GSA goes Hollywood for new technology service commissioner

The General Services Administration is tapping into another type of California veteran for its new commissioner of its Technology Transformation Service.

Instead of Silicon Valley, think Hollywood.

GSA hired former Pixar executive and Oscar winner Rob Cook as the next TTS Commissioner.

“Rob is someone who has considerable experience both in delivering great technology and in building great organizations,” said Denise Roth, GSA’s administrator in a release. “I can’t think of a better or more qualified individual to take our emerging technology efforts at GSA to the next level.”

Rob Cook will start as GSA's new Technology Transformation Service commissioner on Oct. 31.
Rob Cook will start as GSA’s new Technology Transformation Service commissioner on Oct. 31. (Photo courtesy of Pixar)

Cook will start at TTS on Oct. 31. He replaces Phaedra Chrousos who left in July. David Shive, GSA’s chief information officer, has been acting TTS commissioner in the interim.

GSA created TTS in May, bringing together several IT focused organizations, including 18F, the Presidential Innovation Fellows and the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies.

“I’m excited by the possibility of transforming the way the government interacts with people,” Cook said in a release. “We need three things to succeed: first-rate technology expertise, effective relations with industry and great partners throughout government. Close collaboration with our agency colleagues is crucial to making this possibility a reality.”

Cook comes to TTS at a key time. The service still is trying to find its legs as an integrated unit versus three separate ones, and is under pressure from a harsh inspector general report on 18F that came out earlier this week.

Turner Roth said in September that TTS is trying to be more open about its role and the services it wants to provide. Turner Roth said back in September that the new commissioner “will go a long way toward the continued maturation of the new organization across the themes of industry day: making the government a more savvy buyer and increasing transparency and communication with industry.”

Cook’s background is technology and software engineering. He joined Pixar in 1981 and rose to vice president of software development. He was the co-architect of the software that Pixar used for Toy Story. He won an Oscar in 2001 along with two partners for the RenderMan software, which was used in 19 of the last 20 films to win the visual effects Oscar.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and a Masters in computer graphics from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He also has been named to both the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and to the National Academy of Engineering.

“We are thrilled to welcome Rob Cook to the federal government. Rob’s renowned experience, both as a software developer and in cultivating innovative teams throughout his career, are incredible additions to our long-term goal of enhancing the way government uses technology to deliver world-class services for citizens,” said Tony Scott, the federal chief information officer, in a statement.