OIT Icons: Impactful Women Advancing VA’s Mission showcases the talent and dedication of our diverse workforce.
Royce Allen, Director, Enterprise Security Architecture, OIS
Royce Allen began her Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) career in the Office of Information Security (OIS) four years ago. Prior to the VA, Ms. Allen served in the United States Army for 7 years and the Army Reserves for 2 years. Ms. Allen was an Office of Oversight and Compliance Chief for the National Security Agency (NSA). While at NSA, Ms. Allen broke barriers as the first woman of color, Chief Information Assurance/Cybersecurity Compliance Officer, where she was responsible for global cybersecurity compliance. With a 23-year tenure in the cybersecurity field, Ms. Allen currently serves as VA’s Chief Security Architect, Cloud Security Lead, and Director of the Enterprise Security Architecture (ESA) team responsible for defining VA’s cybersecurity posture, standards, and requirements. Wearing numerus hats, Ms. Allen found time to video-chat with us and share her thoughts on women in IT.
Q: Why is Women’s History Month important to you?
A: Women’s History Month is one month out of the year where we get to celebrate women and their accomplishments, no matter how small or large they are. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or Chief Executive Officer at a company. The work that women do and that they juggle day-to-day is important and significant.
The theme for Women’s History Month this year is to be valiant, to show courage and determination. I think women in IT, in the federal government, showing up every day, exemplifies courage. For women in IT, it’s important that we work from school age and on up to encourage young ladies at an early age to chase science, technology, engineering, and math careers. As I examine my journey and where I am today and where I am going, I think that’s what women’s history month does – it helps us reflect and look at where we came from, where we are, and where we continue to go. I don’t think our work is ever complete.
Q: How did you choose the IT field and why?
A: Initially I was working in other fields and positions, including working in document controls, physical security, and being an executive assistant. While assigned to the National Reconnaissance Office, I started working with a system administrator who was short-staffed. I worked alongside him on my personal time, during lunch, before and after work, and whenever I could find the time. I enjoyed it so much, it led to a significant career change.
While in undergrad, I enrolled in a continuing education program under the Microsoft System Engineering Certification Program, which encouraged me to further my journey in IT. From there, I took another job as a System Administrator, Network Administrator, and Information Security Officer. In 2009, I switched over to work for the National Security Agency (NSA), in which I accepted a position as the Division Chief over Information Security Engineering and Scalable Analytics. When I left NSA, I was the first woman of color Chief Information Assurance/Cybersecurity Compliance Officer responsible for cybersecurity compliance globally. I love cybersecurity.
Q: How do women in OIT make an impact on Veteran lives?
A: First and foremost, I think they represent change. Everything they do – from that initial request we get from the Secretary, to making sure we engage, implement, and operate in accordance with the core values that have been laid out, to ensuring Veterans continuously have emerging technology – impacts Veterans’ lives. Women are informed, continue to embrace, learn, and take on challenging jobs, stay abreast of emerging technology, and are creative and innovative. Be your own advocate and manage your trajectory. Women in OIT make an impact on Veteran lives by continuing to explore new ways to implement solutions and protections in security and privacy.
Q: Regarding VA’s Mission — “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” — how does this resonate with you and inform your work in OIT?
I am a Veteran, so this mission is very critical and important to me. My first seven years in the military, I was stationed on infantry bases; I saw people coming and going, and some people I saw never come back. So, when I go to the commissary, or I’m on the street and see and wounded Veteran, or when I’m speaking to my friends who have served 30-plus years, I don’t want their frustration to be that we didn’t do our job, and that we didn’t make the right choices. I want to be a part of the team that introduces new technology that make their lives easier. I want my actions to be instrumental in showing that they are the Department’s priority. What we do at the VA is just a small token of appreciation.
Q: What is your mantra for success?
My mantra is keep pushing, don’t stop, no matter how hard it gets. Keep pushing through those barriers and walls, keep looking for alternative ways to solve a problem, continue to learn from people and receive knowledge from others. My mantra is “keep pushing, don’t stop,” because it takes me back to when I was in the military where they always set us up by ability groups, and when you have to run those hills and just want to stop and you’re in pain, you say, “I can’t stop, keep moving.”
Q: What advice would you give women entering the tech field? Is there anything that you wish you had known?
The advice I would give other women entering the tech field is to collaborate and team with other women and find a mentor or coach who can help navigate your strengths and weaknesses. Know your strengths, learn your trade, and study it. Know and understand the responsibilities of others — meaning don’t just learn your job, learn theirs also so when decisions are made the full impact is understood. I wish I’d known how important the lessons I was taught at a young age would be, for me, today.
Our commitment to digital and IT transformation is shaped by daily dedication to customer service and the close collaboration of our workforce, managers, and leaders. Ready to join us in improving Veterans’ care? Check out all current information and technology career opportunities on DigitalVA. You can also contact VA’s Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer at 512-326-6600, Monday thru Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST or by submitting a resume to VACareers@va.gov.