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Winning With Women Wednesday: An Interview With Karen Evans, National Director, US Cyber Challenge

An Interviw With Karen Evans,National Director,US Cyber Challenge

Karen S. Evans is servicing as the National Director for the US Cyber Challenge (USCC). The USCC is the nationwide talent search and skills development program focused specifically on the cyber workforce. She serves as an independent director and outside manager for publicly traded companies as well as a Voice of Authority for, an on-line forum specifically focused on cloud computing policy issues. She is also an independent consultant in the areas of leadership, management and the strategic use of information technology. She retired after nearly 28 years of federal government service with responsibilities ranging from a GS-2 to Presidential Appointee as the Administrator for E-Government and Information Technology at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) within the Executive Office of the President. She oversaw the federal IT budget of nearly $71 billion which included implementation of IT throughout the federal government. This included advising the Director of OMB on the performance of IT investments, overseeing the development of enterprise architectures within and across the agencies, directing the activities of the Chief Information Officers (CIO) Council, and overseeing the usage of the E-Government Fund to support interagency partnerships and innovation. She also had responsibilities in the areas of capital planning and investment control, information security, privacy and accessibility of IT for persons with disabilities, and access to, dissemination of, and preservation of government information. Included in her accomplishments are making IPv6, HSPD-12, and SmartBUY (which is leveraging the federal government requirements) a reality; elevating the importance of transparency with the publication of the Management Watch List and High Risk List projects; increasing the focus on cybersecurity to include the Federal Desktop Core Configuration for the government; and balancing the expanded use of technology for citizen services with increasing demands for privacy.

Prior to becoming the Administrator, Ms. Evans was the Chief Information Officer for the Department of Energy. There she was responsible for the design, implementation, and continuing successful operation of IT programs and initiatives throughout the Department. During this time, she was the Vice-Chairman of the Federal CIO Council. Elected to the post in December 2002, she coordinated the Council’s efforts in developing federal IT programs and improving agency information resources practices.

Before joining Energy, she was Director, Information Resources Management Division, Office of Justice Programs (OJP), U.S. Department of Justice, where she was responsible for the management and successful operation of the IT program. OJP’s bureaus and offices provide funding opportunities for initiatives such as Safe Schools, Safe Start Program, Community Prosecution, Native American Tribal Courts and other programs of high local, state and national interest. Key accomplishments included the implementation of an on-line grants management system to process grants from discretionary, formula and large block grants programs, to streamlining capabilities to ensure for the expeditious processing of claims benefits to families of public safety officers after the September 11th attacks.

She currently serves as a Director on the boards of the NIC, Inc; Center for Internet Security; The Department of Veterans Affairs Acquisition Academy and outside manager for Accenture Federal Services and is advisory board member for several information technology companies. In addition, she chaired the West Virginia University MBA Advisory Board where she was inducted to the roll of distinguished alumni.

Recent honors also include Heroines of Washington, election to National Academy of Public Administration and the University of Maryland University College’s Cybersecurity Leadership Award.

She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and a Master of Business Administration degree from West Virginia University. She resides in Martinsburg, WV with husband, Randy and her two children, Jake and Samantha.

Get to know Karen

Name: Karen S. Evans
Age: 56
Education: MBA from West Virginia University; BA in Chemistry from West Virginia University
Organization(s): US Cyber Challenge (USCC)
Position: National Director
Time with the Organization: Since inception which is 2009
Organization headquarters: The USCC is a program of the Center for Internet Security located in Albany, NY

1. Karen, please share with us what your current position as Director of the US Cyber Challenge entails?

I am the “chief” organizer, evangelist, worker etc. for the activities of the USCC.

2. What is the US Cyber Challenge?

The mission of U.S. Cyber Challenge (USCC) is to significantly reduce the shortage in today’s cyber workforce by serving as the premier program to identify, attract, recruit and place the next generation of cybersecurity professionals. USCC’s goal is to find 10,000 of America’s best and brightest to fill the ranks of cybersecurity professionals where their skills can be of the greatest value to the nation.

3. Saw that you are also a Partner at KE&T Partners, LLC how did that organization come about?

This is my private consulting business which I established upon my retirement from federal service. I have a few strategic clients and I also serve as Director on Boards.

4. What was the hardest challenge you encountered during your time as Director for the US Cyber Challenge?

It is developing a sustainable business model for the activities showing value to your potential partners.

5. How do you overcome obstacles?

Having a clear business case which includes outcomes with supporting metrics to measure our success.

6. If you are speaking to an audience of women MBA students, what three pieces of advice would you give them?

  1. If you are going to be married, then, decide who’s career is the primary career before there are any major career decisions to be made. There truly can be only one primary career. My career was NOT the primary career in our marriage.
  2. If you make a decision not to participate in a family event (for example, going to a school play) then, don’t second guess yourself and make yourself feel guilty that you did not do the family event. Be secure in the decision.
  3. If you think there is a glass ceiling, then, there is a glass ceiling. You just need to be best you can be in your field and you will succeed.

7. In 2014, Sheryl Sandberg launched a campaign to ban the word “Bossy” to empower girls to lead. How can women manage the perceptions around assertiveness or being labeled “bossy”, particularly when they are often judged more harshly than men?

Women need to remember that being the best at what you do, allows for the leadership to shine through. It is a matter of being confident that you are the best!