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StateScoop's Top Women in Technology 2017

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Stacey NapierExecutive Director, Department of Information ResourcesState of Texas

It's been a little more than a year since Gov. Greg Abbott tapped Stacey Napier to lead the Texas Department of Information Resources.

In the role, Napier oversees the daily operations of the $350 million agency and its more than 200 employees. Alongside her leadership team, Napier's agency provides tech leadership and services across the Lone Star State — from state agencies to local government and also to academic institutions. 

The agency also oversees the state's data center, online portal, cooperative contract program, telecommunications and cybersecurity. In addition, when the state's legislature is in session, Napier also works closely with legislators to fund the agency's biannual budget request and craft technology-related legislation.

What's the biggest thing you and your team have achieved over the last year?

In 2016, DIR achieved a program goal within our Data Center Services program of bringing 75 percent of the state of Texas’ computing power within the consolidated data center program. This was the culmination of years of very hard work, and it’s something we are very proud of. We also signed a contract amendment to bring hybrid cloud functionality within the data center program, a feat that will be the first of its kind in state government.

What piece or pieces of advice do you have for aspiring female leaders on making a difference in their organizations and the greater tech community?

The best piece of advice I can give to any young leader, whether it be a man or a woman, is that you should do your job every day with the highest levels of ethics and integrity. People need to know their leader is someone they can trust and who is there to support their team in good times, and in bad.

Second, always be on time and prepared, people will notice it. Bring a great attitude with you each day, even when you aren’t feeling it. 

Finally, learn from your mistakes. We all make them — it’s how we recover that really make us leaders. Rather than simply reporting the mistake, provide the roadmap on how you will fix it and what you have put in place so that it won’t happen again.

How are you working to empower other women to follow in your footsteps?

I have never liked the saying “you can’t have it all.” The truth is women (and men) must sometimes compromise in order to achieve our goals. Sometimes the dishes stay dirty a little longer than we would like. Sometimes, we need to bring work home and work late into the evening if we want to be there to put our kids to sleep. I have been incredibly lucky to work in organizations that place a high priority on family and we have tried to make DIR a place where employees can find the right balance for their lives. Seek out those work opportunities that support your goals and you will be empowered to achieve them.


Jennifer PahlkaExecutive DirectorCode for America

For Jennifer Pahlka, the leader behind Code for America, days can be a mix of communicating directly with the folks who benefit from better digital government citizens and working to empower her own team. 

On a daily basis, Pahlka works with clients and funders, but also finds time to poke and prod at Code for America developers and team members internally.

"When I need a fix, I lurk in our Slack channels where people are doing fascinating work on things like access to food stamps or reducing incarceration," Pahlka said. "The concreteness of the work energizes me. Sometimes I ask questions in these channels uninvited and the teams are like 'Oh, that's Jen. She's just hanging out here.'"

What's the biggest thing you and your team have achieved over the last year?

In early 2016, we decided to focus our work at Code for America, improving government programs that provide food assistance and job training and streamlining criminal justice services to reduce unnecessary incarceration.

Working hand in hand with state and local governments to improve service delivery is nothing new to us, and we’ve always striven to build software that’s a pleasure to use and solves real user needs. But the work we’re doing today is also being done for the long-term, on a much larger scale than our previous work, rolling out to whole states. Most importantly, because we follow all our users through their journey with government services, we understand the operational and policy barriers in service delivery, and work with our partners to remove these to get better outcomes. We call this “apps to ops” because we’re truly changing government operations, not only building a sleek app.

What piece or pieces of advice do you have for aspiring female leaders on making a difference in their organizations and the greater tech community?

I have three stickers on my laptop. One says “Cultivate the Karass,” which refers to an idea from a Kurt Vonnegut novel about a group of people working together towards the same goals. We all need networks of support — build one.

The second says, “No one is coming. It is up to us.” Not me, but us. It echoes another line I love: “We are the change we seek.”

The last is a sticker a Code for America fellow made for me of a picture of Jane Jacobs, the urbanist. It’s important to have great women role models.

How are you working to empower other women to follow in your footsteps?

One of the pleasures of running a fellowship program is seeing dozens of women come through and take leadership positions in government and gov tech startups when they leave. I continue to be huge fans of women like Ashley Meyers, who helped start the digital services unit for the city and county of San Francisco, Alicia Rouault, who runs the digital services group for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council in MA, Tiffany Chu, the co-founder and COO of Remix, and so many others.


Suzanne PauleyDirector, eMichiganState of Michigan

There are many facets of Suzanne Pauley's work as the Director of eMichigan for the state's Department of Technology, Management and Budget, but they all revolve around bringing citizen-centric government to Michigan's residents.

