As Women’s History Month comes to a close, it is the perfect time to stop and reflect on the impactful work women are doing today.
In the VA Office of Information and Technology (OI&T), women play a significant role in achieving VA’s goals. In fact, more than 25 percent of VA OI&T’s Senior Executive Service positions are held by women. Compare that to private industry, where, according to the Center for American Progress, women hold only nine percent of management positions in the IT field and account for just over 14 percent of executive officer positions at Fortune 500 companies.
Women in IT leadership at VA spearhead some of the agency’s crucial missions, such as ensuring the security of Veteran health information, implementing VA’s electronic health record, transforming Veterans benefits delivery, managing how IT dollars are spent, and gathering and analyzing IT data.
Here’s a look at five women leaders in VA’s OI&T and the important work they do, followed by some of their thoughts and advice on their positions in a traditionally male-dominated field.
Executive Director for IT Acquisition Strategy and Facilities Management
Her charge: Running the office that facilitates development of clear, consistent IT acquisition packages that get VA the IT resources it needs for mission delivery. “As a Veteran myself, I see that everything we do in IT directly affects the Veteran,” she says. “Even when I go into a doctor’s appointment, I see things like a VetLink Kiosk, and I think to myself, ‘that’s an IT capability and IT funds made that happen.’”
Her background: Jones retired as a U.S. Army colonel after 28 years of service. “I spent 18 of those years in the Army Acquisition Corps as a senior acquisition professional with emphasis on IT positions, which included working as a board-selected IT Program Manager, various staff officer positions in the Army’s Chief Information Officer/G6 focusing on software development, and enterprise licensing,” she says.
Director, OI&T Benefits Product Division
Her charge: Supporting development of IT applications and products to increase VA’s speed and efficiency in delivering Veterans the benefits they’ve earned and deserve. “We have seen the benefits of how our tools help benefits delivery personnel manage work and process claims, and the outcome is positively impacting service to our Veterans,” she says.
Her background: Loving began her career at VA as an intern in 1988 and has been dedicated to VA and its mission ever since.
Director of the Office of Performance and Analytics
Her charge: Leading a team to improve the way OI&T sets and measures IT performance goals, with a focus on helping OI&T make the best decisions on how it uses its resources. “Ultimately, we want to establish leading indicators along with trend analysis so that we can make decisions for the organization based on the performance data we collect,” she says.
Her background: Krause grew up in a rural Minnesota farming community and joined the Marines after graduating college. “I was actually the first woman officer in the combat engineer field,” she says. “After retiring as a colonel, I became a government contractor working national security issues until my sons convinced me to go into IT.”
Deputy Director of the Health Information Security Division
Her charge: Helping to run VA’s National Contractor Access Program and the Medical Device Protection Program—ensuring the security of all networked medical devices (CT scan machines, for example) Veterans come into contact with at VA hospitals. “VA has been the leader in medical device security for the last decade,” she says.
Her background: Starting her career as an accountant, she quickly realized her love and aptitude for IT. “What some people may not realize is that a lot of the IT industry, especially some security controls, are based on the accounting industry. While building an accounting system, I realized my passion for IT.”
Clinical Systems Division Director of Health Product Support
Her charge: Among many responsibilities, Devlin leads a team that addresses logistics and assembly of every single application in VA’s electronic health record, VistA. “When we help stand-up new VA medical centers with VistA installs and issues, we want to know that the functionality and result improves the experience of the Veteran,” she says.
Her background: “I came to VA as an intern in 1986, and within months of my internship I was a full-time employee working on the implementation of numerous VistA applications, known then as the Decentralized Hospital Computer Program,” she says.
On Women in the IT Field
Loving points out that the number of women in IT at VA is on the rise. “I definitely feel that VA and OI&T are trendsetters as far as the number of women in the IT field,” Loving said. “I remember, when I first started in IT at VA, I was often the only woman in meetings. So, it is really refreshing to see women across the IT organization leading change. I think that women should embrace their nurturing nature to help build trusting partnerships with customers, peers, and team members.”
Sherrill pointed out the importance of simply enjoying the work, saying, “It is really important to have a passion for it. It is a very analytical field, which I love, and I think that women can really thrive in this environment.”
Devlin offers advice applicable to anyone in the professional realm. “I think people need to always remember where they came from. Every single person and every single position is important, whether it be in our lives or in our organization,” she said.
Krause notes the importance of work/life balance. “I say this as a mother of three boys and a grandmother of five: balance your professional life with your personal life. Always make sure you are optimizing your quality of life.”
And for Jones, it is all about believing in yourself. “You can do anything you set your mind to. If you have the drive and the willingness to accomplish something, you can do it. Being a woman doesn’t prevent me or any other female from doing anything.”
About the author: Kai Fawn Miller is a director of strategic communication in VA’s Office of Information and Technology.