Women share career survival tips

Women at work must earn the trust of each new manager and make themselves indispensable problem solvers, said CIO Janet Barnes.

Achieving results is critical to getting ahead in the federal government, but communicating well is equally important, according to several women who serve as federal chief information officers and chief financial officers.

A panel of female CIOs and CFOs offered career advice based on what has worked in their own careers at a Jan. 27 luncheon sponsored by Women in Technology and Executive Women in Government.

Janet Barnes, CIO at the Office of Personnel Management, is the longest-serving CIO in the federal government. When supervisors change, she said, women cannot rest on their laurels. “You need to earn your stripes with every new manager,” she said, "and you need to be seen as an indispensable problem solver.”

Barnes, who serves as co-chairwoman of the federal CIO Council’s Information Technology Workforce Committee, has served as OPM's CIO since 1996. Understanding that people have many different styles and working to adapt to those styles “can help you click with those you do business with,” she said.

Understanding and adapting to organizational dynamics are also essential to career success, said Lisa Fiely, CFO at the U.S. Agency for International Development. “Getting people to know you is important because there’s a 50 percent chance they’ll like and want to work with you," she said.

Fiely joined USAID in 2003 after serving as deputy financial officer at the Internal Revenue Service and helping direct the IRS' Business Systems Modernization program.

Lisa Schlosser, the Department of Housing and Urban Development's CIO, said handling challenges and accepting tough jobs are crucial to career advancement. “Take advantage of every situation and have a good attitude,” she said.

Schlosser, an Army Reserve officer, previously served as the Transportation Department’s chief information security officer.

The panelists agreed that making good performance known to managers above one's immediate supervisor is important to career success.

Maria Parisi Vickers, deputy director of the Environment Protection Agency’s Office of Solid Waste, said women play an important role in public service. "Women bring greater texture to government," she said.

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