When the General Services Administration needed to find a chief of staff for then-Chief Information Officer Casey Coleman in 2007, it looked like finding the right person for the job was going to be a difficult, lengthy process. That is, until Katie Lewin walked through the door.
Coleman, who has since gone to AT&T Government Solutions after a 5-year run as CIO, said the decision to hire Lewin for the job was a “no-brainer.”
“Katie inspires respect and trust with everyone she works with,” Coleman said. “She has a very practical approach to solving problems, and rolls up her sleeves and gets moving.”
And that is exactly what Lewin did before announcing her retirement earlier this month. Since being named GSA’s cloud computing program manager in 2010, Lewin played a central leadership role in nearly every major cloud initiative coming out of GSA. But the effort she will be remembered most for is the Federal Risk and Authorization Management program, known as FedRAMP, which establishes a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services across the government.
When Lewin started working on FedRAMP, three GSA employees were assigned to the program and between seven to 10 contractors. Since then, FedRAMP has grown exponentially and Lewin is credited with helping to guide the program from its infancy to the approaching June 5 deadline for agencies to demonstrate that their cloud service providers meet the FedRAMP security standards.
The success of FedRAMP to date is a testament to Lewin’s leadership and management skills. As Coleman’s chief of staff, Lewin ran all program reviews for all organizations in the CIOs office, she ensured everything was on schedule, oversaw most operations, and worked closely with leaders throughout government.
It was at a CIO Council meeting, when Coleman volunteered GSA to take the lead on cloud. Lewin, then chief of staff, took on a lot of the responsibility for executing the agency’s new cloud mission.
For the next two years, Lewin met with then-U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra every Thursday to discuss the movement to the cloud. At the time, cloud computing was still relatively new to government and Lewin worked closely with Coleman, Kundra and Dave McClure of GSA to map out a way forward for the rest of government.
“You have to get a lot of momentum going around an idea in order to make a difference,” Lewin said.
Lewin got her start in government at the Library of Congress, where she quickly began specializing in IT. She was a part of the team that introduced searching of electronic records and supported the world’s largest database, more than 2 million records.
From there, she went on to the Office of Management and Budget, where she helped to set up the Presidential Priority System, which has morphed into today’s e-Gov program. Lewin also had experience working at GSA, setting the limits of agencies procurement authorities, as well as for the Internal Revenue Service, where she worked on the CIO’s staff.
Lewin also worked for several years in the private sector, first as a consultant at SRA and then doing similar work at Lockheed Martin.
Lewin returned to the government after 14 years in industry and said there is substantial value that can be taken from working for both sectors.
“There’s a lot to be said about going back and forth,” she said. “You get exposure and experiences that you wouldn’t get if you stayed in one place.”
“It’s less about technology,” Lewin added. “It’s more about programs, customers and relationships.”
Lewin is confident in emerging technologies’ ability to reach all audiences.
“Technology sprouts like grass comes back in spring,” Lewin said. “At first, it’s patchy, but eventually it will all come together.”
A big change has been in the customers, the American people, according to Lewin. The customers themselves are IT savvy, which means they have high expectations of their government, a challenge the government has been dealing with, she said.
Lewin is most proud of her work on the FedRAMP program. She fondly calls it her “baby.” And rightfully so. The initiative took years to come to fruition and is the result of countless planning meetings and efforts by many.
Lewin said the secret to her success is her collaborative work style. She tries to work with everyone and get teams together, and is extremely goal-oriented.
“You can get really valuable experience working for government,” Lewin said. “Things are moving very quickly, and there’s a lot of opportunities; you learn how to work as a team, and how crucial that team is to your overall success.”
In the wake of her career, Lewin has left a path of individuals who warmly recall their time working with her.
“Katie has made an enormous contribution,” Coleman said. “Her work will continue on, she has laid a foundation that will continue to benefit the government for many years to come.”