FedScoop announces the Best Bosses in Federal IT 2021


Just as everyday life itself drastically changed over the past 15 months amid the COVID-19 pandemic, so did the concept of leadership.

As human touch and in-person interaction were removed from federal operations in large part during the pandemic, IT leaders were forced to communicate and engage with their teams in new — often virtual — ways. Nevertheless, the federal workforce and supporting industries rose to the occasion and sustained the vital technology operations and services that Americans depend on.

FedScoop is once again honoring the Best Bosses in Federal IT, this year with an emphasis on celebrating the decision-makers and champions of federal technology who rose to the occasion to lead their organizations in light of the continuing challenges of the COVID-19 crisis.

“The one thing the pandemic has shown us as a federal enterprise is that when we lean into using modern tools and technology, we can deliver on our mission in ways we initially thought were impossible,” Federal CIO Clare Martorana told FedScoop. “We’ve found new ways of working and collaborating with our colleagues — and have also identified areas in which we can be working smarter, such as by enabling digital signatures, launching agency self-service tools, websites that are focused on customer needs, and giving the federal workforce and the American people access to digital forms.”

Martorana continued: “The pandemic has shown us that it’s more important than ever to think about ways we can deliver exceptional customer service to our citizens anytime, anywhere, from any device securely. We have so many opportunities before us to turbocharge digital modernization efforts across government.”

The list of winners comprises CIOs, CISOs and other tireless federal IT decision-makers striving to deliver on their agency’s mission and serve the American public through technology. The list also includes leaders from industry who play an instrumental role in working with federal agencies to provide the mission-critical commercial technologies they use.

Nominees were sourced from community nominations and the winners chosen through open voting over the last several months.

As always, we interviewed the winners, this time, placing an added emphasis on the importance of leadership and how they had to adapt over this past year to keep their agencies successful in the pursuit of their missions.

Please join us in congratulating the winners and see their thoughts on federal IT leadership in profiles below.


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Gundeep Ahluwalia

Gundeep Ahluwalia

CIO, Department of Labor

The CIO of Labor since 2016 saw his department be the only one to receive A grades in six of seven areas on the latest FITARA scorecard. Perhaps it’s no coincidence DOL was one of a few agencies to receive two Technology Modernization Fund awards, which were used in conjunction with its working capital fund and IT modernization appropriations to digitalize its Temporary Labor Certification Program in January for $2 million in annual savings. “I shudder to think what would’ve happened to that printing operation during COVID-19,” Ahluwalia said, during a recent congressional hearing.

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Dorothy Aronson

Dorothy Aronson

CIO, National Science Foundation

Dorothy Aronson continues to be amazed by human beings, especially those in the federal workforce. “This year, when our world turned sideways, the entire federal enterprise proved that we were able to quickly transition to new means of communications and collaboration that might, in the end, have led to us to discover a new, more humane, way of working,” she told FedScoop. She hopes that moving forward, “we continue building a future workplace that puts human needs — like a sense of purpose, belonging, and continuous learning — first. I love to imagine that we stay focused on our migration away from strong centralized headquarters operations to equitable support of the distributed workforce. Imagine the improvements we might see to quality of life when we are no longer commuting hours to and from work, unless we choose to do so. Imagine our ability to bring diversity of thought to the federal enterprise when we can serve the federal government from anywhere across the nation.”

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Kristen Baldwin

Kristen Baldwin

CIO, Federal Aviation Administration

Federal Aviation Administration CIO Kristen Baldwin moved from the FAA’s parent department, the Department of Transportation, to the top IT position of the FAA in February 2020, just before the pandemic hit. She was the deputy CIO of DOT and brought an appreciation of how the larger department and FAA could collaborate. The FAA oversees air traffic in the U.S., an industry hit hard by the pandemic as fewer people traveled.

