As part of National Women’s History Month, Federal Technology Insider is profiling women in government IT who are making great strides in innovation and technological adoption. Women, such as Margie Graves, Deputy CIO, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Kimberly Hancher, CIO of U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and Jill Vaughan, Deputy CIO of U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA), have made significant contributions to the innovation and IT successes that have resulted from their leadership.
In today’s profile, Jill Vaughan, who serves as deputy chief information officer and deputy assistant administrator for the TSA’s Office of Information Technology (IT), discusses the opportunity she’s had to be part of the team that redesigns IT for the TSA. She explains why she is so passionate about the opportunity to mold the agency’s structure and practices to move the mission forward in the Q&A that follows:
Q: How did you get started in IT as a career path?
I graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University with a degree in marketing and immediately went to work in the telecommunications industry. My family has a long history in the federal service, so when the opportunity arose to join TSA in the IT division, I jumped at the chance. My first major supervisory position was as the Chief Information Security Officer, primarily overseeing areas covering Computer Network Defense, Focused Operations, FISMA Compliance and Policy, Cyber Security Awareness & Outreach, and Secure Infrastructure and Vulnerability Management.
Q: What makes you so passionate about your job?
I’ve always wanted to do more than hit a management target defined by others. As the Deputy Chief Information Officer of the Office of Information Technology, I have the opportunity to be part of the team that redesigns the IT domain at TSA. In addition, because I thoroughly enjoy all aspects of IT, my role allows me the opportunity to work with IT people from different disciplines and backgrounds. I wanted to use my knowledge of IT to help others be successful by promoting cooperation, providing feedback, and organizing resources required to help OIT meet the TSA mission.
Q: What has been your biggest success to-date?
When I was the Chief Information Security Officer, I made it a priority to revamp our cyber security awareness and outreach so TSA employees would better understand cyber security best practices which in turn raised our FISMA compliance scores and improved the security of TSA systems and data. Today, TSA’s cyber security training and outreach is a model for the rest of DHS.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge?
Geographically, the Office of Information Technology is a nationwide, if not worldwide, organization and managing IT operations at 450 airports and multiple data centers is always a challenge. In addition, ever decreasing IT budgets require us to work more efficiently while continuing to provide a high level of customer service that meets TSA’s mission and goals.
Q: What advice do you have for other women that are looking to follow a similar career path?
It used to be fairly uncommon to see women in IT leadership roles, but that is changing slowly. However, to some extent it’s still a “guys” domain. This situation is probably not as bad in the federal workplace as it is in private industry. My advice would be to not be shy about speaking up in meetings or other work environments. You input is valuable, but you have to be heard for others to recognize your contributions. If you are going to take a position on an IT issue, do your homework, then stick to your convictions both in the words you speak and your actions in the office.