This past week, the tech world — and women everywhere — waited in anticipation to see if Google VP Megan Smith would break new ground as the brand-new chief technology officer of the United States. Now, we can all congratulate her. On Thursday, President Obama named Megan Smith the U.S. CTO, the highest-ranking tech position in the White House. Succeeding Todd Park, Smith will be the third person — and first woman — to take on the esteemed role.
On Thursday, Obama made the announcement in a statement:
Megan has spent her career leading talented teams and taking cutting-edge technology and innovation initiatives from concept to design to deployment. I am confident that in her new role as America’s Chief Technology Officer, she will put her long record of leadership and exceptional skills to work on behalf of the American people. I am grateful for her commitment to serve, and I look forward to working with her and with our new Deputy U.S. CTO, Alexander Macgillivray, in the weeks and months ahead.
The position is a new one. The country's first CTO, Chopra, was appointed in 2009. The primary responsibility of the White House's CTO is to supervise the government's use of technology — like creating tech-related jobs, expanding broadband access, and helping to maintain national security. One of the projects that Park had been spearheading was making government data available and usable to the public.
Smith has more than a decade under her belt at Google alone, and has held several other high-level positions in the tech industry. Before she breaks the glass ceiling at the White House, let's take a look at all the ways in which Smith has already paved the way for women in tech.
Making Waves at Google
Smith joined Google in 2003, and quickly rose up the ranks to become vice president of business development. In this role, Smith led some of Google's most important early acquisitions, such as Keyhole, the geospatial data software company that developed Google Earth, and Where2Tech, which is responsible for everyone's navigational life-saver, Google Maps.
Smith also co-founded Google's radical innovations think tank, Solve For X, which gathers scientists, tech experts, and entrepreneurs to discuss and hatch so-called technology moonshots. Currently, Smith is vice president of Google X, Google's secretive lab responsible for turning cutting-edge ideas into real inventions, such as Google Glass.
An Icon In The LGBT Community
Before her tenure at Google, Smith was the CEO of PlanetOut, a media company geared toward the LBGT community. Under her direction, the company gained several crucial partners, such as AOL, Yahoo, and MSN. She also oversaw PlanetOut's merger with its largest competitor, Gay.com, which formed PlanetOut Partners, Inc.
Already an Innovator at MIT
Smith obtained her bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering from the illustrious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she was part of a student team that designed, built, and raced a solar-powered car 2,000 miles through the Australian outback.
Phew. Is there anything Smith can't do?