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Sean Berg

Sean Berg

President, Global Governments & Critical Infrastructure, Forcepoint

The COVID-19 pandemic served as a testing function for leaders, said Sean Berg. It tests not only what kind of leader you are during a crisis, but also the work you’ve done in preparing for such a moment, he said. “The true leadership has already taken place to get you to where you are. So your people are going to function based on what you built before that.” Berg said Forcepoint was fortunate during the pandemic because of “the culture of our organization that we built up over years.” One of the biggest things he has learned from leading in a pandemic has been to communicate as thoroughly as possible. “It’s not just sending out more emails, it’s not just having town halls or all-hands meetings over video. It’s recognizing that people are starved for information, they want to know what’s going on both from a business perspective, from a pandemic and what we’re thinking about around the workforce, and you have to convey that in many different ways, from large groups all the way to small groups.”

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Sonny Bhagowalia

Sonny Bhagowalia

CIO, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

There were five elements that became key to Sanjeev “Sonny” Bhagowalia’s leadership over the past year: empathy, flexibility, resiliency, hope and servant leadership. “Conveying and communicating hope in the dark times of COVID-19 with a sense of unity, purpose, outreach, and salient information was a key point and celebrating examples of light was important,” he told FedScoop. Under Bhagowalia’s leadership, CBP’s IT office “seamlessly conducted work to support our 24×7 global mission despite the age of COVID-19 with secure and reliable technology and business processes,” he said. And because of that, the CBP workforce was resilient “in supporting the mission anywhere, anytime, on any authorized device, securely and reliably. Most importantly, we conducted our mission with civility, integrity, humility, professionalism, and a sense of public service. The resilient spirit of American people can only be characterized as AMERICA STRONG!”

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Shaun Bierweiler

Shaun Bierweiler

Senior Vice President & General Manager, Public Sector, Riverbed Technology

Shaun Bierweiler joined Riverbed Technology last October amid the ongoing pandemic and had to begin leading without meeting most of his team in person. Despite the inability to gather physically, Bierweiler said he feels like he’s gotten to know the workforce quite well, because there was a level of personal touch in meeting his colleagues on video calls from their homes that he wouldn’t have gotten in an office. “You can’t be professional all the time — if you are, you’re a boss, not a leader. And so having that dynamic and that development, this really helps to accelerate that, that bonding,” he said of the one-on-one virtual meetings he had with members across the company. “And so it’s like a quick crash course of getting to know each other — seeing their background, seeing what’s going on behind them, hearing the noise in the back, it kind of helps you get a better sense of who they are, where they’re from.”

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Sean Brune

Sean Brune

CIO, Social Security Administration

SSA is in the midst of its five-year IT modernization program, on top of enhancing its cyber capabilities in line with the recent executive order and migrating to a hybrid cloud environment. The pandemic forced the agency to lean more heavily on collaboration tools, and Brune oversaw the expansion of video services, self-service options and improved security and usability of mySocialSecurity for customers. SSA also held a virtual IT Workforce Summit that helped connect its employees across the country. “While we had sessions specific to technology, we also had presenters from our local field offices and hearing offices to share their experience on how our software helps them to serve the public accurately and efficiently,” Brune said. “Employees really enjoyed the event, and we plan to have a virtual event on an annual basis going forward.”

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Sylvia Burns

Sylvia Burns

CIO, FDIC

Sylvia Burns stepped into her role when Howard Whyte left for the private sector; prior to that, she had served as deputy CIO for enterprise strategy and helped lay the foundation of FDIC’s zero-trust security architecture. An advocate of classifying data and establishing “micro-perimeters” around the most valuable assets, her assent couldn’t be more timely with President Biden’s new cybersecurity executive order pushing zero-trust and secure cloud services. Triple-hatted, Burns also serves as FDIC’s chief privacy officer and IT director.

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Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall

Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall

CIO/J6, Joint Staff

Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall has a major job that extends beyond just his service, the Marine Corps. As the CIO of the Joint Staff, his mission is to connect all of the military services, from the air and space to the bottom of the sea and everything between, across the globe. He leads the military’s sweeping connect-everything, sensor-to-shooter strategy, Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2), where he is working to create data standards and federated technology that will allow the connection of weapons, fighters, cyber operations and everything in between via a “military Internet of Things.” 