From Pauley's perspective, that effort predominantly centers around making sure government services from across the state are accessible on any device and that citizens and employees alike can access services in a secure way.

"I would describe my daily work life as interesting, sometimes chaotic and incredibly rewarding," Pauley said. "What I enjoy most about my work is that each day brings different opportunities, challenges and ideas. I can honestly say that I'm never bored."

What's the biggest thing you and your team have achieved over the last year?

Over past year, our team has made great strides in our efforts to reinvent the way citizens interact with state government. Our Michigan.gov portal was redesigned to prioritize content we know citizens access most often and we are currently ranked among the top ten state government portals in the nation. The MiPage application was enhanced to include a citizen profile with ability to opt in for notifications and save information for easy retrieval. This new feature is the first step in providing citizens with a personalized and predictive experience.

What piece or pieces of advice do you have for aspiring female leaders on making a difference in their organizations and the greater tech community?

Be authentic, find your own voice (and style) and don’t be afraid to use it. Take advantage of public speaking opportunities as often as possible. To be a technologist requires knowledge, a good leader must also be able to articulate this knowledge into a vision that others can see clearly. 

Never stop learning and ask a million questions. The best ideas come from the crazy "what-if" questions.

Don’t shy away from complex projects because you don’t have all the answers right now. Most likely, no one else does either.

How are you working to empower other women to follow in your footsteps?

While I do believe there is much to be gained from learning from those that came before us, I think it’s vital that women have the confidence to create a path that’s uniquely their own.

Supporting female colleagues and students is key. In January, I participated in the SpartaHack event at Michigan State University representing the Department of Technology, Management and Budget. It was amazing to speak with the women that were competing and witness their creativity. It’s so important to be approachable and encouraging. Encouragement to pursue an idea is sometimes the difference between perseverance and abandonment.


Bethann PepoliDirector, State, Local & EducationSplunk

For Bethann Pepoli, leading Splunk's state and local government business development team is all about figuring out what communities can benefit from the services the company offers.

Pepoli manages the company's three industry verticals in the space — health and human services, transportation and public safety, as well as the company's education market. In addition to overseeing the teams in each vertical, Pepoli also develops plans on how Splunk can collaborate with partners to better serve state and local government.

What's the biggest thing you and your team have achieved over the last year?

Deloitte is one of the biggest consultancies in the world — they’re also a very strategic and important partner for Splunk. This year, I led a team that leveraged Splunk Enterprise to enable Deloitte with visibility into app usage, performance issues, business metrics and service availability, leading to improvement in uptime statistics and system stability for a government customer.

What piece or pieces of advice do you have for aspiring female leaders on making a difference in their organizations and the greater tech community?

Focus on doing the right thing for everyone and working in a team will allow everything else to fall into place. 

How are you working to empower other women to follow in your footsteps?

Personally, I participate in Women in Technology events as much as possible, especially ones that speak to college-aged women and young professionals. It’s good to reiterate with them, and with all women, that it’s okay to be a mother, a wife and have a full-time career. Splunk has a significant Women in Technology program as well, which puts on regional events designed to empower women throughout the year.


Lynne PizziniChief Information Security OfficerState of Montana

As Montana's chief information security officer and deputy chief information officer, Lynne Pizzini's role can encompass everything from writing a strategic plan to mitigating cybersecurity threats facing the state.

Her deputy CIO role involves day to day operations of the state's enterprise IT organization, including strategic direction and finding efficiencies within the organization. As CISO, she's responsible for oversight of the state's enterprise cybersecurity program and for evaluating and mitigating risks, as well as developing strategies, to protect against cyber threats.

What's the biggest thing you and your team have achieved over the last year?

Working together with all of our agencies through the Montana Information Security Advisory Council to develop best practices for organizations to use to protect information systems.

What piece or pieces of advice do you have for aspiring female leaders on making a difference in their organizations and the greater tech community?

Always persevere and do not give up. Many times within our industry we are faced with challenges as we strive to improve our environment. In my experience, I have learned that if you really believe in something and want to achieve it you can get it done by working hard to collaborate with different groups within the organization.

How are you working to empower other women to follow in your footsteps?

I am always mentoring other people to be the best leaders that they can be. When someone shows an interest in becoming a leader in technology, I help them to create goals and objectives that include training and mentoring to achieve the level of leadership that they seek.


Shanna RahmingChief Information OfficerState of Nevada

Commanding the helm of a massive enterprise isn't anything new for Nevada's chief information officer, Shanna Rahming. 

Before coming to state government, Rahming served in several information technology roles across the education sector. Now, as state CIO, she oversees a staff of more than 180, spanning everything from telecommunications to the data center to cybersecurity. 

