Editorial: ‘Yes, you can go home again’
by Raju Shah
Director, Enterprise Engineering And Governance Directorate
Some people join DISA early and spend an entire career within the agency. Others spend a brief portion of their career working for DISA and never return. There is also a group of people who work at DISA, leave the agency and then return – this is the group I am a part of and the following is my story about why I returned.
I returned for two reasons. DISA believes in delivering a great customer experience, and DISA believes in its people and their ingenuity. The wide variety of customers combined with the complexity and vastness of DISA’s telecommunications landscape creates daunting challenges that rival the challenges I experienced at NASA. Teaming with great people to solve these challenges is my oxygen.
My life experiences reinforced a few tenets that guide how I approach creative opportunities. First, each of us brings valuable perspectives and insights. Leveraging these within and between teams is extremely beneficial. Second, it is important to step back and look at a challenge from a holistic, end-to-end perspective, especially in the technology sector. A consistently great customer experience depends upon solid engineering and a sound governance foundation. Finally, strong relationships and open communication underpin all successes.
Prior to working for the federal government, I served as the director of information technology at the University of Maryland College Park and led a variety of projects including IT consolidation initiatives, business continuity, Voice Over Internet Protocol installations, high-performance computing/research computing and the development of IT governance standards. I began my federal career with NASA, where I was the chief of the Information and Applications Office. There, I oversaw information management, applications, scientific computing and visualization portfolios and later as a deputy CIO for the entire IT portfolio. After my time at NASA, I came to DISA, where I served in several roles, including deputy director and program manager of the National Background Investigation Services. I then left DISA for a career-broadening opportunity at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. When I returned to DISA, I assumed my current position as the enterprise operation senior technologist, leading the Enterprise Operations and Governance Directorate. In this role, I am responsible for informing and shaping the overall end-to-end technology and governance for the Operations Center with an eye toward agency-level changes that can improve the overall customer experience, building brand loyalty and confidence in DISA’s abilities. In each of my assignments, saw first-hand the value of end-to-end engineering, process governance, open communications and strong relationships to get great results.
DISA promotes an atmosphere ideal for solving challenging problems. It provides an ideal working environment including clean, top-class facilities/working environment (very important for during the COVID-19 pandemic) and a keen interest in the health and wellbeing of the entire workforce, including different professional training and physical fitness opportunities. DISA believes and invests in developing our workforce/our people. The workplace provides the opportunity to bring these elements all together to deliver amazing results and ensure our customers’ trust in DISA remains high and the workforce needs are met. The ability to go from limited teleworking to nearly all employees teleworking without an interruption in service is just one example of DISA’s commitment to both mission and people.
There is nothing like a large-scale, complex real-world event to stress and demonstrate the value of end-to-end engineering, process governance, open communications and strong relationships to achieve results. The pandemic is just such an event. The Enterprise Engineering and Governance Directorate has worked closely with all of the agency’s other directorates to help rapidly deliver capabilities or to troubleshoot and restore capabilities to meet our customers’ needs throughout the crisis. Early on, we worked with multiple program managers and capability providers to determine how many people in the Department of Defense could simultaneously telework. OE engineers leveraged sophisticated modeling and worked with DISA PMs to make recommendations to increase capacity while also making more effective use of existing capacity. The confluence of engineering, governance, open communications and strong relationships enabled DISA to bring together senior leaders in the midst of the pandemic. Operators and engineers worked side-by-side to bring senior leaders together in ways that were not considered possible a year ago. One example includes the agency making it possible for the Department of Defense to use classified mobile connectivity to coordinate and make decisions using reach the agency’s classified collaboration capabilities. Another is the agency’s close coordination with the Cloud Computing Program Office to deliver a video and voice collaboration tool suite to the entire DoD, so that the Department could continue to function while physical distancing. This gave DoD an appreciation for the power of cloud computing.
Whether in a pandemic or not, DISA is here to deliver telecommunication services. I came back to DISA because I believe in its people and its mission, and I want to be a part of a team committed to delivering excellent service to the warfighter and to the department.
I look forward to the continued partnership with others in offering a superb custom experience and trusted mission value.
Posted November 18, 2020