The Real Issue with Hillary's Email

I don't usually write about politics but The Washington Post recently published an article about how Hillary Clinton reached out to Colin Powell to understand what he did to have access to email remotely. There's a scanned print-out of exactly what they discussed over email which I found fascinating!

When I read the exchange between Powell and Clinton, I could instantly relate. It seems that working at the State Department is a lot like working in financial services. And, quite honestly, it wasn't until I worked at a bank that I realized just how oppressive IT policy could be. Email on your personal phone is a relatively new concept at my current employer in the financial industry and even then, it is significantly locked down via a special app that doesn't let you navigate to links or download files to your phone.

In my opinion, the real root of the problem here is the risk-averse IT policies in place that often impede folks from getting shit done. I'm sure Hillary Clinton has no intention of inappropriately circulating classified material. However, is she trying to creatively work around a road block to efficiency? Probably. And this is why I have a feeling the FBI, who no doubt face similar organizational challenges in getting work done, did not push for prosecution.

For those still giving me the side eye on this, let me share an example with you. I work at a company that won't allow you to install any software on a machine unless it has been approved. There is no list of approved software hanging around so figuring out if I can install first requires a trip to the tech service desk. There, they tell me that the software I need to do my job is definitely not on their list — but if I can make a business case for it, I can email someone and they might approve it as an exception.

I email said person and get no response for a while. I follow up and then eventually get shuffled around amongst various folks being added to this email chain who have no idea what this software is. Eventually, I get a solid "no" because I think they are tired of dealing with me.

The software I was trying to install is called Balsamiq Mockups and is used a lot for rapid prototyping of user experiences; it costs all of $89 and even then, I was planning on using my personal license rather than go through the separate "getting funding" exercise once I had permission to install. Even with that, it was still definitely "no."

Then, one day, I was granted administrator access to install some other approved software. With a full 7 days of admin access, you better believe I installed all the non-approved software that I knew I needed to be efficient at my job! And every time I'm able to use that software in my day-to-day, I feel pretty damn good about my decision.

When it comes to IT policy in some industries (like government), the governance in place lags woefully behind what we are used to in other industries. Often you do have to take a detour and work around processes because attempting to go through them would be akin to trying to smash through a brick wall with your skull.

Painful. Difficult. Unproductive. And a waste of valuable (read: tax-payer-funded) time.

So, whatever your politics, to paraphrase Bernie Sanders, let's just lay off talking about the damn email already!

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