Leaders in Information Technology

A Q&A with a Federal IT Leaders alum

“The hands-on exercises with your peers and colleagues are priceless. It is something that you can take with you, not only in your federal IT job, but any career or life endeavor that you have.”

Dr. Rodney Russell
Defense Information Systems Agency

Dr. Rodney Russell, an acting division chief at the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), provides critical logistics and maintenance support for the Department of Defense’s IT network. He graduated from Federal IT Leaders in May 2018.

Why did you decide to apply for Federal IT Leaders? 

I decided to apply for the Federal IT Leader’s program because I saw an opportunity to learn more about leadership strategies and challenges that are faced within an IT culture. I competed with members of DISA agency-wide for this opportunity. 

Why did you enjoy your Federal IT Leaders experience? 

It provided an introspective look into your personal leadership style. It gave insight on some of your blind spots and things that you do well. The curriculum was a great mixture of principles to really develop your best self and assist in putting your best foot forward while adding more tools to your toolkit based upon your life experiences. Most importantly, you learn from other people.

What was the benefit of the coaching style?

The coaching part was important because instead of a regular class of reading, comprehension and cookie-cutter type learning, coaching engages you on an emotional and mental level. It got you out of your comfort zone. It forced you to look at yourself from different angles that you might not have looked at before and invited a positive critique of your attributes when placed in certain group, work and personal situations.

How were you able to apply lessons from the program back to your job? Why do you think these skills are so important for IT professionals? 

Because the nature of our work is technical, you have a lot of people who focus on the technical aspects of the job that don’t require a certain amount of people skills. So, if you’re trying to move up in a leadership chain, you must be well-rounded and handle different breadths of experience. To do that, you need the tools to communicate with people outside of your discipline. 

Why would you encourage other feds to apply to IT Leaders? 

The hands-on exercises with your peers and colleagues are priceless. It is something that you can take with you, not only in your federal IT job, but any career or life endeavor that you have.

Why do you believe leadership is important? 

Leadership is important because you need to know how to inspire a team and guide them to reach a common goal. That applies to the government and your personal experiences—those attributes alone are important to get through life. 

The views presented in this interview are those of Dr. Russell and do not represent the views of the Department of Defense or its components.