Renee Wynn: NASA’s Pioneering CIO Shares her Thoughts on Diversity and Data

There are few people more surprised to find themselves as a CIO than NASA’s Renee Wynn. With a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and a career focused on decidedly terrestrial issues at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Wynn shared her unusual career trajectory and thoughts about how diverse perspectives can help drive success during the plenary session at ServiceNow’s recent Federal Forum.

In response to the gentle ribbing from session host, Bob Osborn, CTO for ServiceNow, about her unusual background, Wynn commented that the very essence of NASA’s mission and vision were about the interface between the human and the technical and that “capturing hearts and minds” is actually a fundamental task of a CIO. “Getting the new tech is easy, but getting people on board is the hard task,” she noted, especially in an agency with more than its fair share of technically-minded employees.

Wynn’s background is not the only unusual thing that she brings to NASA and the federal CIO corps. She can also find value in the much maligned legacy IT. “Not all legacy IT is bad,” she said, pointing to a number of missions that have far exceeded their original scope. Wynn quipped that “NASA has a lot of highly useful legacy IT” that’s helping bring back images from space and “very cool data for our scientists to discover things that have never been discovered before.”

However, that leniency towards legacy IT doesn’t extended to systems that puts a burdens NASA’s scientists and support teams. “Over the last 3 years our Shared Services Center (NSSC) has defined, structured and automated more than 50 services for IT, human resources, finance, grants, procurement and other support functions, which has removed often time-consuming manual processes in areas such as IT service management (ITSM) and streamlined the award and administration of research, education, training, and facility grants.”

In making data-driven decisions about where to invest in IT modernization and where to support older applications and systems that are still delivering value, Wynn is clearly leading NASA to a bright future.

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