StateScoop's Top Women in Technology 2018

Previous Page
Page 4
Next Page
ON THIS PAGE

Kim NelsonExecutive Director, Government SolutionsMicrosoft

What's your proudest achievement in the past year?

I have the good fortune to work with an incredibly talented and resourceful group of professionals in MSFT State and Local Government. One of the focus areas of the team I lead is Health and Human Services Solutions. One of our partners recently implemented a social services solution in the USVI. Two months after the solution went "live," in a span of about 10 days in September, the USVI was directly hit by two Category-5 hurricanes, (Irma and Maria). The catastrophic devastation resulting from these hurricanes left much of the USVI without electricity, communications connectivity, and with severe structural damage and flooding throughout the islands.

Because [it is] providing food and nutrition to those most in need, the USDA has a program for helping citizens whose food supplies have been adversely impacted or destroyed as the result of a disaster. The USVI did not have a functioning information system for managing this process, which includes citizens applying for benefits, eligibility determination, calculation of benefit amounts, issuance of EBT cards, and a variety of tracking, reporting, and audit activities. Our MSFT partner rapidly built a solution at no cost to the USVI. Our MSFT SLG Human Services Lead, Andy Pitman, managed a complex relationship that provided the partner with free access to Azure Government cloud services and facilitated the provision of devices for workers on the ground to access the system and begin providing services to the residents of the USVI. The rollout of the system to those in need in USVI was fast and met an immediate need.

What's your experience been like as a woman in the tech workforce?

I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my career. First, I think it is important to note a person doesn’t have to have an IT education to work in the IT industry. I have an undergraduate political science degree and a masters of public administration. Both degrees are incredibly useful when working in a U.S. public sector facing role. Every IT company needs and finds value in a diverse workforce and that diversity includes having people with different educations and work experiences. I have been working in IT related roles for over 20 years, and while there were many times I was clearly in the minority, the experience has generally been positive.

What's the best career advice you've ever received?

I spent 26 years in government before joining Microsoft twelve years ago. During my entire career I’ve been an “at will” employee, even during my government service. I learned early on to do the very best job every day because there was no guarantee of employment the next day. Early in my career, a cabinet secretary defined the essence of business impact: “Just because you have sweat running off your nose doesn’t mean you are making progress.” He taught me the difference between using my time on activities versus using my resources, and those around me, to drive the greatest public impact. I think about this every day.

What's something you're excited about going forward, working in government technology?

The future is so bright for governments whether they be large or small. With the capabilities emerging from new cloud based intelligent services, we can jointly build a new digital future for governments of all sizes, not just the largest and best funded. We have the ability to better serve and protect citizens and build more secure, productive communities by connecting people, systems and infrastructure in more impactful ways. Things like standing up services faster in the aftermath of a disaster like we did in USVI, adding IoT sensors to monitor bridges and public infrastructure and using data to prevent crime are all possible today. We have a unique ability to accelerate improvements in our communities, making them safer, healthier, and more connected and sustainabile.    


Beth NiblockChief Information OfficerDetroit, Michigan

What's your proudest achievement in the past year?

I’m most proud that we are smartly deploying technology throughout the city — whether it’s making technology in police cars safer for officers, being transparent with our citizens through our open data portal or making life more convenient for residents with our kiosks citywide.

What's your experience been like as a woman in the tech workforce?

Back in the day, they thought I was the secretary and asked me to get coffee all the time. I would never mind getting it but the look on their faces when they found out I was running the meeting was priceless.

Tech and PC were so new when I started and they were happy to find people that could do it. Today there’s still not enough diversity in tech and we need to work harder to make it more inclusive.

What's the best career advice you've ever received?

Take every chance that comes your way.

What's something you're excited about going forward, working in government technology?

I’m looking forward to artificial intelligence, internet-connected devices and the access of them to improve life for residents, open source tools that are available.


