Friday, May 16, 2014

Women Leaders in Technology

It has been a full week.  On May 15, I attended FOSE at the Washington Convention Center in
Washington, DC.  The only session I was able to get to was the panel on Women Leaders in Technology.
Panelists: Anne Altman, General Manager, US Federal and Government Industries, IBM Corporation; Teresa Carlson, Vice President Worldwide Public Sector, Amazon Web Services; Renee Macklin (Invited), Chief Information Officer and Chief Privacy Officer, SBA; Debora Plunkett, Director of the Information Assurance Directorate, NSA; Barbara Rivera, President/GM, PublicSector Business, Experian; Lisa Schlosser, Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of E-Government and Information Technology, OMB
Gray Tsunami:

45% of the federal workforce is over the age of 50.  A lot of people will be retiring in the next several years.  Can we capture that knowledge? 
Employees under 30 years of age account for only 7.1 percent of the federal workforce. – Fed Figures 2014, Partnership for Public Service, April 24, 2014.

Panelists said that mentoring was the key to encouraging young people to work in the federal government.  Leaders and managers need to learn how to work with younger workers who have a different approach to work and tackling projects.
Thoughts - This is a challenge.  Young people have ideas and energy but often their ideas are shot down by older, longer-serving workers.  Many agencies are Microsoft shops and because of IT security concerns, they are aren’t flexible or open to Open Source software and other systems.  Many Gen-X, Gen-Y and Millennials grew up using Apple products in their schools.  They can work with Microsoft – but often prefer the Apple systems.

Social Media:
It is pervasive and business and government is making use of it.  Amazon runs all product launches through social media.  This saves money that can be put back into services and products.  They are also using social media to communicate within their organization.

Government agencies are issuing alerts and news releases and other updates via social media.
Thoughts – Social media is perfect for business.  Consumers interested in products are always on the lookout for news about the products that they like.  Government cannot rely solely on social media.  Not everyone uses social media or is necessarily following every agency.  News services track social media, but they have to confirm before they broadcast and not everyone is tuned into news media (television, online or print) 24/7.

Women in the IT World
The moderator asked about the experience of being a woman in the IT/Computer Science world.  Three of the panelists are also women of color.

Debora Plunkett of NSA said that she was given the advice to know that you belong.  Learn to be okay with being the one and only. Conduct yourself with honesty, integrity and transparency.  Be happy about what you do.
Other women spoke of the influence of a particular teacher or mentor.  They went on to suggest that we conduct outreach to STEM students in high school and college – but maybe we should focus on elementary school to get women and minorities interested in careers in IT.

You own your career.  Your boss is not responsible for helping you to move ahead – it is your responsibility.  If you aren’t happy where you are, go to where you can be happy.
Teresa Carlson said that we should build our EQ as well as our IQ.  Our EQ is our emotional quotient.  Learn to handle changes within the workplace.  Be resilient.

The Aha Moment
One of the speakers mentioned that her Aha Moment was when she realized that she could create a place for herself by finding a need and filling it.  When we encounter a hole we have options: walk around the hole, jump over it, turn around, or fill the hole.  If we find a way to fill the hole in our organization, we show that we are part of the team and we can meet a need – provide something that was lacking.

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