield. It's exciting to see Continental Mapping's history in that industry from collection of roadway information to delivering data in open formats such as OpenDRIVE to support this growing industry.

Private sector innovations in satellite and ground based high resolution data collection tools and tradecraft to process and derive value from these systems of the future will provide huge benefit to the government and will enable these capabilities to blossom. I love seeing how Continental Mapping has already done this many times over the years and am excited to be part of that as we tackle the next challenge using a growing variety of platforms and sensors.

Read the first installment of our Industry Terrain series:


Industry Terrain: Kevin Hope Part 1 - A Government Career Retrospective - Blog - Continental Mapping Consultants, LLC.

In the first of three posts in our Industry Terrain series, Continental Mapping's Kevin Hope reflects on a 34+ year career, all in the US government, from entry level to senior leadership, and the changes in the geospatial industry over that time. Ha

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