“Good communication among team members is important
to any project, but in my work it can literally be a matter of
national security. Team members can’t be cowboys. They
have to keep others in the loop on what they’re doing.”
How did you get
started in tech?
I worked in radio in
college, and I learned
to fix electronics,
because there was
nobody else to do
it when I was in the
studio at all hours.
the small towns of
Western Europe and
stopping at bistros,
enjoying a coffee
and a cheese plate,
watching the world
a given project, and ask various team members to
take the lead on those areas. By asking them to be
accountable, I can ensure that each team member
takes ownership of his or her part and drills down
to the bedrock of really knowing that piece and
making sure it is as good as it can be. Then I work
to combine all of the pieces into a final whole.
We’ve all had micromanagers, and people are
left feeling like they don’t have a say in the outcome of what they’re doing. You want people who
work for you to love what they’re doing, and the
way to get there is to give them space to figure out
how to get from point A to point B.
What skills do you look for in project
I’d much rather have a team player with technical skills on my team than someone with a slew of
PhD degrees who can’t get along with others or
take direction. Some tech people have a tendency
to want to work completely alone and stay focused
deeply in their part of the project. That is great,
but they also have to let others point out things
they may not see. Everybody has blind spots. We
need people who can work collaboratively and can
set aside their egos when someone else sees something they might have missed.
I also need people who understand that while
You’ve worked on cybersecurity projects in
computer code can, indeed, be “art” when written
eloquently, the key for us is practicality, not aes-
thetic beauty. Security comes first, even if that pro-
duces something a bit more cumbersome to use.
The best talent can find a good balance between
usability and security.
both the public and private sectors. Do you
have any advice for managing client expec-
tations in both?
Whether the client is a large corporation or a
government agency, you can’t waste time trying to
explain your way to a full agreement. Find a point
of compromise and move on. Also, as a manager,
I understand tech and how to explain it to clients,
since many engineers are not really able to make
non-tech people understand what they do.
How do you deal with project setbacks?
I don’t look at setbacks during project implementation as failures. Instead, I use the lessons learned
to adapt and make the project better in the end.
The good thing about [security bug] Heartbleed,
for instance, is that it made people more aware of
their own vulnerabilities. Having decision-makers
get a sense of just how vulnerable they can be
helps when we need to explain and get buy-in on
more layers of security in their systems. PM
The views expressed in this article are those of Tyler Cohen Wood and
do not represent the views of her agency or the U. S. government.