Published on December 21, 2023, 6:12 am

The Federal Reserve System’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), Ghada Ijam, recently shared her strategies for leading IT in a complex, multi-layered organization. As the CIO, Ijam is responsible for overseeing technology and cybersecurity professionals within the Federal Reserve System.

One of the key challenges Ijam faces is navigating the complexities of managing IT within a federated organization. To address this challenge, she emphasizes collaboration and innovation to shape the Fed’s digital future. She works closely with leaders across the Reserve Banks and centralized service providers to ensure fast and flexible IT delivery, improved digital ways of working, and better insights for decision-making in support of the Fed’s public mission.

During an episode of the Tech Whisperers podcast, Ijam discussed how she builds credibility and trust with her team and other stakeholders. She believes in being open and upfront about who she is as a human being and a leader when joining a new organization. This approach allows team members to understand her leadership style and fosters open communication. Additionally, she ensures that her actions align with her words to reinforce trust.

Ijam also highlighted the importance of leading with attributes such as humility and empathy while also holding people accountable for their work. She focuses on inspiring her team by emphasizing their contribution to achieving organizational goals. By making them feel part of the solution and connecting their work to the mission, they become more engaged, putting both their hearts and minds into delivering results. At the same time, she maintains a culture of humility and empathy.

Remaining calm in challenging situations is another strength attributed to Ijam by Louise Willard, CIO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Ijam attributes her calmness to being energized by her team’s work and opportunities for growth. She believes that consistency in leadership is vital; when leaders show up consistently focused, stable, and methodical rather than chaotic or paranoid, they create an environment conducive to productivity.

In addition to remaining calm, Ijam emphasizes the importance of taking care of oneself. Leaders who neglect self-care can inadvertently create chaos and instability. By prioritizing personal well-being, they can lead with clarity and energy.

Balancing innovation with security is another significant challenge for leaders in today’s organizations. Ijam acknowledges the need to strike a balance between driving innovation and protecting the organization. At the Fed, they adopt a risk-based approach to evaluate emerging technologies. Instead of immediately dismissing unfamiliar technologies, they assess whether the risks of not adopting them outweigh potential benefits.

Lastly, Ijam discusses strategies for attracting and retaining talent at the Federal Reserve System. She highlights the organization’s rich career path for technology professionals and its transformation strategy that introduces new technologies and agile ways of working. The opportunity to be part of an organization that handles critical systems like Treasury auctions and payment systems is also enticing for tech professionals.

In summary, Ghada Ijam utilizes her leadership playbook to navigate IT complexities within the Federal Reserve System successfully. Her strategies include building trust through openness, leading with humility and empathy while emphasizing accountability, maintaining calmness while energizing her team, balancing innovation with security, and attracting top IT talent through a compelling employee value proposition.

For further insights into Ghada Ijam’s leadership journey and playbook, you can tune in to the Tech Whisperers podcast hosted by Dan Roberts.

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