In this month's "The Sounding Board", meet Chair of the FLC Executive Board, Linda Burger, who is the Director for the Office of Research and Technology Applications at the National Security Agency (NSA). Linda discusses the unique journey many in tech transfer take to get to their current roles and how the FLC is poised to support the next generation of T2 professionals.
How did you get into the field of tech transfer?
I first learned about technology transfer in an NSF-funded program called Activate at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. The program focused on teaching women how to assess and commercialize technologies. Having owned an IT services business and trying to bring a commercial product to market, I knew firsthand how hard it can be to shift from a services model to one supporting product development. Midway through the program, I got a job in tech transfer with a local economic development organization supporting the commercialization of Army medical technologies and associated emerging technology companies. In my next role, I had the opportunity to start working with the NSA Technology Transfer Program and those relationships led to a job offer from the NSA. After learning about and supporting technology transfer efforts externally, I was eager to learn about tech transfer from the federal lab perspective.
What do you enjoy most about your role at the NSA?
The best part about leading and working in the NSA Office of Research and Technology Applications (ORTA) is the people. Our team is the best in the business. Our Agency’s mission is one of the coolest in the federal government. It is a privilege to help our technical teams perform their critical work for the nation through the application of T2 authorities in the partnership agreements we develop and establish for the Agency. Our office has the benefit of learning the mission side of our technologies, working with brilliant subject matter experts to achieve their goals, and promoting NSA’s unclassified technologies and T2 success stories.
How did you get involved with the FLC?
After learning and doing tech transfer at NSA for several years and attending FLC events, I ran for a position on the FLC Executive Board (EB) to engage more with the federal T2 community and share lessons learned. I started on the EB in 2016 as a Member-at-Large, then became Co-Chair of the Education and Training Committee, EB Vice Chair, and now Chair. I appreciate the opportunity to learn from and serve with senior leadership across the federal government to expand the awareness and impact of federal T2.
What is your fondest memory of an FLC event or opportunity?
My fondest memory of an FLC event is when our team won an FLC Excellence in Technology Transfer award in 2019 for the documented success of the release of NSA’s NiFi technology as open-source software. The effort recognized our team’s diligent trail blazing for the Agency and its cumulative impact. The technology’s innovator worked closely with our team over years post-release to share the impact of licensing that technology as open source software. For the NSA ORTA team’s groundbreaking work on this initial software release process and the subsequent positive results of more than 50 such software releases, we ultimately won the DoD’s highest T2 recognition, the George Linsteadt award, in 2020.
What advice would you give to someone new to the tech transfer profession?
Try it! Everyone in technology transfer finds their way into this creative profession rather than knowing at an early age they want to be a T2 professional. T2 is about problem solving through the application of little-known authorities. ORTA teams strive to get to Yes with our internal customers when everyone else is at No. It is wonderful and very rewarding to help smart people do good things for your Agency’s mission.
What FLC initiatives are on the horizon that you are most excited about?
OK, my inner techie will show with this response. I am super excited about the new, updated website because of the new tech-driven possibilities it enables for FLC. It has integrated association management and learning management systems that will provide the leadership with information to support decision making and our members with the ability to track their progress through training coursework, supporting micro credentialing. The new website represents a significant technology refresh for the organization, and I look forward to us leveraging it to keep growing the federal T2 community and its value to the nation.