Kerry O'ConnorChief Innovation OfficerAustin, Texas

What's your proudest achievement in the past year?

As a chief innovation officer, my job is to catalyze opportunities that others might not see, and support teams as they work through a process to realize that potential. An innovation office should never own what it sparks, because to be sustainable, it has to fit within the organizational context and be supported with financial and human resources. 

I'm most proud of those projects in the past year that we've supported and have found their forever homes in the organization: 

  • The transition of our Homelessness Outreach Street Team to full-time sponsorship by our Emergency Medical Services Department
  • The capacity we've built to build open source digital services through multi-disciplinary, user-centered design and agile development teams
  • Our membership in the international Open Government Partnership to support accountability, transparency, civic participation, and technology/innovation in government
  • A Smart City Strategic Roadmap that puts solving practical problems and opportunities for residents first before technology
  • A ReVerse Pitch competition to spark start-ups out of raw materials going into our land fill
  • And finally, our ability to follow up on systems issues like homelessness by our selection by Bloomberg Philanthropies to join their Innovation Team program. It's been four years of capacity-building to get to this point, and it's super exciting to our seeds yielding fruit.

What's your experience been like as a woman in the tech workforce?

Much like many other women — [I have experienced] having ideas disregarded and then later claimed by others in the same meeting, being considered too direct or too outspoken and being included on panels because you're a token women with an executive title and not for the message you have to convey. 

In 2015, we had a little snafu where someone offered "women in leadership training" that revealed some astonishingly old school stereotypes were still held by some people. 

Nevertheless, like every other woman in tech, we persist. 

And not only do we persist, but we must raise the voice of others who might night be heard. Our efforts are not just about gender equality, but racial equity — not just diversity, but real, meaningful inclusion. 

What's the best career advice you've ever received?

I had some of the best possible mentors earlier in my career who gave me a mix of practical realism and nudging perspective to see through difficult times. My one boss (a female executive) had many witticisms like: "Don't let the idiots pull you offsides," meaning to pay attention to how you expend your personal power when you're frustrated so that you don't make missteps. 

Before I took this job, another mentor versed in design told me: "Remember that your job isn't design — it's innovation. And that means the merciless flogging of the fun, academic, creative, artistic, rarefied BS into something practical and palatable in a public setting that gets results." 

My mentors' ability to help pry my eyes open to the realities of change-making has been invaluable. It served me to remember that our innovation methods are both precious and not precious and you have to be improvisational and flexible, yet methodical to get positive results.

What's something you're excited about going forward, working in government technology?

I'm super excited that we have been accepted as one of 35 cities to advance in the Bloomberg Mayors Challenge. We hope to use blockchain to help those experiencing homelessness who frequently have their documents lost, stolen, or owned by a particular organization (like hospitals). We hope to prove that blockchain can provide a validated, immutable identity to help people track service transactions, break down barriers to services, and increase access and control over their own information and records. We're just at the beginning of the prototyping phase, and we'll be working closely with those who experience homelessness to have them advise the project. Our testing phase is scheduled to conclude by the end of the summer.


Jennifer PahlkaExecutive DirectorCode for America

What's your proudest achievement in the past year?

Our GetCalFresh team has now helped over two hundred thousand people who need a little help with groceries, and they’re on track to help hundreds of thousands more this year at an increasing pace. Something that started so small, with a quick little mobile-first Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) app, is going mainstream and moving to other states. That’s important, because SNAP, also known as food stamps, provides $70 billion in food to eligible Americans each year, and is one of the most successful government interventions in alleviating poverty. But around the country, nearly millions of people who are eligible for SNAP are not receiving the benefits they need.
 
A user-centered approach isn’t about better technology — it’s about better outcomes for all Americans, and better use of our taxpayer dollars. The growth of GetCalFresh shows that.

What's your experience been like as a woman in the tech workforce?

