The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Pinnacle Awards were announced Oct. 11, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place live, in-person Nov. 30.
Next is Cloud Government Executive of the Year finalist Sharon Woods, who’s executive director for the Cloud Computing Program Office in the Defense Information Systems Agency. Here, she talks key achievements, shaping the next generation of leaders and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2021 / 2022?
Below are some of the achievements I am most proud of for 2022. I oversaw the sunset of milCloud 2.0, launched a new private cloud and successfully instituted a six-month minimum viable product timeline.
- milCloud 2.0 sunset: My organization, DISA’s Hosting and Compute Center, successfully migrated all customer accounts from the milCloud 2.0 environment in May. We partnered with each customer to create migration plans and execute their workload and account migration. It was truly an all-hands-on-deck effort.
- Stratus launch: The HaCC launched a new private cloud called Stratus at the unclassified and secret classification levels. Stratus provides a best value multi-tenant, self-service management capability for compute, storage and network infrastructure. Many of the milCloud 2.0 customers migrated to Stratus, and we have continued to add new users.
- Six-month MVPs: I instituted a rule that we would complete all MVPs in six months or less. We successfully completed a Containers-as-a-Service MVP between November 2021 and April 2022, which enables mission partners to run an application and all its dependencies in isolated processes.
How do you help shape the next generation of government leaders/industry leaders?
When I think about shaping the next generation of leaders, I’m focused on developing leaders who are interdisciplinary and can understand multiple perspectives to solve complex problems. One of my priorities for 2022 has been building a Technician of the Future program at the HaCC to shape the next generation of Defense Department technologists.
TotF seeks to change the way we look at the hosting and compute skillset. Historically, technicians specialized in a discipline and only worked in an area associated with that discipline, such as databases or servers, but today technology is fluid and touches multiple disciplines.
The TotF initiative will offer opportunities for employees to upskill beyond their primary discipline to develop a multidisciplinary skillset and perspective. As we further develop the program, I plan to look at how we can expand the program to grow interdisciplinary leaders and managers, as well as develop opportunities for non-technical support personnel.
Which rules do you think you should break more as a government/industry leader?
There are a few organizational norms that I have broken and continue to break, to build an effective organization with an authentic culture. A few of these norms include:
- Rethinking the chain of command: It’s important to empower the workforce to make decisions at an individual level, to own problems and solutions, and to be accountable to each other and our customers. We are more effective when we are less hierarchical ⏤ this is really the DOD Command and Control framework ⏤ centralized control and decentralized execution.
- Talking to the workforce: To empower the workforce and enable effective decentralized execution, there must be clear communication from leadership. As leaders, we must ensure that our workforce understands what we are trying to do and our quality standards, so that they can make their own roadmaps to the end state. I host monthly town halls to share my vision, the HaCC’s progress and connect with the workforce. I also maintain an online anonymous suggestion box all employees can use to make suggestions or ask questions if they aren’t comfortable asking in person.