Renato 'Renny' DiPentima

For a legend of the federal IT community, decades of mentoring might be his most enduring legacy.

Renato "Renny" DiPentima has won most of the awards the federal IT marketplace offers -- including five Federal 100 awards, FCW's Eagle award in 2003, ACT-IAC's Janice Mendenhall Spirit of Leadership Award and two Presidential Rank Awards. But this year's President's Award recognizes another accomplishment that is arguably even more significant: his career-long commitment to mentoring young and midcareer government executives and those who are transitioning to industry.

DiPentima spent his entire government career of more than 30 years at the Social Security Administration, where he rose from a GS-5 claims examiner to become the deputy commissioner for systems and the agency's first CIO. He managed the transition from a paper-based approach to handling claims to an online system that processes millions of transactions each day. Along the way, he learned some important lessons about managing expectations in Congress and getting buy-in from his SSA team.

The lessons of inclusion and buy-in that shaped the revamping of SSA systems also governed DiPentima's time at SRA International (now part of CSRA). Like most companies in the systems integrator community, SRA hired smart executives from government -- but rarely for a specific job. Instead, new recruits spent time in the finance department to learn how the company made its money and then, not unlike a medical internship, rotated to other departments to learn about the different parts of the company's business. At that point, each executive would devise a role in which he or she could create new value for the company.

During his 13 years at SRA, DiPentima mentored a wave of executives who still play an important role in the community today. And he continues to serve as counselor through his involvement with multiple companies' boards.

Mary Ellen Condon, who joined SRA from the Justice Department in 1999, said DiPentima was special because he listened. "He didn't think he had all the answers," she said. "He let people play to their own strengths."

She wanted to create a security practice, but at the time, DiPentima said there was no future in security -- a declaration about which all involved still chuckle. He did change his mind, however, and Condon built a security practice.

Ed Meagher, another government recruit, said, "Renny has such a deft touch to mentoring.... He has given an untold number of transitioning executives a safe harbor to ask the dumb questions and to explore the available possibilities. His advice comes in the form of subtle questions, gentle suggestions and constant encouragement. I owe Renny more than I can ever repay, so I just try to emulate him and pay it forward."

Kay Kapoor, president of AT&T Global Business Public Sector Solutions, never worked for DiPentima but took a class he taught at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "Renny has always been generous with his wisdom, insights and ideas -- not only to me but to so many people in the government/contracting industry," she said. "I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his guidance and friendship, which I treasure."