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The Public Manager Magazine Article

Katherine Pearlman

Katherine Pearlman’s career in federal government began with a two-year training stint at the General Services Administration. Her work extends beyond the GSA, where she works with other government agencies to help them unlock the value of their data and build a “data-to-decisions” environment across federal government.

Published Tue Nov 10 2015

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Katherine Pearlman is a data analytics specialist for the Office of Government-wide Policy at the U.S. General Services Administration. But her work extends beyond the GSA, working with other government agencies to help them unlock the value of their data and build a "data-to-decisions" environment across federal government.

About Katherine Pearlman

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Katherine Pearlman's career in federal government began with a two-year training stint at the General Services Administration. As a financial management specialist, Pearlman rotated through various offices within the GSA, gaining valuable experience in federal budgeting and accounting, as well as governmental and congressional affairs. Pearlman eventually joined a team within GSA's Office of Government-wide Policy, which uses agency data to support decision making. A graduate of Wake Forest University, she is currently pursuing her MBA from Georgetown University.

How did you become a data analyst for GSA?

In my early work as a program analyst in GSA's Office of Government-wide Policy (OGP), I was lucky to get involved with a new data analytics team that was established in early 2014. The team, which is now called the Office of Evidence and Analysis, was created to leverage the vast amount of data that OGP and other GSA offices collect in mission-support areas. I decided to become a full-time member of the team because I saw the impact that data can have on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government programs. Our team is doing a lot of work to provide tools that help agency decision makers better understand and analyze their data, benchmark their performance, and evaluate and improve programs.

What did you learn from your work in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer at GSA?

I started at GSA four years ago through a program called the Financial Management Specialist Program in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. It's a two-year rotational program with an emphasis on financial management training. I rotated throughout seven different offices in GSA, which gave me a perspective on the agency as a whole and the business problems faced by each office. Seeing the diversity of the work accomplished at the GSA—and the challenges of its various offices—made me want to study how the government can address common problems at a higher level through data.

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What do you wish all agencies knew about big data?

I think every agency, office, or division—big or small—can benefit from outreach and collaboration when it comes to data. Whether your agency is very mature in its ability to collect, process, and use data, or is just getting started, it can benefit from a culture of sharing data, experiences, and best practices.

How can every government employee help improve agency data?

I would encourage government employees to learn about how the systems they use and programs they support collect and manage data, as well as how that data can help to improve performance and decision making. Data is everywhere, and understanding its potential can go a long way toward improving the impact it can have. When faced with a business problem, look for the data to help solve it—chances are it's out there and will provide evidence that supports effective solutions.

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