Christine CalvosaDeputy Chief Information Officer of ResiliencyFederal Communications Commission“I think there’s a lot of women out there who are going to continue to make great strides. And I’m looking forward to leading that and to working with others who are leading that."
Christine Calvosa is responsible for the technology and resiliency areas of the FCC’s IT organization. That encompasses cloud integration and catalogue, enterprise IT operations, tailor platforms and data, and information resiliency — otherwise known as cybersecurity.
In her job, Calvosa helped FCC move its office-based hardware and servers to an off-premises enterprise data center. The massive move to the cloud took months to plan, and her team executed the switch over Labor Day weekend. “It definitely shows how everyone banded together to make sure the transition went as smooth as possible,” she said of the project.What's the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?
My biggest challenge has been that I am a woman in IT. It’s a male-dominated world, [though] I’m glad to see that it’s shifting. But my biggest challenge has been around that, and having people trust and respect my skillset and my knowledge. I have fortunately been able to work with various mentors. I have some of some of the best colleagues right now. First and foremost my boss, [FCC CIO] Dr. David Bray and then my colleague [Deputy CIO] John Skudlarek. I think it’s been a privilege and an honor to work here because they’re actually fostering that ability in me.
I continue to want to break barriers when it comes to that. I continuously work with my peers and team members, and I want them to see that I’m leading the way and not telling them what to so they are empowered to make the decisions that they need moving forward with the strategy we have in place.What advice do you have for young women pursuing a STEM career?
Jump in with both feet. Get ready to learn a lot. Start from the basics of customer service and troubleshooting, and knowing how to work with your customers and of course with your colleagues. Technology changes so often, so continue to stay abreast of the ways technology changes. Get trained. Understand the technology. Understand how it best fits within your organization. Work with your peers to ensure that it’s flexible and secure.Who or what inspired you to get into your field?
Right when I graduated from high school, I thought I wanted to get into technology. I was seeing the trends in technology and I was seeing the challenges in it. I think there was a high school teacher who really inspired me. And then when I got my first job in IT after graduating, I had someone who lived and breathed technology every day. And he actually mentored me to be who I am right now. I came in green. He helped me understand not only technology, but the people and processes of getting stuff done.
Donna BennettChief Information Security Officer Federal Emergency Management Agency"I'm so passionate about cybersecurity. Because I look at this as: I'm doing this for the greater good of the nation."
Donna Bennett is the chief information security officer at Federal Emergency Management Agency with the Homeland Security Department, where she’s in charge of a $70 million budget related to all things cyber.
Bennett orchestrated and led the team conducting the IT resiliency and onsite security testing at FEMA’s regional program offices. She took stock of what systems each was using and identified unmet needs. As part of that effort, Bennett helped to consolidate and secure all the programs, conducting penetration testing to look for holes and evaluating cyber awareness.What's the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?
The biggest challenge is how do you sell security to leadership. There’s been times in my career where I had leadership that understood security and had a security background, so they were able to be a champion for security. And there were other times where it took a lot more work to get them to understand the importance of it.
Security to them is not tangible. It’s not something that you can hold. You have to make it real to them. You have to put it into a context they understand. Whether it’s a warfighter out in the field or it’s a survivor — and they rely on the security of IT. Because at the end of that, there’s someone's life that can be in danger if that data is not secure.What advice do you have for young women pursuing a STEM career?
Get a mentor. That’s one of the biggest things. Get one that who has like interests. I joined the Navy when I was 18 — that’s how I started in IT. Along the way, throughout my career, I’ve had a lot of mentors. I’ve had some who are mentors, are in IT, and mentors for me as a mother. Because there are challenges with being a woman in IT — and just being a woman and trying to raise a family.
Always be willing to learn: Learn, learn, learn. Always stay on top of technology. Always read. Always be in inquisitive. Ask questions. And don’t be afraid. Have courage, and believe in your gut. Because your gut tells you a lot of things, and sometimes people don’t listen to it.Who or what inspired you to get into your field?
I joined the Navy with hopes of traveling the world and going to college. I wanted to be a lawyer at first. When I was stationed at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek [in Virginia], I met this one chief and she introduced me to IT. So I started working in ADP — automated data processing — the earlier term for information technology. I just thought, “Wow, I can really take the criminal justice side, and I can apply that to security.”
I’ve met just great women in the field that I’ve admired. When I was growing up, I didn’t really see a lot of women in IT. But as I moved around to different organizations, then I started meeting all these general officers — women general officers in IT. And that really inspired me and helped me to dream.
Beth AngermanExecutive Director, Unified Shared Services ManagementGeneral Services Administration"You can call me naïve … but I actually believe that if I can walk away having made a little bit of progress ... I will have done my part."
Beth Angerman is heading one of the newest teams to make the government a more well-oiled machine — the Unified Shared Services Management Office. In that position, Angerman will help the budget-slashed federal government build a marketplace “to provide both technical and functional services in a way that is scalable and efficient,” she told FedScoop — with a focus on replacing legacy systems and "helping agencies find the right solution to deliver optimal support in the delivery of mission work” she said.
