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FCW : January 2015
14 January 2015 FCW.COM hen you gather a group of female IT leaders from government and industry to talk about women in tech, interesting patterns emerge. For starters, few of them ever planned to make a career of IT. Karen Evans, who held the highest technology job in government during President George W. Bush’s administration, started her federal career as a GS-2. Interior Department CIO Sylvia Burns came in as a presidential management intern. Margie Graves, the Department of Homeland Security’s deputy CIO, started in nuclear chemistry then spent years doing mergers and acquisitions before joining government in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks. Kathy Conrad, acting associate administrator of the General Services Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, was a policy wonk, while Teresa Carlson, who runs Amazon Web Services’ Worldwide Public Sector, started as a speech pathologist. And Leah Bannon, now a product manager at 18F, was mainly working in communications when “a friend of mine offered to teach us Python for free on Saturday morning for fun. It was five women, and it was the best Saturday I’ve had in years.” “You see these open doors, and you either walk through them or you stay where you are,” Graves said. “A lot of times I [thought], ‘OK, that doesn’t really sound like me,’ or ‘That really wasn’t what I studied, what I did, what I’ve already done.’ But then it becomes obvious to you: ‘OK, I think I can jump in here and see what happens.’” Not surprisingly, such a diverse range of career paths produces some very different experiences. Yet the leaders who gathered with FCW in late December (see below for a full list of participants) repeatedly found common ground on the challenges that still face women in IT, the importance of creating better on-ramps, the lessons they wish they’d learned sooner and more. What follows are highlights from that conversation, excerpted by FCW Staff Writer Colby Hochmuth. For additional excerpts — or to add your voice to the discussion — please go to FCW.com/women_in_tech. Women from a wide range of federal roles discuss what it really takes to lead in IT ‘You just move that rock a little at a time’ W PHOTOSBYZAIDHAMID 0115fcw_014-021.indd 14 1/7/15 3:11 PM
November and December 2014