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Awards: Professional Excellence and
Innovation Award — Government
2008 NPA Awards for Professionalism
Originally from Houston, TX, James is a retired US Navy Chief Petty Officer (submarines) currently working as a Budget Analyst in Stuttgart, Germany at Special Operations Command Europe. He is a Microsoft Certified Professional and Certified Defense Financial Manager, holds an MSc International Management which earned him the unique Dutch academic honorific “doctorandus”(drs), an MBA, and an MSc Computer Information Systems, and he is currently working towards a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). James is married to the former Kim Wijnands of the Netherlands, and they have two children. He also has 4 grown children and 4 grandchildren.

Interview with James E. Atkinson

“First, I am deeply honored to be selected for this award. Second, I would like to thank my wife, Kim and our children for their support as I continue to strive for professional excellence. Finally, I would like to thank the people I work with for their feedback, commitment to innovation, and super customer-service oriented focus.”

How long have you been a network professional?
I have been a member of the Network Professional Association since 2005, although, I have been involved in computer and networking technology since the beginning of my military career in 1970s.

What other IT jobs have you had, including your first IT job?
My first technology job would not, today, be considered an “IT” job specifically. I started out my career in technology as a Navy Nuclear Power Electronics Technician, and through the years moved to submarine electronics, automated navigation control systems, security and communications, and atmosphere control. Since there were no Information Technology people in those days, I inherited word processing equipment and the first computers used in administration at the commands where I served.

I guess my first ‘real’ IT experience came as a Bulletin Board System (BBS) Sysop in the mid 1980s using an 8088, homebuilt computer hooked to the telephone line via a reconfigured (i.e., hardwired to the computer) 150 baud modem taken from a Teletype (TTY).

After retiring from the Navy in the early1990s, I operated my own company IT company in the US setting up peer-to-peer networks. In 1999, after moving to Europe and getting married, I restarted my IT company in Amsterdam writing web pages, setting up and maintaining small peer-to-peer and NT4 networks, and eventually moved to designing, installing, and maintaining Server 2000 systems for numerous clients throughout the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Monaco, UK, Mexico, Canada, New Zealand, and Bahamas.

What other jobs have you had?
Since retiring from the Navy, I have worked as a Restraint Specialist with mentally disabled adults and children, as an electronics technician, Deputy Sheriff, hot shot delivery driver, martial arts instructor, and fork lift driver prior to leaving the U.S., and in my own companies in Europe as an IT Specialist, Financial and Projected Valuation Analyst, and Start-Up Business Planner for start-up companies. Since September 2006 I have worked at my present position as a Budget Analyst in Special Operations Command Europe.

What is your best source to keep abreast of new technology?
My best sources to keep abreast of new technology are the Network Professional, Project Management Institute, Microsoft Partner, and Association for Information Systems newsletters.

What do you think is the most exciting new technology?
From my point of view, Microsoft SharePoint Portal is one of the most exciting new technologies to come along. The portal system allows and encourages the integration of information management into non-information technology areas such as finance and accounting in exactly the ways it has been done in Special Operations Command Europe through activities such as the Special Program Funding Guide.

What technology are you glad to say goodbye to?
DOS-based database programs.

What is your specialty or field of expertise?
My current job is financial and budget analysis. My specialty and fields of expertise are strategic planning, program management, project management, and management information systems including information assurance & forensics investigation. In addition, I have extensive experience and recognition as subject matter expert on environmental technologies.

Would you encourage others to join this profession?
Absolutely. Management information and automation of processes is not just for information technology workers. As more and more non-technical jobs such as financial analyst, budget analyst, planning and programming, and the like are tied together through their need for data, there will be increasing need for network professionals who are also experts in business program and project management.