But to her, shared services is just one important element of a multi-pronged approach to building a more efficient government. "This administration has established critical initiatives that help agencies plan strategically for the future, and to me, it only makes sense that 'good government' work transitions to the next administration," Angerman said.What's the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?
My biggest and most exciting challenge has been serving as a change agent in government. It can be difficult to be the person always asking people to think differently, to consider unpopular alternatives, and to build governmentwide solutions within the budgetary and legislative constraints in government. Moving federal mission-support functions to a new model is hard when the risk appetite in government is low, but I have found great satisfaction in partnering with my both federal and industry peers to build a strategy and vision that makes sense.What advice do you have for young women pursuing a STEM career?
The most frustrating thing I hear most often from other women in government, especially women in their late 20s or early 30s, is "Oh, I just don’t think I’m ready for that position." If you say that, and you don’t believe it, then no one else is going to believe it either. Sometimes you just have to have enough confidence in yourself to try, and believe that you will be successful because you have the skills, personality, and ambition to do so. It can be hard to be a mom, and a wife, and a senior professional, and you won't ever "have it all" but you can strike balance in your life in a way that can make you comfortable with your choices.Who or what inspired you to get into your field?
I still believe that I can change government. You can call me naïve … but I actually believe that if I can walk away having made a little bit of progress preparing the government for the challenges we'll face in the years to come, especially by creating solutions that will help agencies focus more on delivering mission, then I will have done my part. My kids need a government that can operate in a healthy, lean, and effective way and I'm motivated to leave something good for their generation.
Mary DavieAssistant Commissioner, Integrated Technology ServicesGeneral Services Administration"If you’ve got an energy or passion around something ... when you see outcomes and results of things that you do, it’s very powerful."
When a federal agency purchases an IT product or service, there's a good chance Mary Davie's Office of Integrated Technology Services facilitated that transaction. The government, including some state and local organizations, spends approximately $23 billion through ITS contracts and programs every year. And 2016 is a banner year for Davie and her team with a number of recompetes and new huge contract acquisitions, like the $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions telecom vehicle, up for bid.
There was particular organization I was asked to lead, really to effect a program turnaround. It included everything from mitigating and recovering from significant financial losses to boosting morale, as well as regaining trust both internal to GSA and external to GSA’s customer as a result of an audit situation that happened back in 2007. It was almost like every aspect of a program that could’ve gone wrong had kind of gone wrong. And I was given a very short timeframe to turn that around.
I was lucky enough to have really good people who I could pull on from across GSA, and the whole agency came together to implement this plan. And as a result, the program, which is the Assisted Acquisition Services group, is stronger that it’s ever been.
It was a daunting challenge and it was really rough at the time going through it, but it was nice to see it come out that way ... it was just really a great experience.What advice do you have for young women pursuing a STEM career?
This would probably go to anybody, but if you’ve got an energy or passion around something, or even if you don’t know it ... when you see outcomes and sort of results of some things that you do, it’s very powerful — and a lot of fun.
My family is full of civil servants. That didn’t actually inspire me from an "Oh I want to do that" perspective, but I was comfortable in that environment because that’s what they did — and that includes mother, father, uncles, cousins, brother, sister, all these people.
Denise Turner RothAdministratorGeneral Services Administration"I would say to women, if you’re looking for the power, look in the mirror."
Technology isn't the main focus of Denise Turner Roth's job as administrator of GSA, but it is "an instrumental, underlying tool" for her agency, and the rest of government, to "deliver to the American public at the highest level," she told FedScoop. Through that, she wants GSA to be the agency to serve and empower the rest of government with its technologies. “We are creating a baseline and a platform for federal agencies to explore new ways of delivering on their mission,” she said. The prime example of that is the planned $3.1 billion revolving IT modernization fund proposed in the president's fiscal year 2017 budget, which would host to help agencies modernize their legacy systems. That, Turner Roth said, shows how GSA is becoming the go-to technology expert for the federal government's need.
"If you were to say, 'Where’s the proof that you all are doing a good job or you are meeting the needs of the federal government,' I would say look at that as a sign of trust,” she saidWhat's the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?
One major opportunity is to get more people to understand the great work of the GSA and the impact GSA can bring to a community as an economic catalyst. GSA does incredible work across the country in real estate, acquisitions and technology. We strive to deliver value across the federal government partnering with local and state officials to make a greater impact to communities. Ensuring that partnerships are built across the country is a challenge and an opportunity that I am continually working on throughout my time as administrator of GSA.What advice do you have for young women pursuing a STEM career?
The only measure of one’s talent and power is the measure that they place on themselves. That’s important because we as individuals are given opportunities, and women in particular are a bit slow historically to raise their hands or see themselves as that leader. I have been rewarded in my career, especially in the recent past and right now surrounded by such talented and powerful and thoughtful women leaders. I would say to women, if you’re looking for the power, look in the mirror.Who or what inspired you to get into your field?
What continues to constantly inspire is to be able to take a situation I am in and create a setting where I am creating opportunities for others. What I look for in every position I’m in is how I can create opportunities for those who are looking for ways to strengthen themselves to grow and achieve that.