The White House has plucked another technologist from Silicon Valley, naming DJ Patil as the nation’s first chief data scientist Wednesday.
U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith announced the hiring in a White House blog post Wednesday, saying that Patil comes aboard after an “incredible career” as a data scientist for a multitude of private companies. Patil served as vice president of product at RelateIQ, a customer relationship management software company that was recently acquired by SalesForce. He has also worked for LinkedIn, venture capital firm Greylock Partners, Skype, PayPal and eBay.
Prior to his private sector work, Patil spent time working with the federal government. According to the White House, Patil worked with the Defense Department directing “new efforts to bridge computational and social sciences in fields like social network analysis to help anticipate emerging threats to the United States.”
He’s also worked with one of the foremost repositories of federal data, using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to create improvements in numerical weather forecasting during his time as a doctoral student at the University of Maryland.
According to Smith, Patil “will help shape policies and practices to help the U.S. remain a leader in technology and innovation, foster partnerships to help responsibly maximize the nation’s return on its investment in data, and help to recruit and retain the best minds in data science to join us in serving the public.” He will report to Smith but also work with newly appointed U.S. Chief Information Officer Tony Scott and the U.S. Digital Service team.
Smith also expects Patil to work on the Obama administration’s Precision Medicine Initiative, which aims to harness data to improve medicine from both a clinical and personal perspective.
Patil’s Silicon Valley ties echo the resumes of other top administration appointees. Prior to being appointed CTO, Smith was vice president of Google X, an advanced research laboratory run by Google. Likewise, Scott was CIO at visualization software company VMware prior to hi appointment as federal CIO.
The federal government has been making a push to harness the power of its data in recent years. The federal government’s open data repository, data.gov, now boasts over 138,000 data sets available to the public. Federal agencies have also made a push to harness their own data, aiming to hire chief data officers. Last week, the Energy Department announced their own CDO, Dave Dutton, who was hired at the end of January.