New-age problem solver

Jason Khan helps federal clients tackle tough privacy and security challenges of new technologies

Jason Khan’s assent as a 2009 Rising Star began in high school.

Two years before graduating and shortly after his family moved to the United States from Trinidad, Khan began learning about computers.

As he neared the end of his senior year, his computer teacher, Jo Strowder, took Khan and other students to a mock industry day she organized at her former employer, Unisys Corp.

“She wanted us to see what it would be like to work for a computer-based company,” Khan said.

A few weeks later, Unisys called Khan and offered him the real thing, and three weeks before turning 18, he began his career as a government contractor.

“Whippersnapper was a term I learned quickly,” he said of his early days at Unisys.

That was 13 years ago. Today, the 31-year-old is the chief technology officer and director of business development at Touchstone Consulting Group, a part of SRA International Corp.

His duties include leading a team of 50 employees who are working with federal customers on Web 2.0, open government, cloud computing, cybersecurity and identity management.

He is working with customers such as the Office of Management and Budget, General Services Administration and Small Business Administration.

The issue of cloud computing is taking a lot of Khan’s time these days, particularly the challenges of privacy and security.

“Once we figure out a way to solve that — which is what we are tackling right now — it’ll open up a whole new way of doing business,” he said.

The problem will be solved through the use of technology and changes to work processes, Khan said.

“We are really close," he said. "In the next year or so, we’ll have cracked this nut. The way we’ll develop systems two years from now is going to be a lot different than how we did it two years ago.”

The challenges presented by emerging technologies such as Web 2.0 and cloud computing have energized Khan.

“I haven’t been this excited to be in technology since 1999-2000 when we were doing all sorts of crazy stuff with the dot-coms,” he said.

“Web 1.0 was cool but Web 2.0 is taking that and making it real,” Khan said. “Web 2.0 can have a big impact in a short amount of time, rather than spending a couple years building a system.”

Although Khan’s career path might not have followed the traditional path, he has no regrets. He worked full time for two years before starting college part time. Working helped him avoid the burden of going into debt to pay for school.

Working also helped him choose a career path. Although he still describes himself as a technology geek, he wanted to become more involved in management. He eventually earned a degree in information systems management from the University of Maryland.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said of his days as a teenager working with IT professionals with 20 to 30 years of experience. “You had old Sperry guys and Univac guys. Folks that grew up building and installing mainframes. I didn’t fit in at all, but it was fine.”

Working closely with people who had 20-plus years of experience taught him about corporate politics, how to act on the job, when to take work seriously, and when not to take it seriously.

“It was something I don’t think I would have gotten anywhere else,” he said. "I think it was the biggest thing that helped me move forward quickly.”

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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