Secret to her success: Hayes-Ryan gains confidence through peers

Karyn Hayes-Ryan taps the wisdom of friends

 WIT's new book, “No One Path,” is a collection of affectionate, but no less affecting, profiles of technology professionals who happen to be women. The 48 women profiled in the book reflect the many ways women have demonstrated leadership in science and technology — fields that, more than most, have long been the domain of men.

Here is an excerpt from the profile of Karyn Hayes-Ryan, as told to Althea Blackwell.

On her current job: Karyn Hayes-Ryan, director of commercial imagery, data and programs at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, advanced through the hierarchy of the male-dominated government technology industry. Like many women, she balances the daily demands of family — two children and a supportive spouse — with the demands of the workplace — 5,000 employees, 200 programs on the ground and 200 in space.

Women in government IT

Janice Cuny, National Science Foundation's Broadening Participation in Computing Program

Susan Keen, Navy's Enterprise Resource Planning Program

Deborah Loudon, Defense Department's National Reconnaissance Office

On her early mentors: One of her first mentors was her first boss, who happened to be a male. Danny Neal helped her demand respect and display confidence to much older military male co-workers. He also demonstrated to his employees that he was a great father, involved in nurturing and caring for his children.

Another work mentor was Carol Staubach, who pushed all her employees to seek job opportunities and take risks, while always supplying a safety net to allow them to come back and work for her.

On her support system: She calls it the “girl zone,” a group of women friends from different educational, ethnic and work backgrounds. This group meets frequently to network, share ideas and support one another. They help one another cope with life events associated with being a professional woman, girlfriend or mother.

On aspirations for leadership: Demonstrate integrity — be honest with yourself and stay true to your goals. Embrace diversity and profit from differences and similarities that other employees bring to an organization. Cultural diversity in the workplace promotes increased productivity, builds stronger alliances and enhances teamwork.

On being a leader: Holding to her integrity through the successes, challenges and failures — and merging her experience and skills with lessons from her mentors — is what helped her become an effective leader.

She continues to advance her career by adapting to the changing global and political environment, always addressing greater complexities at multiple levels.


Althea Blackwell is a self-proclaimed “geekette” who writes about government technology and produces a cable show and YouTube channel about technology.

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