It used to be overwhelmingly male in tech — I mean, I have often appreciated the lack of a line in the ladies' bathroom, especially back in the 90s. But Code for America is a different mix. Our staff is 59 percent women. Many of our government partners are women. I appreciate the increasing gender diversity, but that’s not enough. We need diversity along many dimensions, including race, ethnicity, gender identity, and lived experience. We’re trying to help government help an incredibly diverse public — we’d better have an incredibly diverse team doing that, at Code for America and elsewhere.

What's the best career advice you've ever received?

Vivek Kundra, first CIO of the United States, told me, "Code for America will be shaped by what you say no to. Be picky." That’s great advice for anyone, at any point in their career.

What's something you're excited about going forward, working in government technology?

The adoption and expansion of delivery-driven policy. We see great potential in using practices prevalent in the technology industry to help knit technology, data, service design, operations, and policy into tight feedback loops with opportunities to continually improve. These practices have the potential to dramatically improve how government operates, particularly for those who need it most.


Suzanne PauleyDirector, eMichiganState of Michigan

What's your proudest achievement in the past year?

Improving citizen interaction with State of Michigan services has been our focal point for the last several years and it’s a personal passion of mine.  Our efforts to improve usability, create visual continuity and ensure accessibility across our digital landscape are paying off. In 2017, we were named in the top five states for overall government experience. I’m incredibly proud of the progress we’ve made and equally excited about the journey ahead of us.

What's your experience been like as a woman in the tech workforce?

I’m fortunate in that I have been surrounded by people that challenge me and are also incredibly supportive.  Prior to my current position, I held the title of project manager and before that application developer. It was my experience in those roles that helped me to develop the confidence to take each "next step" in my career development. I routinely remind myself of that whenever I have the opportunity to lend a helping hand to other women in my field. Diversity fosters differing lenses through which we view and solve problems. It’s in this type of environment that innovation thrives.

What's the best career advice you've ever received?

I’ve been lucky to have great mentors throughout my career. They’ve all given me great advice that I can best summarize as:

  • Don’t avoid trying something because you’re afraid to fail
  • Surround yourself with people that will challenge your ideas and the status quo
  • Conflict is not inherently bad but always be mindful of how the person across from you is reacting and adjust to keep the dialogue moving in a positive direction

What's something you're excited about going forward, working in government technology?

We’ve made strides in improving the user experience in our digital environment and I’m really excited about adding design research to our capability toolkit. We’ve just kicked off an initiative to pilot techniques and tools that will allow us to ask better questions and collect information up front to first ensure that we’re solving the right problem. We'll then use human insights and evidence to solve it in the best way possible.  


Bethann PepoliDirector, State, Local & EducationSplunk

What's your proudest achievement in the past year?

In the past year, a huge focus of my job has been supporting the growth of Splunk’s government team as we transition to be vertically focused. Customer success is our top priority at Splunk and we’ve established a team that focuses on the specific issues facing our customers in public sector, such as health and human services, transportation, public safety and higher ed. 

This year, Splunk delivered on a number of mission critical goals for our customers, such as improving user experience, increasing student success and providing the security analytics necessary to understand vulnerabilities and risk.

What's your experience been like as a woman in the tech workforce?

My team at Splunk is collaborative, supportive and motivational, so I’m grateful that my experience in tech has been extremely positive. Diversity is extremely important to Splunk, from the top down. 

I’ve also been lucky enough to have great experiences in a variety of different roles in public and private industry, that have helped me learn from a hands on, management and sales perspective. There are no shortages of opportunities for women in tech and I would encourage all young women today to explore their career potential.

What's the best career advice you've ever received?

Take risks, because it’s okay to fail. I learned a lot from my mistakes — using them as fuel to be better. I’ve also been rewarded both personally and professionally by taking some risks where many have said “she can’t do that.” I’ve had some great bosses that have gone out of their way to encourage me to go beyond what I thought I could do, and given me the latitude very early in my career to take chances. The confidence they instilled in me helped me be a better leader, manager and friend.

