DC’s Top 50 Women In Tech Page 9

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Anne RungAdministrator of the Office of Federal Procurement PolicyOffice of Management and Budget

"My approach has been to think of our efforts as startup companies, beginning with an idea, testing it, making adjustments and scaling up over time."

As administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Anne Rung is the chief acquisition officer of the federal government. She’s responsible for developing policies and practices to best steward the $445 billion the federal government spends each year on goods and services, including the $50 billion spent annually on IT. 

Of late, she’s been most focused on driving the acquisition practice of category management to federal agencies, and to date, she said the federal government has already seen nearly $2 billion in savings through smarter buying practices. She’s also keen on innovating and reforming the way agencies buy IT. Most recently, she’s helped launch a new team of digital IT acquisition specialists and established acquisition innovation labs across government.

What's the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?

My greatest challenge, and opportunity, is ensuring that federal acquisitions — particularly IT acquisitions — are fast and flexible enough to fully leverage rapid changes in technology to make government work better for our citizens. My approach has been to think of our efforts as startup companies, beginning with an idea, testing it, making adjustments and scaling up over time. 

I’m also a firm believer in the power of partnerships — between government and industry, between government agencies, between government IT and acquisition employees —  to convene and catalyze talent to find solutions to the nation’s biggest challenges.

What advice do you have for young women pursuing a STEM career?

I would tell my younger self to relax more, speak up, know your worth, and finally, just do it and stop overpreparing (which women tend to do).

Who or what inspired you to get into your field?

My family. They are teachers, activists, writers, federal workers and simply great people who are making a positive contribution to this world. I am very lucky that they’ve inspired me to devote my career to public service.

Stephanie O'SullivanPrincipal Deputy Director of National IntelligenceOffice of the Director of National Intelligence

"In my experience, changing organizational culture is the most challenging aspect of leadership."

Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Stephanie O’Sullivan is the top deputy to DNI James Clapper. She said her role, “similar to a chief operations officer,” means that there’s no telling from hour to hour what her work will entail. “My job is unpredictable … every day is different; you just don’t know when you walk in every morning what will be next,” she said. 

One of her daily tasks is putting together the Presidential Daily Briefing — known as the “crown jewel” of U.S. intelligence — the short document that each day summarizes for the commander in chief the most important intelligence gleaned by the nation’s spy agencies. Strategically, her focus is on integration — bringing closer together the 17 sometimes-fractious espionage organizations that make up the U.S. intelligence community. The PDB, a “collaborative product” to which all the agencies contribute, is “one of the most rewarding things I do every day because it is a singular, tangible product that represents the effective integration of the intelligence community,” O’Sullivan said.

O’Sullivan was also instrumental in getting the new Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center off the ground last year. The center, ordered by President Barack Obama after the North Korean cyberattack on Sony, aims to put together all the government’s information about cyberthreats, so that policymakers have the most complete picture possible.

What's the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?

In my experience, changing organizational culture is the most challenging aspect of leadership. Director Clapper and I both grew up in the intelligence community, but in times where sharing was the exception rather than the norm. We both believe the community now has fundamentally shifted, where officers are expected and want to collaborate, to fully leverage the diverse expertise across the community. [This is] one of the really foundational aspects of [the] integration of the intelligence community’s IT enterprise, or ICITE. ICITE is all about putting our goal of integration into practice. By working jointly to manage our IT infrastructure, and we are improving how we share information, which is foundational to our success. 

What advice do you have for young women pursuing a STEM career?

Seek work that’s interesting, challenging and that motivates you. Part of that is looking for people that you want to work with and respect. I also believe that being different is a strength. [In the intelligence field] in particular we cannot afford to repeat patterns or settle for the status quo. That’s why diversity of viewpoints and ideas is so important for our tradecraft and for the health of our community.  We talk about avoiding groupthink and looking at problems with fresh eyes, but it goes further than that. Having and cultivating a workforce with different perspectives on a wide range of challenges facing our nation is one way we can keep pace with increased intelligence demands.

