Darwin John Takes IT Reins at the FBI

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John, however, bristles at the notion that he was hired because of his achievement in creating the Mormon database. "I hope I was recruited specifically for my capability as a CIO rather than.... Let’s talk about it conceptually," he says, interrupting himself. "I would be worried if anyone said we recruited a CIO in order to get knowledge from one company into another."

But if nothing else, the database testifies to the fact that despite his mild-mannered insistence on the theoretical aspects of the CIO job, John can get things done. Real things. Technical things. Big things.

"Darwin looks like he would be a pushover for some in-your-face aggressive consultant talking mile-a-minute," says Dick Dooley, a former CIO at First National Bank of Chicago and at Colonial Penn Insurance in Philadelphia, who helped found SIM in 1968 and has known John for three decades. "But it’s not true. Darwin knows how to pull the trigger. He’s not a pushover. He’s quite capable of dominating a meeting, but he’s not dying to do it."

As for whether John can make wheels turn inside the beltway, well, that’s another story.

"He’s not a Washington insider, so he’s going to have to get some good advisers in that area," says Christopher Baum, vice president and electronic government analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner. John still hasn’t passed the major test of speaking before Congress. He admits that he’s still struggling to find that delicate line between what he can say publicly about his work and what’s classified. But, then, he did manage to maneuver successfully within the Mormon Church for more than a decade?an organization known for being intensely political, intensely hierarchical and intensely private. "John does understand politics," Baum says, "so it might be that he’s the right guy for the job."

If he lasts long enough to prove himself, that is. "Maybe [people at the FBI] would feel better if they’d hired some athlete with a strong ego need," Dooley surmises.

But as far as John is concerned, different is good. "Let me quote my wife’s father, who is 95 and still going strong. He says, ’If two people think exactly alike, there’s no need for one of them.’ I think it’s clear that my style is not the predominant style at the bureau. It’s probably fair to say that I think about things differently than many do here, but that’s probably been true in every setting I’ve ever been in. And, by the way, I think I’ve built a successful career on thinking about things differently.

"I’ve always been comfortable with who I am, and if somebody thinks I’m soft and that’s bad, then I’m sorry," he says. "They have a problem."

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Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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