What's something you're excited about going forward, working in government technology?

I’m excited to spend even more time with Splunk’s customers this year. Customer success is the number goal at Splunk, and we’re working closely with our customers to understand and support their IT and security challenges through machine data. Government technology employees have a nearly impossible job to make sure that citizens can get access to the services they need, when they need it. They are asked to do this with a very limited budget and staff. Any blip can be front page news. We’re looking forward to helping reduce the stress level by instilling confidence in their infrastructure and enabling more time to focus on the needs of their citizens.


Mary Lou PrevostVP, State, Local & EducationCA Technologies

What's your proudest achievement in the past year?

Three years ago, I was given the opportunity to build and lead the State, Local and Education Government vertical team for the U.S. at CA Technologies. This required moving my family halfway across the country and getting all of them settled in a new state. It was a lot of heavy lifting, changing the team’s direction, training on the strategy and developing our partner program in SLED.

The hard work of the team paid off this year as I was nominated for the top sales leader award at CA Technologies at our annual Compass Club award event.

What's your experience been like as a woman in the tech workforce?

Understanding the difference in how people communicate and how they approach situations is critical. We all come from different backgrounds and regions of the country which influence how we communicate and how we are perceived. It's critical to recognize the differences and adjust your actions, decision making and strategies as needed. Always speak up and do not be inhibited during meetings as women can add such unique perspective to the conversation and improve overall outcomes as we work together.  

What's the best career advice you've ever received?

My father has always been a strong influence in my life. My parents came to this country as immigrants and achieved the American dream of becoming successful business owners by working hard and leading by example. He had a plethora of sayings but there are a couple that come up almost daily: “Every day is a good day,” and “Always keep pushing.” It’s important to seek out good mentors to guide you along the way. Keep in mind, “Life is an adventure, not a guided tour.”

What's something you're excited about going forward, working in government technology?

At CA Technologies, we are involved in many of the State’s Medicaid (MMIS) & Integrated Eligibility Systems (IES) programs providing cybersecurity and continuous delivery solutions. It’s exciting to see the modernizations taking place to improve health access and outcomes for our nation's citizens. This year we are helping clients with our Smart Cities Platform to build and deliver better citizen services. We are also working with first responders. The FirstNet On-Ramp, enabled by CA, allows first responders to securely share data utilizing existing applications, making the utilization of the FirstNet Responder Network, offered by the federal government, simple.


Gina RaimondoGovernorState of Rhode Island

What's your proudest achievement in the past year?

My number one priority is making sure that every Rhode Islander has a fair shot at a good job, and expanding access to post-secondary education is a huge component of that. My proudest achievement this year is the Rhode Island Promise Scholarship. We’re now the fourth state in the nation and the first on the East Coast to make community college tuition-free for every high school graduate. Since Rhode Island Promise was signed into law this summer, overall enrollment at the Community College of Rhode Island has increased by 43 percent, African American enrollment is up 52 percent and Latino enrollment is up nearly 70 percent. That’s huge.  

What's your experience been like as a woman working alongside the tech workforce?

Like a lot of fields — government included — tech is still mostly male-dominated. We’ve seen progress in recent years, but there is still a long way to go before we reach gender parity. In Rhode Island, we see gender and racial disparities starting in tech before students even graduate high school. Of the 26 students who passed the AP computer science exam in 2015, only six were female students and seven were students of color. That’s what inspired me to start CS4RI, our statewide computer science initiative. The more we challenge our ideas about who “belongs” in tech, the more we’ll see an inclusive, diverse field. 

What's the best career advice you've ever received?

