Women in IT: Chakakhon Lea
To celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, the Office of Information and Technology (OIT) is highlighting several women across the organization who are dedicated to advancing our mission to create the best experience for all Veterans.
Ms. Chakakhon Lea is the Deputy Director for OIT’s Account Management Office Operations. As a Veteran, Ms. Lea always asks herself, “How is the work I am doing today effecting and impacting the lives of our American heroes?” She keeps Veterans’ impact as the focal point of her work, knowing that OIT’s efforts will enhance a Veteran’s experience. Working at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has opened several windows for Ms. Lea, including the amazing opportunity she had to co-author the VA Building Trust with Women Veterans Journey Map and Storybook. The experience allowed her to make a direct impact and build trust with women Veterans by capturing their voice and the “moments that matter most” as they navigated a complex VA system. The outcome of this work allowed her to understand the pain points and improve women Veterans’ experiences on a national, regional, and local level. Read on to learn about Ms. Lea’s experience as a female leader in IT.
Why do you celebrate Women’s History Month?
Before President Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980 as National Women’s History Week, the contributions of woman to the American government and society were always evident. As a woman, I am a student and benefactor of those contributions, which allow me to explore opportunities to create my own mark in women’s history.
What has helped you become a strong woman in leadership at VA?
I once believed that a great leader shouldn't expose their feelings at work, because it would represent weakness, especially if coming from a woman. As I have grown, I see my emotion, passion, and compassion as valuable assets, not things to be ignored or hidden. In my role of improving the customer experience, the key difference between customer service and customer experience is EMOTION. By openly sharing my experiences, failures, and success, I’m encouraging, motivating, and empowering other women to become their “best self.”
How does OIT empower women?
In recent years, I have seen a tremendous shift in efforts to empower women, especially those who are Veterans. This is evident through the VA Center of Women Veterans “I Am Not Invisible” campaign, which aims to spotlight the many diverse faces and contributions of woman Veterans. Additionally, VA has positioned women in key leadership positions. For example, the previous three VA Chief of Staff positions were held by women.
What advice would you give the young women who will be part of the next generation’s OIT culture?
The key is confidence in all your resources and abilities, not just those represented on paper. Stay true to yourself, be a servant leader that leads from the heart and the head.
What do you like about working in OIT?
I enjoy the innovation and being a part of a VA today that will look and feel totally different in 30 years when I become a Veteran “super end user” of VA services.