D.C.'s Top 50 Women In Tech List 2016

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Marilyn-Crouther Renee-Wynn Sue-Gordon Donna-Dodson- Amy-Northcutt
WOMEN ON THIS PAGE

Marilyn CroutherSenior Vice President and General Manager, Public SectorHewlett Packard Enterprise

"If you dwell on the bad, you never, ever get to a point of greatness.”

Marilyn Crouther leads the U.S. public sector business within Hewlett Packard Enterprise, where she oversees a team of thousands of people who work with defense, intelligence, civilian and state-level agencies.

Late last year, tech giant Hewlett-Packard split into HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. In her role at the newly launched HPE, Crouther said she’s focused on helping organizations prepare for the emerging digital age — and from HPE’s perspective, that means concentrating on four key areas: transforming to a hybrid infrastructure, protecting the digital enterprise, using data to make decisions and ensuring the workplace is efficient.

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

I always struggle with this question because I choose to think about the way ahead as opposed to the last challenge I’ve had to overcome.

I don’t want to be Pollyannaish. But for me, nearly every challenge has been turned into an opportunity. In my experiences, I take the good and the bad and use them as lessons learned. I then ask: What could have been done better? For me, every challenge gives me the opportunity to figure out how to achieve a greater outcome.

If you dwell on the bad, you never, ever get to a point of greatness. I’d like to say that I don’t have a specific challenge that stands out because I’ve managed to convert those into opportunities and try to figure out a way to keep moving along the path of delivering better outcomes.

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

I would say to use every opportunity to learn something new and not to get boxed into a specific area.

I started out as a math-computer-science major — and switched to accounting. It was probably the best thing in the world because I love math and statistics and information technology  — and the business part of it is so dynamic. Little did I know that all those things would be very beneficial to me in my current career.

It’s not a bad thing to have a double major. It is not a bad thing to get a master’s in something that may look completely bipolar. It’s an awesome thing because the world continues to change, and your ability to respond to that change is what’s going to be really beneficial.

Who or what inspired you to get into your field?

My brother in law was an IT expert in a telecommunications company when I was growing up. And he was a tremendous influence on me. The combination of having a number of my family members with military backgrounds and having a brother in law who was an IT professional in a major company mentally blended technology with public sector and my desire to give back.


Renee WynnChief Information OfficerNASA

"I believe a leader’s job is to inspire, motivate and make people greater than they think possible."

As the top IT official for NASA, Renee Wynn is responsible for ensuring NASA’s information assets are in line with federal policies, procedures and legislation. She has been working on increasing collaboration among the centers and with the other executive branch agencies, strengthening NASA’s IT security posture, identifying inefficiencies, managing costs in current programs, and maximizing the use of enterprise and shared services. 

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

My top priorities are ensuring the people in my organization have the tools and skills they need to be successful so we can deliver excellence to our colleagues and contractors of NASA. Some of my top projects today include moving NASA’s email and office capabilities to the cloud; improving NASA’s security and risk management posture by leveraging opportunities related to DHS’ Continuous Diagnostic and Mitigation program; implementing portfolio management to better understand our IT services performance and investments; implementing the foundational elements to support the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act; and establishing a better framework to connect our delivery of IT services to mission and customer requirements.

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

I believe a leader’s job is to inspire, motivate and make people greater than they think possible. A truly great leader takes people on a continuous learning and results-oriented journey. It’s important for leaders to steer people toward meeting the organization’s vision, mission and goals. That person should always provide an inclusive workplace that fosters the development of others, facilitates cooperation and teamwork, and supports constructive resolution and conflicts. I also believe it’s important to be willing to accept suggestions and be in a learning mode. Give employees a voice.

Who or what inspired you to get into your field?

The aspect of service and being a good steward of the taxpayer’s investment is key for me. The fact that I feel like I’m making a difference, making the planet a better place, and also the challenge is important. I really feel that the government is a huge innovator, especially NASA, for the private sector as well as the public, and the fulfillment of seeing those innovations move from ideas to reality is very rewarding.

I’m a native Washingtonian, grew up here with family, friends, neighbors all serving the American public. The challenges everyday are wide and varied. It keeps the job exciting and rewarding. To provide a valued service to the people working at NASA and to the taxpayers is an honor that I don’t take for granted.


Sue GordonDeputy DirectorNational Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

"Get a technical degree and do whatever you want."

Sue Gordon oversees scientists, analysts, geographers and cartographers who put information in temporal and spacial context. In order to stay at the bleeding edge of this information, workforce development has been a key focus in order to meet the future's demands. 

She is also leading information architecture changes that will create an open, web-based system that will allow NGA to utilize vendors and products they've never used before. A large part of this rests on a full lift onto a cloud service provider over the next two years.

