2018 Government Innovation Awards

Rising Star: Henry Sowell

CIO, Hortonworks Federal, and Technical Director, Hortonworks

Henry Sowell 

At the FBI and later as CIO of Hortonworks Federal, Henry Sowell has dedicated his career to providing law enforcement with the most advanced technical tools to hunt down criminals.

A former Marine who earned a Bronze Star for his service in the Iraq War, Sowell has been invaluable in establishing trusted relationships with law enforcement and intelligence agencies as a contractor, said Shaun Bierweiler, vice president of Hortonworks’ U.S. public sector business.

While working in the FBI’s Cyber Division, Sowell received the Director’s Award for IT Excellence for his work on developing a social networking analytics platform. Eight years later, the bureau still uses many of the applications he helped develop.

“There are a lot of folks who are very academically intelligent on technology and are on the emerging, bleeding edge of understanding, and Henry is that,” Bierweiler said. “But he has the unique perspective and experience of having also been in the field and using [that technology] operationally.”

Colleagues at Hortonworks and the FBI say Sowell’s patient, professorial style and aptitude for big data make it easy to plug him into any project and find success. For example, he was assigned to the Defense Department’s Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization, which was over budget and behind schedule on many aspects of its operation. Sowell’s team developed a big-data solution that allowed JIDO to reevaluate the effectiveness of its workforce and policies and implement changes that reduced costs and boosted organizational efficiencies.

“He is incredibly patient,…taking very complex topics and making them make sense,” Bierweiler said. “He’s very good at making the complex seem digestible, and that’s really important for our customers.”

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