By Ben Haseltine

“About Time” were the words that FedHealthIT President Susan Sharer exclaimed to kick off the Leading for Impact:Women in Leadership Conference. Hundreds of Government and industry employees gathered to share their stories and developments. But the true messages were of progress and change. Dawn Halfaker, Owner and CEO of Halfaker and Associates, set the tone for the conference in her opening address, drawing attention to the significance of the conference itself, “These are the faces of the women who are creating an impact…..creating that impact comes in many forms.”

Speakers hailing from both the private and public sectors gathered to discuss innovation in technologies within Government. The panel, moderated by Amy Haseltine, NewPay Director, GSA, emphasized various projects and agendas that were being pushed in their respective departments. Dr. Terry Adirim, Acting Principal Assistant Secretary of Defense, Office of the Assistant Secretary, DHA, emphasized consolidating military health records under one agency while using other technologies to increase the standard of care. Stacy Cummings, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Acquisition Enablers, DoD, shared information regarding “data decision making” and how the Government is looking forward from an analytics perspective to help make decisions. VA’s Susan Perez, Chief of Staff and Executive Director, Information Technology Integration, Office of Information Technology, stressed the importance of technology being customer-focused and shared ways the VA is making an effort to incorporate human-centered design into product design, as well as implementation. The panel closed with four key concepts: To drive organizational change via technology one must be resilient, tenacious, communicative, and user-focused. That is how progress and change happen.

Here are three key takeaways:

Mentorship is a path to Growth

Change and Progress can come in many different forms. While technology provides us a physical representation of change, it can also be seen through the new opportunities and people that are coming into the workforce. The second panel discussed the practice of mentoring, sharing personal perspectives, and the importance of simple practices such as finding the time to communicate with one another, feeling comfortable with each other, and being prepared to hear things that may serve as learning opportunities. Mentorship is an opportunity for growth, and is what Anjelica Dortch, Senior Technology Advisor, Executive Office of the President, characterized as “transformational” for her. VA’s Alan Constantian, Deputy Chief Information Officer for Account Management, described the relationship of a mentor to a mentee as an “investment”, an investment that pays off for industry, Government, and US citizens.

There is Always a Barrier to Push – Glass Ceiling or Otherwise

Another form of progress can come with breaking barriers. This was highlighted in the “Fireside Chat” with Theresa Cullen MD Associate Director, Global Health Informatics, Regenstrief Institute and her daughter Shannon Sartin, former Executive Director, HHS, USDS, who discussed the concept of the glass ceiling and the importance of being able to be resilient in the face of it. The reality is that some glass ceilings are shattered and some aren’t, but there is always something that can be pushed. Both stressed that with communication, collaboration, and inclusive ideas, there can be less fear for a newer generation to push boundaries.

Change Requires Resilience

The third and final panel worked to showcase what “resilience” means and what it takes to create that in one’s organization. Panelists spoke to ideas such as building the ability to be resilient to implement change, leadership engagement, identifying priorities and moving them effectively. But the take away in building resilience is understanding that there are going to be obstacles along the way. Building resilience in any field starts with focusing on the journey and what has been overcome.  Theresa Hancock, Director, My HealtheVet, VHA, one of the panelists, suggests to “plan for adversity in numbers” this way one can anticipate that adversity and rectify it.

Leading for Impact: Women in Leadership Conference was a picture of progress and resilience. With various leaders in industry and Government at the forefront, we see what the future holds and what it takes to succeed. With new developments in technology, mentorship programs, shattering glass ceilings and building organizational resilience, there is no doubt that the future is filled with progress and change. And in the words of Susan Sharer, “It’s about time.”

Check out the photos from the event here.

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