Who or what inspired you to get into your field?

Having joined the intelligence community by complete happenstance as an engineer supporting Naval intelligence, I’ve had the privilege of building organizations and seeing the 17 member agencies of the intelligence community come together to act as a single, unified intelligence enterprise for the U.S. government. The men and women of that community are one of the motivating factors for why I thoroughly enjoy my current position. Enabling them to protect our country — silently and professionally — is an inspiration every day.

Sheila CampbellDirector of Digital IntegrationPeace Corps

“We’re one government — we’re all trying to serve the public better … the only way we’re moving forward is if we’re moving forward together.”

As director of digital integration at the Peace Corps, Sheila Campbell works to make sure her agency is using the right digital tools to best serve its 7,000 volunteers oversees.

Currently she’s doing a short-term stint at the State Department, serving as a senior adviser in the Bureau of International Information Programs. There, she’s working on a project with State’s Bureau of Information Resource Management to deploy productivity tools — like office communications tool Slack, various Google apps and WordPress — throughout the department. Already, the team has piloted the program within IIP, and are starting to pilot it in U.S. embassies across the globe.

What's the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?

My whole career has been in government. I was a Peace Corps volunteer way back when and then worked at Peace Corp for many years. And then I worked at General Services Administration and went back to Peace Corps.  

I think the biggest challenge is just pushing new tools that haven’t been introduced before. I think in government, there’s a perception that we can’t do these things. And what that leads to is an acceptance of mediocrity. I’ve always tried to fight that perception.

I think what I’m proudest of is I’ve been very lucky to work in teams of government who don’t believe that. At Peace Corps and GSA, I worked with people who didn’t accept the status quo and said, “No, we can do better.”

What advice do you have for young women pursuing a STEM career?

Sometimes technology is perceived as doing this boring grunt work, sitting at a computer all day, coding. I think that’s the furthest thing from the truth.

Technology is driving our society in so many ways. Technology can be an incredibly creative endeavor. The best thing about technology is you can combine it with any interest that you have. So if you’re interested in health care, you can work in health tech. If you’re interested in the environment, you can have a career in technology that is related to environmental protection.

The advice I’d give to anyone is work on something you’re interested in and passionate about. I would say technology can open so many doors for you, and it gives you the opportunity to work in just about any field and be creative.

Who or what inspired you to get into your field?

I’ve been so incredibly fortunate. Every step of my career, I’ve had a phenomenal mentor who was helping me along the way.

My first boss at Peace Corps was amazing. She just inspired me to follow my passion and keep working hard and ask the right questions — and never accept the status quo. And I think all my mentors along the way really reinforced that. It wasn’t that they necessarily inspired me to pursue a career in technology. They just inspired me to continue to be better at what I was doing.

Suzanne ChartolDirector, IT Cost, Opportunity, Strategy and Transparency CommissionTechnology Business Management Council

“In every role I’ve had, I am looking for opportunities to make a positive impact.”

As agencies work to centralize their IT operations and budgeting under the sweeping Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act legislation, Suzanne Chartol is leading an effort to give government technology executives a helping hand.

Chartol is the head of the IT Cost, Opportunity, Strategy and Transparency Commission, or COST Commission, an effort overseen by the private sector-focused Technology Business Management Council to develop a set of best practices that federal CIOs can use to talk about the true cost, quality and value of IT. The commission comprises representatives from the federal government and the private sector, and plans to unveil a report next month.

What's the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?

I’ve worked for many companies across a variety of industries that have all presented some unique challenges. But I find that most goals are achievable if you have the right people. 

In a few of my past roles, I was brought in to manage teams where interpersonal conflict was creating barriers to getting things done. Turning that around is not easy — in one particular case the team had been like this for 10 years. Taking a team from a culture of finger-pointing and blame to one where everyone helps each other achieve their goals was extremely challenging and highly rewarding. And without the cultural change, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve our business goals.

What advice do you have for young women pursuing a STEM career?

