Talking Leadership With Commerce CFO Ellen Herbst

05/08/2015 02:32 pm ET | Updated May 08, 2016

Ellen Herbst, who joined the government in 2005 after two decades in various private-sector leadership positions, is the chief financial officer and assistant secretary of administration at the Department of Commerce. She oversees matters dealing with the budget, financial management, strategic planning and performance management.

In an interview with me, Herbst discussed the challenges and her priorities in managing the department, including supporting employees and reforming the hiring process. I'm a guest writer for On Leadership, and a vice president at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service and heads the Partnership's Center for Government Leadership.

Q. What was your first job in government?

A. Director of the National Technical Information Service, one of the operating units in Commerce. It's not a well-known organization, but it was a nice entry into the federal government. After years in the private sector, coming into a new, more entrepreneurial environment where you have to go out and essentially sell people on the value of what you're doing and get paid for it, was an excellent start for me.

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This column was originally posted on The Washington Post's On Leadership site.