The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Pinnacle Awards were announced Oct. 8, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place virtually Nov. 12.
Next is Artificial Intelligence Government Executive of the Year finalist Oki Mek, who’s senior adviser to the Department of Health and Human Services’ chief information officer. Here, he talks future focus areas, professional risks and collaboration.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
As a 9-year Army veteran and then transitioning to the federal government, I am most proud of having the privilege to serve as a civil servant. Especially being part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services family during a global pandemic, the nation needs us more than ever to carry out our mission, to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans.
What are your primary focuses areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
My primary goal going forward is to help the federal government improve its ability to deliver mission outcomes and provide excellent service to the American people. In support of this goal, I am focusing on these primary areas: help improve our government cybersecurity posture in order to protect American freedoms, civil liberties and privacy rights as guaranteed by our laws, and initiate and lead changes through digital transformation that aims to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans.
How do you help shape the next generation of government leaders/industry leaders?
Champion collaboration as an essential component to innovation and growth. Continue to pay it forward by learning, growing and sharing via collaboration.
What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken?
I feel like I take professional risk every single day. Every single day, I try to continue to learn by expanding my knowledge not just within cybersecurity but in other areas: philosophy, leadership and various business functions. I take risks and fail smartly; I believe pressure is a privilege.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
There is an African philosophy called Ubuntu, it’s about learning from other humans to be human. This philosophy can be applied to the way we work, live and lead. It promotes the ideology that I need you to be the best version of you in order to help me be the best version of me; an individual must harmonize, learn and understand other members, for the team to succeed and for the human race to succeed. I apply this philosophy to my approach to leadership.