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Dominic Cussatt

Dominic Cussatt

Acting CIO, Department of Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veteran Affairs is an agency that never stops running, its acting CIO Dominic Cussatt said. “Our networks are always running,” powering the country’s largest health care system and massive benefits programs for veterans. The pandemic brought challenges both for its health care workers on the front lines and those trying to reach veterans for mental health assistance, adjudicating claims and other services that once needed to happen in person. Cussatt and his team were behind that massive shift to telehealth, tele-mental health and general teleservices. And those are things he predicts will stick around after the pandemic subsides. “We had to launch into the future like 3-5 years,” he said, and now the future is here to stay.

 

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Dan Davis

Dan Davis

SVP, Public Sector Sales, Salesforce

Empathetic leadership was a major theme in Dan Davis’ leadership during the last year. “We all faced unprecedented circumstances that justifiably warranted an emphasis on empathy broadly across our teams. We all realized if we wanted to keep moving forward and serving our customers we needed to truly embrace empathetic leadership,” he said. “It was refreshing to see how quickly both our team and our customers made this shift and partnered together to deliver new levels of service and innovative solutions to work from anywhere. It’s this type of cultural resilience and organizational agility that makes this industry so strong and an exciting area to work and lead.” Davis also placed a new focus on mentoring. “I have multiple mentees that I schedule time with on a quarterly basis now and I can honestly say I truly enjoy seeing the faces of the people who will be the next leaders of this great organization.”

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Chris DeRusha

Chris DeRusha

Federal CISO, Executive Office of the President/Office of Management and Budget

Federal CISO Chris DeRusha doesn’t know what the future of work will look like after the pandemic, and he finds that “exciting,” he told FedScoop. However, he does “think the pandemic has permanently altered expectations for the vast majority of the workforce though, and employers are going to have to grapple with what changes to make permanent to ensure they retain talent.” As a leader, DeRusha has learned over the past year that people are resilient and “they will follow you through hard times and situations as long as they believe you care about their needs and believe you are doing your best to lead them in the right direction,” he said. “You aren’t always going to land on the optimal path or make the best decision when faced with crisis moments, but if you are consistent about communicating your thought process and responding to feedback, you can earn a pretty long rope with the people you lead and get to outcomes that everyone can accept.”

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Frank Dimina

Frank Dimina

VP of Americas & Public Sector, Splunk

For Splunk’s Frank Dimina, the past year “presented a unique opportunity to develop and grow as a leader,” he told FedScoop. “There is no recipe book for leading through a global pandemic, the same playbook you’ve used before isn’t going to cut it. It’s all about providing an environment where the people you’re leading feel safe to not only be their authentic selves but supported to operate in a way that best motivates them.” Moving forward, Dimina wants to continue to be an accessible leader for his team, especially with a distributed, hybrid workforce. “Especially in times of crisis, I want my team to feel supported and listened to while being the one to advocate for their needs,” he said.

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Juliane Gallina

Juliane Gallina

CIO, CIA

To Juliane Gallina, there is a universal truth about work that people often forget: “Work is a product, not a place.” That thinking, she said, will guide her view of leadership as the future of work evolves into a hybrid between in-person and remote work. “In our work at the agency, our team will continue to focus on the quality of our work, and the outcomes we achieve together,” Gallina said. “Our technical strategy should support that way of thinking, and the enterprise tools we give to the agency workforce should enhance the quality of their work and allow our officers to accomplish mission at any time and any place in the world.” This is all part of the “journey of continuous learning and self-reflection” that is leadership, she said — a journey that she continues on each and every day. “I’m a work in progress, but I hope I can emulate great leaders who know how to lead and unite people who have a completely different origin story than my own.” On top of this, Gallina said she placed an even greater emphasis on cybersecurity with the CIA, creating a Deputy CIO for Cybersecurity and Operations role. “Cyber adversaries are jerks. My devotion to this agency has awakened a ‘mama bear-like’ feeling that I want to defend it from the cyber threats we face,” she said.

