Parting advice from Howard Schmidt

Get to meet Howard Schmidt personally in what might have been his last interview.

howard schmidt and barack obama
Credit: The White House

I’ve known Howard Schmidt for close to 20 years, and as people talk about his legacy, I think of him in a different way. Most people know of his accolades and executive positions. I know him as a friend I would have dinners with in some great places around the world. We both served on boards for various companies, as well as professional societies.

The one thing that was most notable about Howard was that he wanted to make sure that he was always providing value. When I asked him to be on the board of directors or advisers for my company, his only condition was that it was not just to use him in name only. He would only serve on corporate boards where he could have a significant impact.

More notably, Howard once told me that he was asked to run for Congress after he left the White House the first time. He said he decided not to do it as he could not afford another pay cut to work for the government. When I joked with him later in 2009 that there was another White House opening, he didn’t treat it like a joke. He said he thought that the position under President Obama has the potential to make a significant impact this time around. I knew that despite the significant pay cut, Howard was going to take the job, as he cared more about the potential impact than the significant loss of income. Two months later, he was named as President Obama’s cybersecurity adviser.

To extend Howard’s legacy of providing value, Araceli Treu Gomes and I wanted to again share this interview of Howard. When Araceli and I were looking for notable guests, he was quick to volunteer. Little did we know at the time, this was going to be one of the last, if not the last, interviews he gave.

As opposed to grand nation-state questions that people usually asked of Howard, Araceli and I focused our questions on advice that is directly relevant to practitioners. This fit Howard’s drive to provide value perfectly.

Araceli and I hope that you will get to appreciate Howard as a person, not as a title, and takeaway some value that you can use to improve the security of your organization. It is my belief that this is what he would want.

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