When I grew up, I never planned on becoming a Chief Data Officer (never mind that CDOs didn’t really exist when I was growing up…). I definitely didn’t go to law school to be a Chief Data Officer. But here I am, the Chief Data Officer of a federal agency.
Know what else I didn’t plan? A career in government oversight, conducting internal affairs, promoting government efficiency, and protecting constitutional rights (okay, so maybe protecting constitutional rights was in my thinking, but I didn’t know the other fields existed). But here I am, having spent my entire career in government oversight.
Know what I *did* want? To help people, make a significant difference, learn new things, and start new things. For awhile, I thought that looked like being a medical missionary, a scholar, or a prosecutor. Instead, I’ve had a career-full of opportunities to do what I wanted, but in ways I never could have imagined. For instance, I:
- Got to be part of a team that started a new federal office to oversee 17 federal agencies
- Had the opportunity to significantly impact our counterterrorism and national security efforts
- Led teams conducting high-profile federal investigations
- Briefed Senators, Congressman, and congressional staff on matters of national importance
- Helped draft legislation and policies that have enhanced privacy protections, protected victims, and strengthened our national security operations
HOW COOL IS THAT?!
Even now, as my agency’s inaugural Chief Data Officer, I have the privilege of leading a new and incredibly cool team of people with amazing and impressive skill sets. We transform information and knowledge into action in order to champion improvement in my agency’s performance and results. I’ve learned so many new things about data analytics, organizational design, and strategic leadership. I’ve been exposed to innovative and efficient ways of performing federal oversight. And we’ve been able to make a significant difference.
I’m passionate about helping people become the best versions of themselves. That’s what I get to do as a parent for my children. That’s what I get to do as a pastor for my church community. And that’s what I get to do professionally for the agencies I serve.
The way I see it, government organizations are made up of people. So when I’m helping to improve the integrity, efficiency and effectiveness of an organization, I’m helping to improve the integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness of the people in that organization. And I’m not only getting to help the people in that organization, but I also get to serve the American people in what I’m doing.
I LOVE THAT.
So, looking back on my journey, this is what I’ve learned – it’s a lot better to think of “what I want to be when I grow up” in terms of my values and the effect I want to have on people rather than focus on specific job titles or career fields. That’s how I’m advising my children, and that’s how I think about my next career moves.
Sometimes I get accused of being “an ambitious career woman.” Eh, not so much. I’m not ambitious for titles or career ladder steps. But I am ambitious for living my life in a way that serves people and makes a significant difference in their lives. So I don’t pursue or take every job or promotion offered to me. Instead, I’ve found I’m much happier waiting for positions that align with my values and enable me to use as much of my skills and experiences as possible for the sake of others.
Even if I’ve never thought of those positions before.