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Jason Gray

Jason Gray

CIO, Department of Education

Not that he needed to be reminded of this, but one of the biggest lessons of the pandemic for Department of Education CIO Jason Gray was that “people are people first and foremost” and they are employees second. While enabling a remote workforce was mission No. 1, supporting colleagues was the key to being successful. “Our meetings are a little bit less structured,” he said, with conversations often drifting to how people were holding up and ways each other could support each other. “Every employee adds value to the mission,” he said of his fellow DOE IT workforce.

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Lt. Gen Michael Groen

Lt. Gen Michael Groen

Director, Joint AI Center, Department of Defense

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael Groen is the second director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, a job at the center of the Department of Defense’s modernization effort to imbue AI across its operations. Groen leads a major change in strategy for the JAIC, turning the center from a fielding organization with specific mission areas, like health care and warfighting, into an “enabling organization.” Groen calls it “JAIC 2.0,” a new-and-improved organization that has more authority to buy things, more money and people involved in helping the DOD become an AI-enabled organization, and direct-report authority to the deputy secretary of defense.

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Steve Harris

Steve Harris

Chief Revenue Officer, Ellucian

After spending more than two decades with Dell Technologies, Steve Harris made a huge jump in May to be the chief revenue officer of Ellucian, a cloud software provider powering higher education institutions’ digital applications and platforms across campus. Throughout his career, Harris has been a champion of technology, and in that, he’s a champion of building top tech talent to support that work. “An empowered workforce is a creative and collaborative workforce,” he says. “Technology is more than just functional. It can be transformative.”

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Sonny Hashmi

Sonny Hashmi

Commissioner, Federal Acquisition Service, General Services Administration

Sonny Hashmi’s biggest focus is ensuring American Recovery Plan and American Jobs Plan funds for IT modernization are managed effectively and lead to better outcomes for citizens. Hashmi’s FAS is helping finalize the revamped process for distributing the $1 billion added to the Technology Modernization Fund. “Over the next year we want to make sure that operation is streamlined,” Hashmi said. A second area of focus for his team is cybersecurity and developing the right mechanisms to collect data from the supply chain in coordination with CISA, DHS, NSC and others. FAS can become the “premier supply chain manager” for the government, and data is key, Hashmi said. “We are using data to do supply chain risk management, using data to create new opportunities for small businesses,” he said. “We are using data to figure out where people get stuck in the process.”

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Jamie Holcombe

Jamie Holcombe

CIO, USPTO

Remote work increased USPTO’s attack surface exponentially, so improving cybersecurity became Holcombe’s No. 1 priority over the past year. Beyond that his agency has been changing how it works, consolidating more than 150 projects into 30 product lines. Business owners control the products, and USPTO architects and procurement specialists work alongside them. To that end, Holcombe launched “People to Teams,” which details employees to product teams they want to be part of on a quarterly basis. “This can apply anywhere in the federal government,” Holcombe said. “It’s taking the matrix organization in the commercial world and bringing it to the federal government, where it can actually be successful.”

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Raj Iyer

Raj Iyer

CIO, Department of the Army

Raj Iyer is the first civilian CIO of the Army after the department split what used to be the CIO/G-6, previously a job held by a three-star general. Iyer was hired in November 2020 and had to continue managing the Army’s telework posture amid its ongoing IT modernization journey. For 2020, the Army set a course for a “foundational year” of data, which remained the case even though for many in other IT organization, it was all about maintaining normal operations. Iyer continues to work on improving the cybersecurity and digital modernization of the military’s largest service and implementing its own cloud environment, cArmy.

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Keith Jones

Keith Jones

CIO, Department of State

Keith Jones stepped into the CIO role, which comes with the rank of assistant secretary of State, in January — leaving the consulting firm the Edgewater Group, which he founded. He was the first CIO the Biden administration appointed among the seven agencies with politically appointed CIOs. Prior to entering the private sector, he’d served six years as deputy CIO of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. His team is currently working to bolster IT contracting services and strategic sourcing with new hires.

