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FCW : January 2015
Leah Bannon Product Manager 18F Sylvia Burns CIO Interior Department Teresa Carlson Vice President Worldwide Public Sector, Amazon Web Services Kathy Conrad Acting Associate Administrator Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, General Services Administration Karen Evans National Director U.S. Cyber Challenge Margie Graves Deputy CIO Department of Homeland Security Christina Ho Deputy Assistant Secretary for Accounting Policy and Financial Transparency Treasury Department Tarrazzia Martin Senior Adviser for Enterprise Planning and Change Management Department of Housing and Urban Development Renee Wynn Acting CIO and Acting Assistant Administrator Office of Environmental Information, Environmental Protection Agency January 2015 FCW.COM 21 networks as well as formal ones because it’s mentors or people who gave me the gift of feedback.... Then, obviously, that’s what you do for others. Bannon: I started going to a volunteer group called Code for DC about two years ago. I was trying to learn more about tech, and...it [offered] incredibly valuable networking and learning opportunities for me, but I was the only woman a lot of times. That inspired me to organize the Tech Lady Hackathon. We had over a hundred women at the first one. The idea was that it was a hackathon plus training day. It also sent the message that this isn’t a competitive, tough environment. This is meant to be a learning environment, whether you’re in the hackathon or in the training phase.... Then I organized it again at 18F [in November] because we were trying to build a more diverse team and...encourage more networking among tech women at the younger group. Bringing in the next generation When it came to drawing more women into the federal IT workforce, the participants agreed: Understanding millennials might be the most important part. Burns: I think there’s an impatience because [millennials] want more faster. Somehow the bureaucracy...can’t see their way to get stuff done fast. Graves: It’s not the technology, because they’re pretty antiquated. But trying to get them to understand it’s OK to be a public servant, but we have no intention of you staying here for 30 years. Talking to them, opening up the venue and letting them know they have a voice — that sometimes gets lost because of those curmudgeons. There are a lot of them. Bannon: I would love if we could get away from this notion that it’s a failure if your government service [is not a career-long commitment]. Evans: I don’t think anybody views service in the federal government for two to three years, especially in the IT world, as failure.... When I was recruiting IT staff, that’s how we recruited. I always thought I’d be lucky if a person came in and stayed three years in any of the IT jobs. We specifically targeted people with the intention that they were only going to be there two to three years so that we could then build that into the structure...because the opportunities are so vast for people to be able to go out and do different things. Ho: I think the federal government does, in the hiring phase, have to have some reform in order to retain the talent that we want to retain. Martin: We do the best at our senior level to take care of those [new employees], so that when people come in, they come in with a purpose and with a window of opportunity to see where they can make that impact and make it in a shorter period of time. Conrad: I think we’re fortunate in federal IT because there are so many opportunities for mentoring and collaboration that aren’t centered necessarily around being women but that provide that sort of cross-sector forum for sharing ideas and learning from each other. n About this discussion The following women sat down with FCW on Dec. 17 in Washington D.C. 0115fcw_014-021.indd 21 1/7/15 3:12 PM
November and December 2014