Introducing Aneesh Chopra: America’s CTOSaturday, April 18, 2009 4:54
When I saw the news that the ObamaAdministration had decided to elect a fellow Indian brother three years older than me to be the CTO for the most powerful countryin the world, my first reaction was “Great! More brown representation in the White House”, followed immediately by my second reaction of “What am I doing with my life?”
But in all seriousness, congrats Aneesh. Having an person of Indian origin be the CTO only makes sense in a country where much of the top development talent in Silicon Valley and beyond are American-raised desis or newly minted H1-B whiz kids from the motherland. It’s the same reason why Sanjay Gupta seems so credible on CNN and why Grey’s Anatomy is such a joke (besides horrible writing). It’s also why we’ll probably never see a desi take Robert Gates’ job as Secretary of Defense. We don’t like war, more precisely, we just don’t care enough.
So, this recent appointment however brings up a valid question – who exactly is Aneesh Chopra? Here is what we found:
He is 36 years old and was born in Trenton, New Jersey. He is married, but with no kids. His undergraduate studies took place at Johns Hopkins where he completed a BA in Health Policy. He subsequently began his career as an Investment Banking Analyst for Morgan Stanley before leaving after a year to pursue a Masters in Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government (Harvard University). After graduating from Harvard, Aneesh joined the Advisory Board Company (an ambiguously labeled health care think tank) where he made a direct ascent to Managing Director over the course of 12 years. During this time, he also founded an $11 million venture capital network investment fund. It didn’t amount to much.
From there, the protégé of former Virginia governor Mark Warner was handpicked to serve in Virginia’s cabinet as its Fourth Secretary of Technology for Tim Kaine. He also served as the chair of Virginia’s Healthcare IT Council. Aneesh’s accolades have been numerous and include the Government Technology Top 25 in 2008 in addition to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s (HIMSS) 2007 State Leadership Advocacy Award in 2007. He is also a former President of TiE DC. Board memberships include a stint with Warner’s Electronic Health Records Task Force and he was also on the Board of Medical Assistance Services.
In this rare interview with ABCDLady.com in 2006, Aneesh discusses how South Asians can make it in politics and perhaps most interestingly, makes a direct tie between his sense of duty and Hindu philosophy.
So we end with this question? Why did Obama pick essentially a non-technologist (really more of a policy wonk) to be America’s CTO and shun Silicon Valley? A closer inspection of his background suggests that though Aneesh wasn’t a technologist by training, that he was well-respected among his peers, had political influence, and perhaps most importantly, has the cross-section of health care and technology that is so important to Obama pulling off the health care reform he desperately needs to be successful.