Tina Burnette, Acting Executive Director, Business Operations Services, Development, Security and Operations
Ms. Burnette is a results-oriented executive providing leadership, program management, risk management, and security to complex programs for 10 years across the Department of Veterans Affairs.
She describes her role as the executive leader over a diverse professional workforce using strategic planning, organizational evaluations and risk compliance to accomplish VA goals. She previously served in the Office of Information and Technology as the Executive Director of Acquisition and Category Management, Executive Director of Enterprise Service Operations, Executive Director of Enterprise Risk Management.
During her 30-year federal career, she has also served as Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Director of Acquisition and Program Planning, in addition to roles at the General Services Administration, the Department of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of the Navy.
Why is Women’s History Month important to you?
It wasn't that long ago when women couldn't vote and literally had to band together to activate any change. The women before us paved the way, so it is critical for us to recognize their contributions. Personally, it helps me feel motivated and empowered. Having two very independent daughters, I want them to always remember how far we've come and the art of the possible. They see no boundaries and feel empowered to do anything. I think it's important for their generation and the generations to come to recognize the sacrifices that were made.
How did you choose the IT field and why?
These days, it's hard to imagine doing any career that doesn’t intersect with technology. My own journey started after I graduated from college with a business degree. I joined the Department of the Navy and ended up working on a satellite technology program that delivered advanced technology to support national military strategies. I was completely fascinated with how we were able to improve the accuracy for the war fighter in support of national interest. I spent the next 30 years supporting a variety of activities, all technology related, but mostly focused on the business side.
My focus is supporting technology with federal sector industry partner helping them understand how they support federal technology requirements. I developed the first ever government-wide technology contract for the small and disadvantaged business community and coached industry on performance-based contracting, performance metrics, proposal writing, past performance, etc. I also was part of a team at the National Weather Service team that deployed the most modernized weather satellite system for that time. We were able to provide advance notification of disasters weather predictions that ultimately contributed to many life-saving weather events. Technology motivated me by allowing me to align my activities with tangible results.
I think it's important for people to understand that technology is multifaceted. You can offer and contribute your skill set in a variety of ways; it can be programming, security, finance, acquisition, the list goes on and on.
How do you think the women in OIT, specifically, make an impact on Veterans lives?
I think women have a unique skill set from men. We offer a perspective that is critical. More women are entering the market and more businesses are recruiting and promoting women in the workforce. There's no better example than a Harvard Business Review article that found women typically rate higher in building relationships, championing change, and motivating others than men. Those areas are important, especially to our Veteran community. Capitalizing on gender strengths and weaknesses is critical to compete in any market and support any customer. Veterans deserve that diversity and enhanced care.
Regarding VA’s Mission — “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan” by serving and honoring the men and women who are America's Veterans — how does this resonate with you and inform your work in OIT?
VA’s mission is very personal to me. My father graduated from West Point, fought in Vietnam, and the Korean War. He was recently buried at Arlington Cemetery and my great-uncles and my grandfather fought in World War II. This is my opportunity to do something to honor them and support our nation’s heroes — there’s no more rewarding calling in life. I've spent a lot of time in other federal agencies and each one has its own impact on citizens’ lives, but I’ve never felt such an admiration for a group of citizens as I do for our Veterans. Like anything, it can be very frustrating some days, but motivation comes quickly just by walking into a VA hospital waiting room and spend time talking to Veterans. They have some fascinating stories and what's always so interesting to me is that they don’t talk about sacrifice they focus mostly on the experience. They think they were just doing their own job and that kindness, and that selfless human response is very motivating for me.
What is your mantra for success?
I have several, but I do have a couple of favorites. I say always show up and be present. And whatever you do, throw yourself into it. When you come to the table to support something, give it your all, be present, listen, and be active so you can contribute and receive a better outcome. It's not only about launching your career, but it's about motivating the others around you and creating self-worth.
And then I would say: help others rise. As we reflect on Women's History Month, it’s important to understand how we support each other. Never miss an opportunity to mentor and pay it forward. We have a unique opportunity to help all those women who are just entering the market and we should really strive to find opportunities to give advice and offer assistance. I've been very fortunate in my life to have had very successful, strong role models that I could rely on to mentor and coach me. I'm thankful for that support and I really believe it contributed to my success in my career.
What advice would you give women entering the tech field? Is there anything that you wish you had known?
I wish I had known the importance of continuous learning early on to prepare for the fast pace world of technology. Technology moves so quickly — you can’t even pause or blink for a minute or you will become archaic. So, creating a continuous learning environment in this field is critical. Take online classes or certifications to make yourself marketable and appealing to the workforce of your choosing.
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.