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Ted Kaouk

Ted Kaouk

CDO, U.S. Department of Agriculture

As CDO of USDA and the chair of the Federal CDO Council, Ted Kaouk has had a busy year within his own agency and delivering on the Federal Data Strategy governmentwide. The council plans to release 10 data science training program use cases soon, after partnering with the U.S. Digital Service on a joint hiring announcement for data scientists at 10 agencies, including Kaouk’s own, in January. Meanwhile, the council has also worked to address COVID-19 data-sharing challenges between agencies, and Kaouk anticipates agencies will create their first AI inventories later this year. Also on his agenda is developing a framework for coordinating with the other Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act councils for evaluation officers and statistical and privacy officials.

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Lauren Knausenberger

Lauren Knausenberger

CIO, U.S. Air Force

When Lauren Knausenberger took over as deputy CIO of the Air Force in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, not only did she need to learn how to lead differently in an organization of such a large scale, but she also had to adjust to leading her team mostly remotely. “In large organizations, it’s almost just as important, sometimes more important, to be able to lead across an organization and help everyone to understand where the path is, and to pull everyone along,” she told FedScoop. And over the last year, it became even more apparent to Knausenberger just how important the role of a leader is. “The things that never change are taking care of people, setting a clear vision, building the coalitions — those things are always going to be in the recipe for success, especially during times of crisis, which boy has this year qualified for that,” she said. “People are looking for strong leadership…they want that constant drumbeat that things are going to be OK, a safe place to vent their frustrations and to really be human.”

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Nicholas Marinos

Nicholas Marinos

Director, IT & Cybersecurity Team, Government Accountability Office

Nicholas Marinos’s job comes down to beating the drum for the importance of cybersecurity. The rhythm and intensity of that did not slow one bit this year, and finding ways to keep Congress informed of the latest breaches and cyber-attacks was even more important. Marinos owes much of his work and accomplishments to his colleagues, he told FedScoop. The people he works with have had to rely on creative ways to stay connected to their work. Team meetings sometimes drifted to discussions of everyone’s latest “wins,” he said — not always ones related to work. For Marinos, one of his big wins was a treehouse that he built for his children. In the coming year, priorities largely remain the same for his work, keeping an eye on cyber incidents, keeping Congress informed and keeping his team healthy and happy.

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Clare Martorana

Clare Martorana

Federal CIO, Executive Office of the President/Office of Management and Budget

Clare Martorana took on one of the most important leadership roles in federal IT in 2021 as President Biden’s Federal CIO. Martorana said in this new role, and as CIO of the Office of Personnel Management before it, she experienced the resiliency and strength of the federal IT workforce in the face of adversity. “The one thing the pandemic has shown us as a federal enterprise is that when we lean into using modern tools and technology, we can deliver on our mission in ways we initially thought were impossible,” she said. “We’ve found new ways of working and collaborating with our colleagues — and have also identified areas in which we can be working smarter, such as by enabling digital signatures, launching agency self-service tools, websites that are focused on customer needs, and giving the federal workforce and the American people access to digital forms…The pandemic has shown us that it’s more important than ever to think about ways we can deliver exceptional customer service to our citizens anytime, anywhere, from any device securely.”

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Pritha Mehra

Pritha Mehra

CIO, USPS

Under the leadership of CIO Pritha Mehra, USPS has identified the top digital systems and platforms it wants to build to innovate quickly. A second priority of Mehra’s is future-proofing the agency’s workforce by promoting digital dexterity, bolstered by a comprehensive, internal learning program issuing “digital badges” in areas like AI, machine learning and data analytics. Mehra also started a “Tech Chat” to promote innovation, encouraging groups of architects and developers to meet whenever and however they want. “Now there’s a place to hang out, there’s a place to develop, there’s a place to ask questions,” Mehra said. “For me, the future of work means getting out of the way and letting the right people connect at the right levels — enabling those connections in many different spaces.”

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Andre Mendes

Andre Mendes

CIO, Department of Commerce

Mendes’ three goals for the year are continuing IT consolidation across his department’s 12 bureaus, completing their migration to the cloud and improving cybersecurity. As his workforce moves to a hybrid office/remote model, Mendes has prioritized connecting with employees. “IBM has been doing it for almost 30 years, and they’ve been quite successful,” Mendes said. “But it is a bit of a novel experience in these numbers in the federal sector, and it comes with an additional set of burdens and responsibilities that management has to take on.”