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

The biggest challenge of mine is that I am an entrepreneurial person at heart. I can see what we can do, and having that spirit at heart while working in government, it can be challenging. Government organizations are, by design, purposeful and reliable. You’ve got an entrepreneur working inside an agency and there’s a challenge aspect to it, because you can’t go in a straight line in order to achieve things. The upside to this challenge is that sense of purpose with the government. I’m a public servant at heart. I think the nation has great challenges. When you have these big problems you are trying to solve, even if it’s vexing at times, if you are willing to patient and find a way to do that, the rewards are pretty remarkable.

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

I say this all the time: "Get a technical degree and do whatever you want." It’s such a great foundation. In 2016 and beyond, so much of anything you are going to do is going to intersect with technology. You want to be competent swimmer in a technical world. Even if you want to be a politician, a technical degree will help. If you want to be a writer, a technical degree will help. Also, remember you must a great writer and critical thinker. That education will just propel you in ways you can’t imagine.

Who or what inspires you to do the work you do?

I grew up with two things that mom and dad instilled in me. One: always do your best. Two: Always do something bigger than yourself. What inspires me beyond that is trying to be good enough for the nation. The American people give us a lot of money to do something for them. I want to make sure we are always worth what they give us.


Donna Dodson Director of National Cybersecurity Center of ExcellenceNational Institute of Standards and Technology

"What’s most important about all of our work is that it’s collaborative"

Donna Dodson's work encompasses research, development, standards, best practices, metrics and tools for the protection of information technology. She helps NIST collaborate with industry, academia and government to implement practical cybersecurity and privacy policy using standards and best practices.

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

One relatively recent challenge was establishing the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence. This involved setting up a whole new program to collaborate with innovators to provide real-world, standards-based cybersecurity capabilities that address business needs. We established partnerships with organizations in different business sectors such as tech, energy, retail, health care and financial services. We’ve been able to attract companies that had never worked with us before, as well as ones who know NIST well. In addition, we established the country’s first federally funded research and development center [FFRDC] dedicated solely to cybersecurity. It’s the Commerce Department’s first FFRDC and gives us flexibility to quickly scale up capabilities in different topic areas to meet the center’s needs.

This year, we also moved to a permanent location that has about 20 labs, including two large enough for research on connected cars and autonomous aircraft. In this new space, our industry, government and academic partners will combine their expertise and technologies to address current technical cybersecurity challenges. We were able to accomplish all of this in just a few years because of the dedication and excellence of the NIST experts collaborating with so many fantastic external partners.  

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

Cybersecurity is really about people, process and technology. Often we only focus on the technology. But addressing the nation’s cybersecurity challenges requires the talents and skills of many people. Sometimes people think only of skills suited to attack and defend. Those skills are important, but not enough. We also need people with strengths in other critical areas such as visualization and understanding human behaviors. We need people to study and analyze laws and policies and we need people who understand how machines and people interact.

Who or what inspired you to get into your field?

My first boss at NIST, Miles Smid, was a great mentor. He taught us about cryptography but did not stop there. He taught us about leadership, management and communications. He also made sure we all treasured our integrity as both scientists and public servants. Today, Miles continues to serve through projects in his community. I hope to continue in his footsteps and support our community locally, national and internationally in cybersecurity and other areas in the future.


Amy NorthcuttChief Information Officer National Science Foundation

"I do think all of us, as CIOs, will be shifting from a focus on systems to a focus on data."

As CIO, Amy Northcutt oversees investments for information technology at NSF, and the policies and practices around those investments. She is also senior agency official for privacy, and is charged with overseeing the foundation's privacy program. 

Northcutt said she requested $105 million for fiscal year 2017, with which she wants to pursue new initiatives. One of them is making more data available within the department, and externally to the public. Her office is currently evaluating and assessing NSF-funded research. "We're looking at what we fund, and the results and effects of the investments," she said. "We're particularly interested in the STEM workforce, and how NSF funding might affect the career of a scientist, engineer or educator."

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

I have had a couple of different careers in the course of my professional life, but a persisting challenge is the ability to translate across worlds. As a lawyer, I need to translate the law in a way that the client can understand. As a CIO, I am responsible for translating technologists and technicians to individuals at NSF who need technology to meet their business objectives or goals. 

The persisting challenge is being able to translate between different departments at NSF and, for me as CIO, translating between people who operate and design IT and those who use IT.

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

I always offer a word of encouragement, because our country very much needs women in STEM. I encourage them to follow their heart and their dream, and to find a mentor.

Who or what inspired you to get into your field?

What I like about being a lawyer and CIO is that both allow the opportunity for creative problem solving that’s the common theme for me and because of that I do commend both areas to young women as possible areas for professional commitment

I have had important mentors throughout my years of education and in my professional life, but I cannot point to one or two who led me to a particular decision in terms of a career decision about becoming a lawyer or CIO. I’ve always looked for work that’s intellectually interesting and challenging, and creates an opportunity for creative work and making a difference. Public service is the common theme for me. I have been drawn to public service for as long as I can remember.


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