In law school, I joined an informal study group led by Professor Burke Marshall, a civil rights giant and former Assistant Attorney General to Bobby Kennedy. During group discussions, he’d tell us that the next generation of the civil rights movement — the civil rights movement of our time — was going to be in State Houses and City Halls across the country. He pushed me to look beyond legal battles to see that the fight for our generation was to ensure good policies were being made at the state level to promote education and job training; to fight for specific policies that would empower people with opportunity and allow us to get closer to civil equality, no matter what you look like, who you love, your gender, or your physical ability.

What's something you're excited about with technology as a governor?

We’ve made some incredible progress on our efforts to expand access to technology, and I’m excited to continue that work. As of December 2017, computer science is offered at every public school in Rhode Island, and we’ve already seen increased participation from female students and students of color. I can’t wait to see that trend continue as increasingly more students learn to love computer science. I’ve also worked to position Rhode Island at the forefront of the development of next-generation broadband networks, including 5G networks. Rhode Islanders should have access to high-speed internet regardless of where they live.


Nancy RainosekChief Information Security OfficerState of Texas

What's your proudest achievement in the past year?

I lead a team of highly skilled and motivated professionals here at the Department of Information Resources (DIR) and we recently completed a project to offer managed security services to Texas government organizations. Managed Security Services (MSS) is an offering within DIR’s shared service program, providing a cost-effective solutions to state, local, municipal, and higher-education cybersecurity needs. The MSS offering is made up of three service components, each of which contain multiple services that agencies can choose to meet their IT security needs: security monitoring and device management, incident response, and risk and compliance. We believe this is the first program of its kind and I am excited and proud to see it roll out across Texas.

What's your experience been like as a woman in the tech workforce?

My parents raised me to believe I can do anything and be anyone I put my mind to. I have been fortunate in my career to have worked in highly professional environments where men and women are treated equally, although it is occasionally odd to me to walk into meetings as one of the few women in the room. However I don’t let gender or any other characteristic define me and the way I work with other people.

What's the best career advice you've ever received?

Expect acceptance and give acceptance. By this, I mean treat everyone with equal importance, from executives to security guards. And expect others to treat you as an equal, regardless if someone is higher in rank, makes more money, etc. This helps you have more confidence. What better way to approach your job than as someone who is confident and holds everyone they work with in high esteem?

What's something you're excited about going forward, working in government technology?

I’m excited to see how the availability and demand of our MSS program impacts government agencies at all levels in Texas. I am also excited that our state leadership has taken such an active role in information security oversight and look forward to our upcoming legislative session and the policy decisions that will impact information security across the board.


Simona RollinsonChief Information OfficerCook County, Illinois

What's your proudest achievement in the past year?

The Cook County Integrated Justice Enterprise Service Bus project has brought forward a lot of big achievements this year. Cook County has several different offices involved in the criminal justice system, and most of them are headed by an independently elected person with autonomy over their own area: chief judge, clerk of the court, public defender, state’s attorney and sheriff. 

This arrangement has led to a somewhat siloed technology ecosystem, and many paper-based processes have escaped modernization. With the introduction of an enterprise service bus we have made a lot of progress in this area. We have rolled out an automated court reminder system to help people know when they’re due in court. We have also automated a feed of Mittimus data from the clerk of the court to the sheriff, which operates the county jail.

What's your experience been like as a woman in the tech workforce?

I grew up in a great culture. The Bulgarian culture excelled at encouraging women to pursue STEM. I love technology and need to pursue technology as a life-long learning journey. I feel that there is a cultural stigma in the USA and girls around 11 or 12 years old start pulling away from STEM. This creates leaky pipelines moving women from school into technology fields.

What's the best career advice you've ever received?

Lean in, speak up, go for it, trust your instincts.  Always try to find someone who can act as your sponsor — don’t go in alone. Hope is not a strategy. Don’t let them see you sweat.

What's something you're excited about going forward, working in government technology?

Everything! We are in a moment of punctuated evolution with AI, blockchain, predictive analytics, etc. Government tech has the potential to dramatically reshape both policy and operations in exciting new ways.


Previous Page
Page 4
Next Page