I have two daughters both currently in middle school and am happy that both are interested in STEM fields. I think we’re getting to where STEM is becoming ubiquitous and will be part of everything we do. 

So I would not only encourage young women to consider STEM fields for a career, I will say that they have to have at least some knowledge in any career that they eventually choose.

Who or what inspired you to get into your field?

I grew up with parents who had spent their careers in public service — either in nonprofits or government — both local and federal. I would joke and say I was the “Alex Keaton” of my family — remember Family Ties? I finished my MBA and got a job in corporate finance. I remember arguing with IT over the allocations to our business that seemed too much for too little. Later, I implemented TBM [technology business management] when I saw how it could address this challenge between IT and the business.

The potential of TBM to have a positive impact on the $80 billion of federal IT spend is substantial, and I am very excited to be able to participate in making it possible. Helping our government get this right will benefit everyone in the long run.

Randi KiefferChief Information Security OfficerTransportation Security Administration

"Don’t be afraid to take risks. It’s very easy to get comfortable in a role … But the government offers a wide variety of experiences and career tracks to explore."

Randi Kieffer, chief information security officer for the Transportation Security Administration, oversees all cybersecurity within TSA’s enterprise, including its $30 million IT security budget. In addition to managing the cybersecurity operation, Kieffer oversees the department’s cybersecurity outreach programs and IT security training efforts, including internal spearfishing campaigns to get the agency staff to use best practices to avoid an outside attack.

Currently, she’s participating in a Senior Executive Service candidate training program within the Department of Homeland Security. As part of that program, she’s serving on a four-month detail to the department’s National Protection and Programs Directorate, where she works as a cybersecurity adviser to the deputy undersecretary of the directorate.

What's the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?

Early on in my career, FISMA didn’t even exist yet. It was GISRA — the Government Information Security Reform Act — and it was very compliance focused. When I was managing a compliance program, I could get our scorecard to be completely green and we weren’t any more secure than when we were flashing red. That was viewed as success, because we were green. I really had an internal struggle. I made the decision at that point to really expand my horizons and try something new. I wanted to go in the operational side. I thought it was very important to learn the operational side of DHS or any component. 

IT is really a mission support function, and without understanding what the operators on the ground deal with on a daily basis, it’s very hard to support that in an appropriate way, because you don’t have that daily understanding. I ended up at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and I did work on a program called Secure Communities. It was a technology-based program, but we were working side by side with officers across the country to transform the way immigration enforcement is conducted. 

It provided a whole new perspective on what the technology needs to do. I was a little bit shocked with how little I really knew about the operation. I didn’t have the right understanding. But, I always kept an eye on what was happening in the cyber world, and that’s really taken off in the past few years, so I wanted to get back to it, so I took that operational knowledge with me back to the IT side as I rejoined the IT ranks.

What advice do you have for young women pursuing a STEM career?

Don’t be afraid to take risks. It’s very easy to get comfortable in a role, and to continue to do it on a daily basis. But the government offers a wide variety of experiences and career tracks to explore. I think it’s important to try a couple out before you really commit, unless you’re absolutely, 100 percent sure that you’ve found your passion., Don’t be afraid to go exploring and see what else is out there because I think a well-rounded employee, manager, supervisor, leader just really makes for a better IT professional, and the government especially offers that flexibility if you go looking. So always look out for No. 1 and take your fate into your own hands and figure out what makes you happy and where you can contribute best to the organization.

Who or what inspired you to get into your field?

When I was in college, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up — which, by the way, I’m still working on that. 

My father was an executive recruiter in IT, and he was really insistent that I do some type of degree in computer science. So we negotiated it to a minor in computer science. I majored in criminal justice and minored in computer science, and the combination of that makes for a perfect platform for cybersecurity, and, especially working for the Department of Homeland Security and its various missions, it has really served me well, and it gives me both the operational perspective and education that I would need to understand what’s going on. 

The field just exploded right in the beginning of the 2000s, and so I made myself smart in GISRA and FISMA and compliance and was able to springboard from there into various elements of DHS.

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