Women of Color Magazine recently selected La’Naia Jones as a national “2020 Technology All-Star” in honor of her leadership and impact in the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). Ms. Jones—who joined NSA in 2002, served in many technical and leadership positions, and deployed to multiple hostile areas—is currently serving as Acting Chief Information Officer (CIO) at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).
Ms. Jones is among a highly distinguished group of women leaders with diverse backgrounds—from academia, Fortune 500 companies, and other government agencies—who are being honored for their achievements, innovation, and inspiration in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine.
As an NSA employee working at ODNI, Ms. Jones was in a position to observe that, “IC organizations are more alike than they are different. They all share similar qualities in striving to be the best in their areas of expertise and they all place a high value on intelligence.”
After earning degrees in technology management, mathematics, and computer science, Ms. Jones felt compelled to serve the nation and make an impact following the terrorist attacks of 11 September, 2001. Since day one, she’s made her mark in the Information Technology (IT) environment, gaining an up-close view of technological development and IT capabilities across the IC, including advancements that many doubted the IC could ever incorporate, such as email and the internet, to smartphones and wireless capabilities, to operating in the cloud.
“Technology enables us to break outside the mold and have access to data that wasn’t originally possible,” she said. “Within the IC, I see technology not only as an enabler, but also as a force multiplier. The IC CIO can work with any other office and help them improve their operations.”
As a leader and technology professional, Ms. Jones has been a force-multiplier herself. In her nearly 20-year IC career, Jones has led several high-impact projects, delivering full-spectrum IT services to stakeholders, customers, and partners in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Working and living internationally on behalf of the U.S. Government showed Ms. Jones a world she never imagined.
“It was amazing to see how other people live and work, as well as hear languages from different cultures. It was a gratifying experience,” she said.
“When I first received the email (notifying me of the award), I was surprised,” she admitted, recognizing that such programs might understandably be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “After getting over the initial surprise, I was, of course, very excited and humbled.”
The opportunities afforded to Ms. Jones in the IC have not been lost on her.
“As a double minority, the IC has allowed me to have a voice and be part of a conversation that I might not have had in other environments,” she said.
Moving forward, Ms. Jones is hopeful the IC will demonstrate a continued commitment to driving diversity and inclusion.
“It’s important that the IC fosters diversity of thought, experience and backgrounds. This broadens all of our perspectives,” she said. “I am always learning and growing from others, and I’ve often viewed my career more of a journey than a destination.”
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