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Marcus Moffett

Marcus Moffett

Senior Director of System Engineering, Architecture & CTO of U.S. Public Sector, Cisco

Prior to the pandemic, Marcus Moffett learned an important lesson from a business partner that proved valuable while leading through the adversity of the past year. “Get the people part right and the rest works itself out,” he told FedScoop. “This may sound like a duh moment, but unfortunately, many leaders put strategy and execution at the top of their list because they believe successful outcomes make them look good. Success, to me, is creating an environment where every single person on the team knows they are valued and in turn, brings their best to the workplace every day.” On top of this, leadership and growth take “friction,” he said. “Resistance to change is first and foremost a leadership issue. As leaders, we must get comfortable injecting a little chaos into the culture to test resiliency and adaptability.”

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Vaughn Noga

Vaughn Noga

CIO, EPA

When Vaughn Noga joined EPA, he set five “wildly important goals” (WIGs), as he called them, that only became more important during the COVID-19 pandemic — things like going paperless and creating a cyber-aware culture. EPA continues that work while consolidating activities into two digitization centers expected to launch in 2022. IT staff also received more praise within EPA for its efforts to support the workforce through infrastructure and business process modernization. “Folks supporting mission support activities generally don’t get the recognition they deserve for keeping the trains running,” Noga said. “We were able to rapidly evolve how we on-boarded and provisioned employees, how we trained and supported end-users, how we continued to provide an accessible and secure and IT infrastructure, and how we were able to support the virtual collaboration needs across the entire workforce.”

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Katie Olson

Katie Olson

Acting Director, Defense Digital Service

For the Defense Digital Service, the COVID-19 pandemic “really allowed us to push the limit” of the remote workplace model across the Department of Defense, said DDS acting Director Katie Olson. And now with vaccines and workplaces beginning to safely reopen, it’s a good opportunity for leaders to take stock of how they can keep parts of that model going. “I think what it’s putting an emphasis on is to determine what we really need in a workforce,” Olson told FedScoop. “We saw a huge benefit during the pandemic to having people live and work all over the country. It allows you to tap into a bigger workforce, but also, frankly, having people in other geographies is really helpful.” Olson added that she’s passionate about making sure an expanded remote workforce model opens more opportunities for women, people of color and other minorities to join the DOD workforce.

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Dovarius Peoples

Dovarius Peoples

CIO, Army Corps of Engineers

The Army Corps of Engineers often finds itself on the frontlines of crises, leaving its CIO Dovarius Peoples with a schedule that rarely has a hole in it. First, there was the pandemic, which called for the Corps to set up field hospitals and its IT team to work fast to ensure medical professionals and service members working at COVID-19 care sites like the Javits Center in New York City could stay connected. The pressure didn’t let up. Next, there was hurricane season, which brought destruction that the Corps needed to respond to in rapid order, assisting in building out the technical backbone for the temporary shelters and field command centers that first responders depended on. His job is one where there is “no set blueprint for how to deal with the next day,” he told FedScoop.

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Scott Price

Scott Price

General Manager, Microsoft Federal

In a year overburdened with suffering, Scott Price decided to lead with “empathy and understanding.” He said his team at Microsoft “added wellness days and extreme flexibility for work-life balance.” But ultimately, Price discovered that as a leader, he had to be a model for his team. “We needed to share our pain. We had to show that we needed wellness days as much as our people, that we hurt and experienced the same levels of sadness as everyone else. It was only then that our teams felt like they genuinely had the grace to share their own pain, and take the time they needed,” he said. “This authenticity in the workplace went a long way in creating durability in our employee base, that allowed us to continue to support our customers each and every day.”

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Maria Roat

Maria Roat

Deputy Federal CIO, Executive Office of the President/Office of Management and Budget

“The resilience of the federal technology workforce was incredible,” Deputy Federal CIO Maria Roat said of the past year. “Not only did they handle disruption in their personal lives, but stepped up and responded to the myriad of demands placed on them as a result of the pandemic.” Roat, too, was resilient as a leader, adapting her leadership style to the new largely virtual work model. No longer could she “do ‘drive-bys’ when I have free time and talk with people about their projects and what’s on their mind,” she said. And as virtual work is likely to continue to a large degree after the pandemic, leaders are going to have to get used to leading people both in the office and out of it, Roat said. “We have to be cognizant and of how we interact, maintain relationships and reach out to people that may not be in-person as frequently as others. This requires conscious action to not exclude people just because they’re not in-person.”