But that all comes to a cross around collaboration, Rahming said. Within each of those subject areas, Rahming and her team must collaborate with agency heads, local government and school districts all across the state.

What's the biggest thing you and your team have achieved over the last year?

Collaboration has been huge the last year. We have collaborated with our other agencies to come up with better technology results. I have collaborated with CIO’s from local municipalities to get various discounts on services, we also have been able to work together on various grants to share the funding and the resulting products for all to use. I have collaborated with the university to get cyber clinics to various state agencies utilizing the expertise and energy of the students to educate and inform state employees.

What piece or pieces of advice do you have for aspiring female leaders on making a difference in their organizations and the greater tech community?

Lead with your strengths and lead with passion. If you are a really strong communicator that is so desperately needed in IT, if you believe in something, make sure you share that with others. Never stop learning and listening to people — there is always a better way. Listen with enthusiasm and fully engage in everything you choose to do. Do not be averse to change. You will be the change agent for your organization as technology will continue on its rapid change cycle, so you will need to embrace the change with fervor and excitement.

How are you working to empower other women to follow in your footsteps?

I am on the University of Nevada Reno’s Computer Information System Advisory Board, I also am involved with Women in Technology. I have set up scholarships for IT students and work with the University Cyber Club. I host multiple local meetings and work with setting up internships. I have spoken with many students regarding technology careers at the high school and university level reminding them that working in the technology field is such an opportunity in shaping the future and being an IT servant leader.


Gina RaimondoGovernorState of Rhode Island

Since taking office in 2015, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has led her state toward an increased emphasis on technology that is manifesting across a host of projects and new focus areas.

New projects using agile development are allowing the state's technology office to roll out projects faster, reduce fear of failure and try more new ideas.

A 2016 RFI seeking ideas on how to use 5G wireless technology positions the state as a national leader on an emerging technology, while also cultivating new opportunities for vendor relationships and setting the groundwork for new businesses to make Rhode Island their home.

Raimondo is demanding progress around the state's challenging health and human services eligibility system implementation, relieving the state's top IT leadership and calling for accountability. Residents "deserve a system that they can be confident in," she said.

Rhode Island's office of innovation is a national leader in adopting new technologies and organizing new partnership structures to pursue and generate fresh ideas. From open textbooks and computer science education initiatives to a government innovation league and broadband development program, the state is building a strong ties to innovation.

New funds requested by the governor's most recent budget proposal creates a new fee that would drive $11 million to a new Department of Motor Vehicles system upgrade long underway by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, but expected to launch this summer.

The governor has led efforts to optimize the state's internal operations and technology modernization efforts. An increased focus on customer service was paired with expanding the power of the state's IT help desk and growth of the state's Microsoft cloud offerings all combine to make a state workforce that can work smarter.

Under Raimondo's leadership, the state of Rhode Island is transforming into a national force in state technology.


Nancy RainosekChief Information Security OfficerState of Texas

Nancy Rainosek has only been Texas' chief information security officer for a few months, but that was all she needed.

"When I get to work, I hit the ground running," Rainosek told StateScoop.

The Lone Star state's cybersecurity guru spends her days supporting statewide projects and managing the cybersecurity services the state's Department of Information Resources gives to agencies and higher education. All the while, though, Rainosek keeps her work/life balance in check. She may arrive early, but she always tries to leave work on time.

What's the biggest thing you and your team have achieved over the last year?

It’s difficult to choose, as the team has had many achievements, some of which are still in process.  If I had to pick just one, it would be the Prioritization of Cybersecurity and Legacy Modernization Projects report. HB 1 (84R), Article IX, Section 9.10 (the General Appropriations Act) required the Department of Information Resources to submit a prioritization of state agencies' cybersecurity projects and projects to modernize or replace legacy systems, as defined in the October 2014 Legacy Systems Study, to be considered for funding to the Legislative Budget Board by October 1, 2016. In collaboration with the chief technology office, we created a system to assist agencies in quantifying the risks each project was designed to mitigate/eliminate. I believe this is a useful tool for determining statewide priorities.

What piece or pieces of advice do you have for aspiring female leaders on making a difference in their organizations and the greater tech community?

I have three. First, find strong mentors to help you along the way. You have responsibility for steering your career but it’s OK to look for help. Second, don’t be too hard on yourself. I’m my biggest critic and probably my biggest roadblock. Third, if something doesn’t go your way, hang in there and keep going. Work hard, exceed expectations and you should achieve your goals. It just doesn’t always happened according to your timing.

How are you working to empower other women to follow in your footsteps?

