A sure path to success
Rising Stars advise newcomers to follow their passion and get involved in the government community
- By David Hubler
- Aug 07, 2008
Dana Marlowe's job at TecAccess LLC has placed her at the nexus where, as she put it, "disability advocacy converges with technology." She advises government clients on how to abide by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act when buying information technology. That federal mandate requires agencies' technology to meet certain accessibility rules.
"I talk to them about why it's important to have [the work space] be made accessible and what they can do to make it accessible," Marlowe said. "There is also a training component, educating our government clients on how to make their technology accessible."
Her work includes forming business partnerships, breaking down barriers to IT accessibility for employees with disabilities, and advising agencies on software and other IT products that can help employees with disabilities do their jobs better. "It's part sales, it's part subject-matter expert, it's a little bit of everything," she said. "I wear a lot of different hats, but at the end of the day, it's business development."
Marlowe's devotion to breaking down disability barriers in the government workplace began when she learned sign language from an aunt who was a speech pathologist. She is now a professional sign-language interpreter. While earning a degree in professional and technical communication at Rochester Institute of Technology, she concentrated on deaf and hard-of-hearing studies.
Marlowe has since broadened her scope to include all types of disabilities. She said she believes technology can break down accessibility barriers and increase the number of people with disabilities who can find challenging jobs. She is passionate about the work because "technology at its core will help."
She moved to the Washington area six years ago to work for an assistive technology company that provided equipment to federal agencies. She joined TecAccess almost three years ago.
"She has a great way of breaking down barriers and explaining the business value and return on investment in hiring employees with disabilities," said Paul Spicer, senior vice president of marketing and communications at TecAccess. "Dana does a great job of easing clients into the process, helping them understand that Section 508 really isn't that difficult. She puts it in terms that simply make sense."
He added that without detracting from the hard work of others at the company, "I would say she has been solely responsible for the work and the growth that we've had in government."
Marlowe also travels the world to discuss disability issues. "She has spoken throughout Africa and South America to large audiences on the topic of disabilities, usually in the disability employment arena ? why it's important to hire people with disabilities," Spicer said.
"I'd like to see our government agencies continue to really lead and spearhead the way for this kind of social change in making technology accessible for people with disabilities," Marlowe said. "I think it's important not just here for the U.S. government or for state and local agencies as well, but to have a real global footprint. Whatever I can do in my own little way to push that along, [that's] where I'd like to see myself in the future."
Gregory Mundell's federal contracting career began when he graduated from the University of Maryland in the mid-1990s. After a series of career moves, he joined Titan Corp. as a business development executive in 2002. His tenure at Titan coincided with the creation of the Homeland Security Department, and he oversaw several DHS contract wins for the company ? "the largest being I was able to get Titan on the winning Accenture team" for the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program, he said. "That was obviously a very [big] career-making opportunity for me."
Mundell joined Pragmatics Inc. a year and a half ago to manage the company's business with DHS and the Justice Department. He has broadened Pragmatics' work with DHS to include projects with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration and the Office of the Chief Information Officer.
DHS executives consider Mundell a key resource and an outstanding leader, said Dan Chenok, senior vice president and general manager at Pragmatics. "I've seen this both in his work in the industry and also since having become a colleague of his in February," Chenok said.
All the while, Mundell has continued to build relationships as a volunteer at several industry organizations. He is an active member of the Program Committee for the Bethesda, Md., chapter of AFCEA International, which schedules monthly panel discussions and speakers on various topics. He is also a member of the Association of Government Accountants, the IT Association of America, the Association for Federal Information Resources Management and the Industry Advisory Council.
"It is challenging," Mundell said. "You constantly have to manage how you support all these organizations."
When Mundell joined Pragmatics, Harold Youra, president of Alliance Solutions and chairman of IAC's Homeland Protection Special Interest Group, chose Mundell to be the group's vice chairman.
"We've made some changes in the SIG and I think have developed it in an effective way," Mundell said. The group's Government Advisory Panel now holds quarterly meetings with several government executives who work in the homeland security area.
During his second term as vice chairman, Mundell helped create the Prevention and Protection, Information Sharing, and Borders committees.
"He has done a tremendous job at keeping the SIG program moving forward in a very dynamic environment," Chenok said.
Mundell said he plans to continue being involved with industry organizations. "The best investment you can make in your life is the investment in other people," he said. "The best way to meet these other people is through these organizations. You just have to manage where you invest your time."
He advises young information technology professionals to pick a committee or shared interest group "where you're either helping plan events or planning white papers. Typically, these committees get together on a regular basis, and it's a smaller group setting so you see the same people over and over again. It's a great way to build a Rolodex with a core set of people."
Mundell said his wife, Ellen, introduced him to the importance of networking and community involvement. He often accompanied her to Northern Virginia Technology Council and Mid-Atlantic Venture Association activities.
"That's another piece of good advice, to sometimes go with someone you know if you've never been to a networking event or committee meeting," he said.
Angela Norris' involvement in the government information technology community began more than 13 years ago when she was an intern at Sprint's government division. She left the University of Maryland in her junior year to become a full-time sales representative at Sprint. Norris stayed with the telecommunications company for about five years.
For several years afterward, she worked at small companies setting up federal sales practices. She joined Oracle in August 2007. As a senior account manager, she focuses on the Homeland Security Department, especially Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, DHS' Science and Technology Directorate, the Coast Guard and the Secret Service.
While building her career, Norris also became involved in the Industry Advisory Council and AFCEA International. She was a founding member of the Bethesda, Md., chapter's Young AFCEAN Committee and served as its chairwoman in 2007. In January, she was named a Distinguished Young AFCEAN. Norris also served as the industry chairwoman of the Results Committee at the Management of Change Conference sponsored by the American Council for Technology and IAC.
"Definitely, it's tough to find the time to balance everything, but I think that's normal in life anyway," she said. "My career adds to what I can give to [organizations] like IAC and AFCEA, and AFCEA and IAC add to my ability to do my job and deliver."
"When you are involved in these organizations, it broadens your perspective," she added. "You hear about what's going on with other companies within the same agency you're working with, and you also hear about what other agencies are doing."
That awareness often leads to opportunities to sell Oracle's services and technologies to other agencies, she said. "The more aware I am of those other projects and the bigger picture, the more I can bring to my customers."
"A lot of people are getting involved in the government IT community because of the work that she's been doing," said Steve Krauss, a member of the first class of Rising Stars in 2006. "Angela has really emerged as a leader among her peers."
He called Norris the epitome of the Rising Star Award. "She is clearly rising in her career," Krauss said. "But more than that, she is doing it in a way in which she is clearly having an impact on the community that we're in."
Cal Shintani, a senior vice president at CACI International Inc., met Norris two years ago when he was chairman of the IAC Voyagers mentoring program. He watched her lead a group of participants that formed the Results Committee at this year's Management of Change Conference.
"Angela helped put all that together," he said. She was "very collaborative, very proactive, very much a leader by example. She's out in front, saying 'OK, here's the stuff I'm doing. Everyone else, what can you do to help?'"
Norris said her experiences in the Voyagers program whet her appetite for more. "I know there is a lot of ongoing participation both from the Voyagers and the partners," she said. "So I definitely plan to continue to be involved in that."
Norris excels at finding opportunities to collaborate with government, industry and other stakeholders. "She's always looking for input from others without appearing domineering," Shintani said.
David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.