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Melinda Rogers

Melinda Rogers

CIO, Department of Justice

This past year has emphasized for Melinda Rogers that “leadership is never a once-and-done concept. It’s imperative to be able to pivot from previously established plans to address issues that arise unexpectedly without interrupting operations,” she told FedScoop. In addition to the leadership challenges the last 12 months brought, cybersecurity also re-emerged into the national spotlight, forcing agencies like DOJ to focus on “a sound cybersecurity posture and keeping abreast of the latest field trends,” Rogers said, calling cybersecurity and protecting DOJ’s assets one of her highest priorities. “At DOJ, our cybersecurity team is constantly adapting to the ever-changing threat landscape, especially on the heels of the SolarWinds incident, and the recent Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity.”

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Francisco Salguero

Francisco Salguero

CIO, FCC

CIO of the Federal Communications Commission Francisco Salguero started his job at the end of 2019, just a few months before the role became even more important to the continued operations of the FCC and its oversight of emerging technologies like 5G wireless development. Salguero came from a 15-year stint at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he rose to deputy CIO. At both USDA and FCC, Salguero focused on empowering “human-centered design,” he previously told FedScoop, ensuring that the technologies used to help people do their jobs, actually do help them. 

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Kavita Sanghvi

Kavita Sanghvi

Sr. Director, IT Business Solutions, GDIT

For Kavita Sanghvi, the past year has taught her that “change is inevitable; embrace it with a smile.” Specifically, during the pandemic, this has meant to be more open in communication and engaging with your partners, she told FedScoop. “Collaborate and partner at all levels — it works wonders. It starts with listening to each other with an open mind and engaging upwards, downwards, sideways and all around.” Despite the challenges of the pandemic and the new operating models that have come with it, Sanghvi continues to lead the same as she always has: “As leaders and individuals, I believe we should always continue to invest in your people, engage and collaborate continuously, treat everyone with respect, be flexible and empathetic, and above all, do all this with honesty and transparency. I plan to continue to lead in this fashion and encourage all to do the same. Be your true self every day at work and at home.”

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Jeff Seaton

Jeff Seaton

CIO, NASA

NASA CIO Jeff Seaton told FedScoop that he feels “so blessed to work at an agency like NASA where, from the beginning of the pandemic, our senior leadership made it clear that the health and safety of our workforce was priority one.” Without that, helping enable a remote workforce to keep launching spacecraft would not have happened so smoothly. Looking forward, Seaton’s priorities include continuing both the transformation of NASA’s IT and the IT-wide community at the agency. “Right now, we are working on how to smoothly integrate more on-site employees with those who will continue to work remotely,” making a hybrid workplace, he said.

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John Sherman

John Sherman

Acting CIO, Department of Defense

John Sherman has been leading the Department of Defense IT shop in an acting capacity since January. Since then, he has steered the department clear of major cyber breaches targeted at the U.S. government, like the sweeping SolarWinds hacking campaign. He has also managed the DOD transition away from the temporary Commercial Virtual Remote environment to support telework into the long-term telework and in-person cloud-based office productivity environment DOD365. “The rollout of the DOD365 collaboration and productivity suite that is currently underway was easily our biggest accomplishment this year. It has been a huge effort, led and facilitated by our team here” and many other partners across the DOD, he said. Sherman leads the CIO shop at a time when it is working to transition to a zero-trust cybersecurity paradigm, a change he has been promoting for years. 

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David Shive

David Shive

CIO, General Services Administration

GSA continues to roll out version 2.0 of the digital transformation it started more than six years ago. And Shive is focused on examining each business process from the beginning of its life cycle and reengineering it to improve customer experience and use data throughout to make additional improvements to transactions. “It’s pretty hard for agencies to do that because we’ve been around for 100 years, we have a lot of business process debt baked into our business processes,” Shive said. “But we’re working hard to reimagine our business processes in a new digital end-to-end format this year.”

