Federal Reserve CIO explains technology’s role in agency’s COVID-19 response

Technology played an important role in the Federal Reserves response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ghada Ijam, Federal Reserve System CIO joined Aileen Black on Leaders and Legends to discuss the need for technical leaders to partner with business owners and how technology was leveraged to keep the Federal Reserve System running during the COVID-19 crisis.

Interview Highlights:

  • Ijam shared her perspective that to be a successful leader you need to consider the situation. “Leadership is situational”, she said and added that you need to alter your approach depending on the situation and mission. Ijam early in her career worked for Intel and she recalls, Andy Groves saying, “Only the paranoid survive”. Ijam said “change is constant and a great leader needs to be always scanning the situation and adapt to be current”. Specifically as a tech leader, she said you need to engage with the business and be sure you lead with a results orientation. Ijam pointed out you should “lead with results as the goal and hold your team accountable to the results that matter”.
  • When asked about women and leadership, Ijam said she has had the opportunity to work with many brilliant leaders both men and women. One of the things she enjoys about the Federal Reserve System is it is a great place for women leaders. Ijam named a few women leaders she admired at the Federal Reserve, including Lael Brainard a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, Esther George, president of the Kansas City Bank, Loretta Mester, president of the Cleveland Bank, and Mary Daly, president of the San Francisco Bank. “The Federal Reserve has a strong commitment to diversity”, Ijam said and “it shows with the diversity in its leadership”. Ijam also provided a few links that maybe helpful if you would like to learn more about the Federal Reserve and it’s commitment to diversity:

-Fed Careers: https://www.federalreserve.gov/careers.htm

-About the Fed: https://www.federalreserve.gov/aboutthefed.htm

-Fed’s Commitment to Diversity: https://www.federalreserve.gov/aboutthefed/diversityinclusion.htm

-Upcoming Women in Banking Symposium: https://www.richmondfed.org/press_room/our_news/2020/20201002_womeninbanking

  • Ijam talked about the role technology played in keeping the Federal Reserve System working during the COID-19 crisis. The pandemic took the bank from having 3 to 4 thousand employees a day teleworking to over 22,000. Under her leadership her team quickly assessed what was needed to support this change and her team embraced the sense of urgency. “Communications consistently was the key” she said and she added that users have different levels of technical abilities that need to be addressed if everyone is going to be able to work under this new normal. Ijam said her team realized early that it was important to make cheat sheets and tutorials to support everyone no matter what level of technical expertise they were to ensure success in this new telework environment.
  • Ijam closed the show with advice for the next generations. She said “Bring your authentic self to the table. You need to operate as who you are, if you can’t there is a mismatch and you maybe in the wrong place”.

Ghada Ijam is the Federal Reserve System Chief Information Officer (CIO). In this capacity, she oversees the system IT strategy, IT investment and spending, and enterprise information security. She also directs the management of national IT operations, project services, and enterprise architecture and standards.

Prior to her promotion in January 2020, Ijam served as chief operating officer for National IT and had end-to-end responsibility for the Fed’s centralized IT infrastructure and end user services, driving excellence in project, program and portfolio practices, and improving the IT partnership with Fed business lines and Reserve Banks.

Before joining National IT in November 2017, Ijam was the chief information officer (CIO) at the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak). As Amtrak’s executive IT leader, she drove the company’s customer experience, digital and data analytics strategies, and IT centralization efforts.

Ijam has more than 20 years of experience delivering results through leading complex initiatives and running IT like a business. She excels in building strategic alliances with customers, focusing on mission goals, aligning people and managing technology portfolios. Prior to Amtrak, Ijam worked for 12 years at Intel, managing and directing global teams. She also previously served in a variety of roles with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and U.S. Bancorp.

Ijam serves on the Board of Directors of Goodwill of Greater Washington, D.C., and is a member of Women in Technology. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Kuwait University, and an MBA in Financial Management from Virginia Tech.

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Leaders and Legends

Leaders and Legends

Host Aileen Black interviews federal leaders who have left their mark on government and made a lasting imprint on the nation. Hear what goes on behind the scenes in the nation's capital and why working for the federal government is so unique. Subscribe on PodcastOne.

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