I take mentoring very seriously. I didn’t always have strong women role models when I started my career so I try to be that role model for those who are moving up in the profession.


Anne RoestChief Information OfficerNew York City, New York

With a city information technology budget rivaling that of even some of the largest states, Anne Roest's role as chief information officer of New York City is wide-ranging in scope.

"My days are pretty busy making sure our agencies and New Yorkers alike are getting the IT support needed to deliver or receive city services," Roest told StateScoop. "Thankfully, I have a great management team which allows me time to focus on improving our customer support and driving our strategic internal initiatives."

On any given day, Roest and her team at the Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT) manage the city's networks, data centers and cybersecurity efforts. In addition, in tandem with other city agencies, Roest's department is continuing to work on the deployment of free high-speed internet across the city. 

What's the biggest thing you and your team have achieved over the last year?

We are extremely proud of our work on the city’s 911 project. When I first joined DoITT, the city had been working on a new 911 call center for years, and the project had fallen behind and lost some its focus. We immediately performed a rapid project assessment of this program, established a new project plan and opened the new 911 center on an aggressive timeline and well within budget. This fast turnaround was a huge success, not just for the New Yorkers who now have access to an even more reliable 911 system, but also for DoITT, which is now the go-to entity for streamlining and perfecting tech projects. We are called upon regularly to offer any assistance necessary to help agencies successfully deploy technology in support of their many varied and important missions.

What piece or pieces of advice do you have for aspiring female leaders on making a difference in their organizations and the greater tech community?

Be yourself and be confident. Don’t be constrained by social or professional stereotypes. Leave your self-doubts at home and know that hard work and perseverance will lead to success in your organization because you are talented and valued as a critical contributor.

How are you working to empower other women to follow in your footsteps?

I hope that I empower women by setting an example of strong female leadership. I encourage women to ignore the proverbial “glass ceiling” and realize it can’t be shattered unless we hit it hard. So, I urge women and girls to push aggressively upward. Much of the work we do is key to the success of many of the city’s most critical initiatives, but the technology supporting an incredible accomplishment is rarely going to be the news hook, so sometimes these contributions fly under the radar. While most individuals in our field do not expect widespread recognition or standing ovations, I find that women are even less likely to be celebrated. So, I always take time to call attention to the exceptional contributions of all our technologists, including highlighting the great work done by women at DoITT to support the team and the city.


Elizabeth RoweChief Data OfficerState of New Jersey

Elizabeth "Liz" Rowe's role has only been codified into New Jersey law for a short period of time, but as the state's chief data officer she's been working on defining data strategy across the state since she took on the role two years ago.

In addition to the data role, Rowe is the deputy chief technology officer for IT policy and governance.

"No two days are ever the same, which is what makes coming to work interesting and challenging," Rowe said. "Our team has the opportunity to work with technical folks as well as non-technical agency personnel at all levels in state government."

What's the biggest thing you and your team have achieved over the last year?

The biggest thing that has happened to us this year is the passage of the New Jersey Open Data Initiative in February. This piece of legislation directs that one website be made available for agencies to publish data for public consumption. It also codifies the position of the chief data officer as the responsible party for defining the state’s data standards and for driving data sharing across the executive branch. We are very excited about this as we now have the mandate and authority to drive the development and adoption of unified statewide standards for data and information. Many states have tackled open data but I’m proud of New Jersey for recognizing the importance of the CDO to support the initiative. Yes, we have a lot of work to do but it’s very exciting here in Trenton right now.

What piece or pieces of advice do you have for aspiring female leaders on making a difference in their organizations and the greater tech community?

My personal motto is "question everything." I want to know how and why things work, and wonder what I can do to make something better. So my advice is — do not accept the status quo. Change is inevitable and constant. Always be open to learn, and seek to understand. If you have a great idea don’t be afraid to speak up and share it. If you want to make a difference, ask folks if they need help, respect them if they say no. If they say yes, listen to the problem before you speak, try to understand their pain, observe behaviors, and be open to new perspectives and unusual solutions.

How are you working to empower other women to follow in your footsteps?

I have had the great privilege to have worked for some wonderful bosses — men and women — who in addition to being experts in their area, were also great mentors. I learned from them that talent has nothing to do with gender. What I have noticed from my own experience and observations however is that many women seem uncomfortable in promoting their accomplishments. One thing that helped me be a better team member and manager is that I was allowed to fail in a safe environment. For most of my career I was fortunate to work for bosses who had my back. If I made a mistake, that was OK, but I was expected to learn from it. Because, not all my experiences were so supportive, I try to create an environment — for all my direct reports, not just women — that empowers them to be creative and take chances, one that celebrates success. We’re all on the same team and if they’re succeeding so am I.


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