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Nancy Sieger

Nancy Sieger

CIO, IRS

A surge of American Rescue Plan funding is allowing the IRS to train IT team members who wish to transition into new roles within the agency. The IRS also plans to hire more IT staff to fill critical roles in the coming months. “When discussing the future of work we must address telework,” Sieger said. “I hope to attract a workforce where they are not necessarily in a federal building. I will engage the staff the way they need to be engaged and pull them up.”

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Lt. Gen. Robert Skinner

Lt. Gen. Robert Skinner

Director, DISA and Commander, Joint Forces Headquarters Information Network

The director of the Defense Information Systems Agency and commander of the Joint Forces Headquarters DOD Information Network is pretty new to the job. But that hasn’t kept him from going any slower in ensuring the defense support agencies have a strong IT network to keep them running. under Skinner’s watch, DISA is undertaking several major initiatives, like combining all of its IT help desks and IT networks for support agencies and field activities and supporting the DOD’s move to a zero-trust environment. Skinner has been in his dual-hatted role since February and will have to help the agency navigate new hybrid work environments and continued relentless cyberattacks.

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Greg Smithberger

Greg Smithberger

CIO, NSA

The NSA had to try something very new to the agency amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With CIO Greg Smithberger’s leadership, the agency made the move to telework for unclassified work when the crisis struck. One of the big things he had to do was figure out what could even be done remotely and what needed to be done at NSA’s secure facilities. “It’s kind of become more of a standard for us to see how much we can actually do in a less protected environment to leverage our ability to work with some corporate partners who, in some cases, simply don’t have access to a SCIF but are fully cleared people,” he said last year. “In other cases, we’re building a sort of a variation on this environment, where we’re going to be doing a lot more collaboration with people who don’t have clearances for the capabilities mission, for NSA’s cybersecurity mission, for our research.”

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Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas

Sr. VP, Public Sector, World Wide Technology

Bryan Thomas has been with World Wide Technology for more than two decades, most recently leading the firm’s federal, state, and local government and education teams. While that role certainly keeps him busy, Thomas finds plenty of time to give back and lead by example. Notably, he sits on the board of directors for the United Service Organizations (USO) of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore, the largest chapter chartered by the USO. And, in 2021, Thomas led a Washington, D.C. Man & Woman of the Year campaign to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society on behalf of WWT.

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Gary Washington

Gary Washington

CIO, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Gary Washington has been CIO of USDA since February 2018 and focused his efforts on IT modernization and workforce development. By leveraging emerging technologies like collaboration tools and the data they produce, he’s been able to manage that workforce effectively during pandemic telework. But with the agency’s cyberattack surface increased, endpoint security has also become a priority of Washington’s lately.

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Aaron Weis

Aaron Weis

CIO, Department of Navy

Department of the Navy CIO Aaron Weis describes himself as a “pressurizer” boss. He likes to bring the best out of people with high expectations, and during the pandemic, he had to find new ways of empowering his team. In more normal times, he would often walk into people’s offices and brainstorm. But during telework, those brainstorm sessions had to be more deliberate, happening in virtual chats and over video team meetings. Even in those more deliberate brainstorming sessions, Weis put enough pressure on the team to move the Navy’s IT forward by years. At one point, a two-star admiral told him, “Sir, you have to understand we are doing in weeks what probably would have taken years.”

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Dave Zvenyach

Dave Zvenyach

Director, Technology Transformation Services, GSA

The pandemic taught Dave Zvenyach to “be less of a leader and more of human” when working with employees, their mental health and their ability to meet family obligations. “It’s important to bring their best to work, but sometimes it’s not possible to do that,” he said. TTS is hard at work on elements of the American Rescue Plan, helping agencies reimagine digital services. Since rejoining TTS under the Biden administration months, now as its leader, Zvenyach has overseen the development of the process by which TTS will help other agencies and budgeting against the Federal Citizen Services Fund.

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