Describe a typical day at the office.
Rise at 4 a.m.; work on doctoral dissertation until 5:30 a.m.; get ready for work; eat breakfast; drive to work; arrive at the office at 7 a.m.; start my computers; fix coffee; check into the latest financial commitments and obligations via online programs; brief my assigned directorates on where they are at in their annual expenditures; check online for the latest legislative change proposals and approved legislation; check online for the latest legal rulings and actions from the Government Accounting Office; make updates to the portal web pages for the Manager’s Internal Control Program and Special Programs Funding Guide (if needed); go to lunch at some point; attend training/briefings; give training/briefings; wrap up the day and go home; eat dinner; spend time with family; work on doctoral dissertation from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.; go to bed at 11:30 p.m.

What goals do you have for the upcoming year/5 years?
To have the chance to step up to new responsibilities and challenges in strategic planning, program and project management, complete my Network Professional Certification, complete Certified Defense Financial Manager – Acquisition certification, and successfully submit my doctoral dissertation. In 5 years, become a member of the Senior Executive Service working with the Department of Defense Business Transformation Agency or Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

What do you see in the future for network professionals?
That is really hard to say. Right now most IT people, especially network administrators, workers, and security personnel are often looked at as a breed unto themselves. As money gets tighter and tighter, to show value in an organization, network professionals need to continue to integrate the worlds of information technology and the front offices. That is, as was done with the creation of the Special Program Funding Guide, a specialized need was met by using technology to provide a web-based answer.

What is the most challenging thing about your career?
The most challenging thing about my career is integrating the technology geek in me with the strategic planner and financial planning specialist.

What would improve your career/job substantially?
Well, the Professional Excellence and Innovation Award in Government award will certainly help as it provides excellent validation of the value-added benefits to be realized from the integration of technology with what is normally considered back-office support. Also, completing the Network Professional and Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer certifications and my PhD will help as well.

In which professional organizations do you participate?
I am a professional member of:
Project Management Institute
Association for Financial Professionals
Association of Certified Fraud Examiners
Association of Government Accountants
American Society of Military Comptrollers
Network Professional Association
Association for Information Systems

Where did you grow up?
Houston, Texas

Where do you live now?
Stuttgart, Germany

What are some other interests you have?
My family, renaissance fencing, bicycling, and martial arts.

What would you say to Bill Gates if you met him?
How about a job as the Chairman of Microsoft’s Environmental Technologies Investment branch?

Copyright Network Professional Association® 2002-2022. All Rights Reserved

This award honors James Atkinson who has made the most effective combination of the ideals of professionalism and the innovative use of networking technology and/or products for a particular networking project

James E. Atkinson - Budget Analyst, Special Operations Command Europe, Stuttgart, Germany
Master of Science in Computer Information Systems (MScCIS)
Microsoft Certified Professional and Certified Defense Financial Manager
Member of:Network Professional Association
Association for Information Systems
Project Management Institute
Association for Financial Professionals
Association of Certified Fraud Examiners
American Society of Military Comptrollers

James independently developed a secure network, automated Special Funding Guide for use by the Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR), Headquarters European Command (EUCOM), Headquarters Africa Command (AFRICOM), NATO Special Operations Coordination Centre (NSCC), Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA), and other commands in the Special Operations Community to identify, track, submit, and obtain special funding from a variety of sources to support missions and exercises. The Special Funding Program guide was initially developed in hard copy PowerPoint slides, but he successfully developed an automated, interactive system for posting, maintaining, and updating special funding criteria on the SOCEUR SharePoint Portal. The automated system on the European Command network includes interactive links with funding title, description, narrative of authorized uses, links to legislation and regulations and other references, source of funding, and supporting information. The Special Funding Guide has greatly increased the speed and accuracy of providing the Commander with funding information and is now used as the primary source for researching and validating appropriate uses of funding. James received recognition for excellence as runner-up, 2007 United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), Financial Management Awards Program, Outstanding Contributions in Automation & Technology Award, and nomination by USSOCOM for the 2007 US Department of Defense Financial Management Awards Program, Outstanding Contributions in Automation & Technology Award