February 2017
Issue Map
The Public Manager

Jim Trinka

Friday, February 10, 2017

As the chief learning officer for the Office of Information and Technology (OI&T) within the Department of Veterans Affairs, Jim Trinka designs, develops, and delivers a comprehensive individual and organizational development program aimed at creating and sustaining a high-performing workforce to serve our nation's veterans. He is the primary advocate for transforming OI&T into a learning organization.


About Jim Trinka

Jim Trinka is the chief learning officer for the Office of Information & Technology (OI&T) within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Previously, he served as the executive director of the Leading EDGE Program to design, develop, and deliver a government-wide program to help senior executives improve government performance and face challenges of decreasing budgets, increasing workloads, and unprecedented complexity. Prior to Jim's appointment with the VA, he served as the technical training director for the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's chief learning officer, and the Internal Revenue Service's director of leadership and organizational effectiveness. He began his government service with a 22-year career as a fighter pilot in the Air Force. He holds a doctorate degree in international politics from The George Washington University and has authored numerous works on leadership development and political science.

What programs or achievements are you most proud of from your time at the VA?

I came to the VA to design and deliver a government-wide senior executive development program called Leading EDGE. That program was highly successful for two years, with 93 percent of participants from 100-plus federal government agencies rating the program as highly relevant to their jobs and 94 percent of participants recommending the program to peers. That program then transferred to the Office of Personnel Management where it continues today.

I then took the chief learning officer job at the VA Office of Information and Technology where I closely aligned employee, leadership, and organizational development programs to accelerate OI&T transformation and address organizational priorities. OI&T workforce competence to accomplish the mission increased from 61 percent to 71 percent in a very short time.

What do you feel are some of the best aspects of working in the public sector? What are some challenges you've experienced?

Certainly, the best thing about working in the public sector is the opportunity to really make a difference, in this case, to our highly valued veterans who so faithfully served their country and sacrificed much to ensure our freedom.

Unique challenges of serving in the public sector include having to continually prove the organization's value in successfully executing the mission against continual criticism from our many stakeholders. These stakeholders have a much larger impact than our private sector counterparts.

What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now?


A senior executive in the public sector has a very significant amount of responsibility, especially in the human relations field because there is never enough budget to effectively perform the function. However, we know that and challenge our employees to deliver the most that we can with what funds we do have.

Overall, it's a rewarding feeling knowing that we do our best work in a very limited budget environment.

What advice would you have for young people first starting out in the public sector?

A very wise manager once told me to do my best work in the job that I have and the future takes care of itself. I've followed that principle my entire career, and it has always served me well. Also, never stop learning!

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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