Women in IT: Susan Perez
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. Susan Perez is both the OIT Chief of Staff and the Executive Director of the new Office of IT Program Integration (ITPI). Leveraging almost 30 years of Federal experience, she ensures the success of OIT’s top priorities, including modernized health care, expanded education benefits, and VA’s Digital Transformation efforts. Ms. Perez created and oversees ITPI to improve unity of mission and cross-agency cooperation while supervising the expansion of OIT’s business office, program integration, strategic communication, and cyber workforce management. She is an advocate for team integration who challenges the status quo to drive efficiency, decrease collaborative friction, and improve workplace conditions for her employees. Read on to learn about Ms. Perez’s experience as a woman in an executive position in OIT.
What do you like about working in OIT?
I work with and personally know many Veterans, so Veterans Affairs’ (VA) mission is extremely important to me. Throughout my years in VA, the Veterans Benefits Association (VBA), and OIT, I’ve had the privilege of working on projects like automating the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s claims processing capacity and leading the Integrated Electronic Health Record Program, which let me partner closely with colleagues at the Department of Defense to find ways to transform health care delivery for Veterans. I’ve gotten to see firsthand the impact my work has had on Veteran family, friends, coworkers, and Veterans across the country, and I see that it really does make a difference in peoples’ lives.
How does OIT empower women?
In VA, we’re committed to not only recruiting a talented, diverse workforce, but maintaining them as well. We’re always looking for opportunities to reskill, cross-train, and educate our employees, no matter where they come from or what their background is. For example, I began my federal career in a VBA Regional Office, then moved to Data and Information Services. From there I moved to OIT and have held several positions within multiple divisions and the Front Office. I’ve had the privilege of learning about every aspect of the work we do here, from the way we partner with our business customers to the ways we provide IT service directly to VA employees out in the field. In that way, I think VA is the perfect organization for women in IT — you can explore to find the role that works for you or expands your skillset in ways you wouldn’t be able to at other organizations.
What makes you proud of the women you work with at OIT?
Only 20 percent of the IT positions in the private sector are held by women, and OIT’s score is only slightly higher at 26 percent. I’m so proud of the women who work here in OIT with me because we’re an active part of the process of evening out those numbers — getting more women into STEM careers and getting female voices heard in a male dominated field. IT can be tough, but the women of OIT are the best of the best and we work hard every day not only to make waves in our industry, but to serve those who need us most: our nation’s Veterans.
What advice would you give to the young women who will be part of the next generation’s OIT culture?
The best advice I can give is to get involved. If you have an idea or an opinion, speak up and make it known! The best way to affect positive change is to be a force for it yourself. That’s why I stood behind ITPI; I noticed a need for better cross-organizational communication and unity and I found a way to address that need. If I hadn’t spoken up about the issues I was seeing, that might never have happened.
Why do you think it’s important to create a space for women in the IT field?
Because we belong here, too. It’s as simple as that.