2015 Rising Star Awards
Senior project manager at the U.S. Forest Service, Agriculture Department
- By Zach Noble
- Nov 23, 2015
Teresa Rodriguez might have gotten into government IT as the result of a bit of a misunderstanding, but now she's tackling challenges with a vengeance.
She earned a degree in criminal justice from the University of New Mexico, then wound up working in human resources in the private sector. Soon, however, she found herself drawn to tech.
"I knew the front end of HR," she recalled. "I wanted to know the back end."
So Rodriguez dove into the Lawson HR software her firm used. At the time, she thought she was implementing the system, though she later realized she was actually doing end-user testing. That misunderstanding helped her land her next job: Because she put "implemented" on her resume, she was brought in as a consultant to help the Albuquerque, N.M., public school system deploy Lawson.
She quickly realized her mistake, but she powered through the steep learning curve. "It was a huge growth spurt for me, but I loved it," Rodriguez said.
That same spirit has characterized her latest job leading a U.S. Forest Service team.
In the past year, Rodriguez has spearheaded 10 initiatives, including a system for onboarding new employees, a performance management system and the first integrated safety and workers' compensation system implemented in the federal government. Called eSafety, it was so important that President Barack Obama was briefed on the project.
Rodriguez, however, is quick to credit colleagues for her successes.
"I feel that I'm only as good as my team," she said. Learning to trust one's partners, she added, can be the hardest part of any project, but she has come to value her small, six-person team inestimably.
And she's happy to have joined the feds after starting her career in the private sector. "I'll finish my career in federal service," Rodriguez pledged.
Zach Noble is a former FCW staff writer.