FedScoop’s Top Women in Tech 2017: Jeanne Etzel

Jeanne Etzel, Acting CIO, DHS 

Jeanne Etzel assumed the Department of Homeland Security’s CIO role, replacing Luke McCormack, as the Trump administration took over in January.  As such, she oversees DHS’s IT policy and security efforts. Over the past year or so, cybersecurity has been top of mind for the department, “advancing toward 100 percent two-factor authentication for network users, improving our cybersecurity and social engineering awareness and training programs for employees, and working with DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate to help federal agencies identify and resolve problems inside their networks in near real-time using the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program,” she said. “It’s an exciting time for cybersecurity at the department.”

Can you talk about the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career? How did you conquer that challenge?

Early in my career, I noticed how technical people communicated to upper management — through the use of acronyms and detailed technical minutia that did not get the key points communicated. I learned the business side of the issue and its impact on our mission, and then learned how to communicate with upper management in business terms they could understand.


What would you say to young women who are thinking about a career in technology or related fields, or just starting out in their careers? What’s the best advice you could offer for success?

I would encourage them to be problem solvers, think outside of the box, offer options and alternatives to problem resolution that address business concerns, and to be aggressive.

What/who inspired you to get into your field of work?

I scored extremely high in math for over a decade, and computer science was suggested as a career path when I started college. Needless to say, I stuck with it.

Why is it important to you to empower women and other minorities to join more technical and technology-related fields?


I believe it is important to remind women and other minorities that science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM fields – despite often being male-dominated— are not only viable career paths for women and other minorities, but areas that are greatly in need of the unique perspective, expertise and solutions they bring to the table. The ubiquity of technology in everyday life and our ever-increasing reliance on it makes technical and technology-related fields promising career paths, and everyone deserves access, as well as the fulfillment that working in these fields brings.

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