A Silicon Valley executive from Buffalo is President Obama’s choice to be the next U.S. chief technology officer.
Megan Smith, a graduate of City Honors School and a vice president of the super-secret Google X lab, will succeed Todd Park, who resigned, said John Holdren, Obama’s science adviser, in a blog post Thursday.
She will be the third person to hold the job, which Obama created after taking office in 2009. Named as her deputy was Alexander Macgillivray, former general counsel and head of public policy for Twitter, who is known as a defender of the free flow of information online.
“I think Megan is an adventurer,” said her mother, Joan Aspell Smith, who has lived on the grounds of Chautauqua Institution for the past two decades. “This is another adventure.”
The chief technology officer serves as a liaison between the White House and Silicon Valley companies. The job is designed to advise the government on better use of technology, including ways to create jobs and increase broadband use.
In reporting the appointment, the Washington Post noted that Smith is expected to concentrate more on setting agendas and anticipating future developments, “something of the technological equivalent of the president’s science adviser.”
“The biggest surprise,” her mother told The News, “was she said, ‘Mom, Obama called me. ... I’ve been offered this job.’ She moved this weekend to Washington. Her boys are very happy.”
Smith, whose sons are ages 9 and 12, joined Google in Mountain View, Calif., in 2003. As vice president of business development, she oversaw many of its most important acquisitions, such as Keyhole, the service that underlies Google Earth.
She led the company’s philanthropic division, Google.org, and was a co-host for Google’s Solve for X forum, where thinkers and scientists brainstorm radical technology ideas with Google executives.
She also has worked on an initiative at the company to get more women involved with technology.
Before joining Google, Smith helped launch Planet Out, a site for gay and lesbian Internet users, and was its chief executive officer.
“Everything she touches seems to turn to gold,” her mother said. “Megan really seems to add to what the world needs. She’s not only an engineer, she’s a kind engineer.”
She earned undergraduate and master’s degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she now serves on the board and is a member of the advisory board for the MIT Media Lab.
She also serves on the board of Vital Voices, is a member of the USAID Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid, is an adviser to the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and co-founded the Malala Fund.
She been active in the FIRST Robotics Competition, which seeks to get kids interested in technology careers.
City Honors Principal William A. Kresse hailed the appointment of one of his alumnae Thursday.
“Our school community could not be more proud of Megan,” he said. “During her visits to the school, it has been clear that she values what the culture and excitement surrounding math and science at City Honors did for her.
“As thrilled as we are that she will provide our nation with visionary leadership on technology issues, we are just as proud of her leadership over the years to bring more girls and women into the technology and engineering fields.”
News wire services and News Staff Reporter Mark Sommer contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org