Government Innovation Awards

Congratulations to the 2019 Rising Stars

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Each year, the Rising Star Awards recognize individuals who are early in their federal IT careers yet already are having an outsized impact. The women and men listed below have been selected both for their accomplishments over the past year and for their leadership potential in this community.

These awards are part of our larger Government Innovation Awards program. A joint effort of FCW, GCN, Washington Technology and Defense Systems, these awards also recognize the companies supporting the government’s transformation and the most innovative technology initiatives across the public sector.

The Public Sector Innovation winners were announced today as well; the 2019 Industry Innovators will be revealed in the coming days.  You can learn more about the overall Government Innovation Awards here.

We'll be running full profiles of the 2019 Rising Stars this fall, and the winners will be honored in person at the Nov. 7 Government Innovation Awards dinner. Until then, here's a quick salute this year's winners — 21 individuals we're confident you'll be hearing about for years to come:

  • Brecken W. Auchterlonie
    Business Development Manager
  • Kevin E. Brisley
    Manpower Analyst / Senior Human Resources Manager
    Command, Control, Communications and Cyber Systems Directorate, U.S. Transportation Command
  • Kaitlin I. Bulavinetz
    Managing Director
    Washington Cyber Roundtable
  • Will Cahoe
    Projects Coordinator, 10x
    General Services Administration
  • Gilberto Castro
    Global Networking Manager
    Georgetown University
  • David Catanoso
    Director, Enterprise Cloud Solutions Office, Dept of Veterans Affairs
    Department of Veteran Affairs
  • Taylor K. Chott
    Data Scientist
  • Anna Cordrey
    Deputy Program Manager
  • Mahtab Emdadi
    Regional Sales Director
    Dell Technologies
  • Omid Ghaffari-Tabrizi
    Acquisitions Lead
    Centers of Excellence, General Services Administration
  • Ryan V. Hendricks
    USA Performance Product Development Supervisor
    Office of Personnel Management
  • Dr. Leonie Heyworth
    Director of Synchronous Telehealth, VHA Office of Connected Care/ Telehealth Services, Department of Veterans Affairs
    Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Michelle Johnson
    Communications Manager, Senior Research Analyst
    Section 809 Panel, Defense Acquisition University
  • Samer Madarani
    Partner Account Director - Partnership Development
    Dovel Technologies
  • Ellen Nadeau
    Deputy Manager, Privacy Framework
    National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • Lt. Jason A. Pawlak
    Cyber Battle Captain
    U.S. Transportation Command
  • Jonathan Riksen
    Associate Partner & Client Leader
  • Christopher Rorvig
    Senior Consultant, Consulting Services
    CGI Federal
  • Blake M. Scates
    Digital Program Manager
    Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Robert G. Sheldon
    Head of Technology Strategy, Public Sector
  • Travis Sorensen
    Oddball, Inc.

About the Author

Troy K. Schneider is editor-in-chief of FCW and GCN, as well as General Manager of Public Sector 360.

Prior to joining 1105 Media in 2012, Schneider was the New America Foundation’s Director of Media & Technology, and before that was Managing Director for Electronic Publishing at the Atlantic Media Company. The founding editor of, Schneider also helped launch the political site in the mid-1990s, and worked on the earliest online efforts of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his career in print journalism, and has written for a wide range of publications, including The New York Times,, Slate, Politico, National Journal, Governing, and many of the other titles listed above.

Schneider is a graduate of Indiana University, where his emphases were journalism, business and religious studies.

Click here for previous articles by Schneider, or connect with him on Twitter: @troyschneider.


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