A Leader, Learner and ‘Technology All-Star’: La’Naia Jones, Acting IC CIO
July 15, 2020
Last month, Women of Color magazine selected La’Naia Jones, the Acting Chief Information Officer (CIO), as a national “2020 Technology All-Star” in recognition of her leadership and impact in the U.S. Intelligence Community. She joins a highly distinguished group of women leaders with diverse backgrounds—from academia, Fortune 500 companies, and other government agencies—who are being honored for their achievements, innovation, and inspiration in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine.
Being innovative and inspiring are in Jones’s DNA. As a lifelong problem solver, “I’ve always enjoyed breaking things down then rebuilding them to be even better,” she said in a recent phone interview.
After earning degrees in technology management, mathematics, and computer science, Jones felt compelled to serve the nation and make an impact following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Since day one, she’s made her mark in the Information Technology (IT) Environment, gaining an up-close view of technological development and IT capabilities across the IC—advancements that many doubted the IC could ever incorporate, from email and the Internet, to smart phones and wireless capabilities, to operating in the cloud.
“Technology enables us to break outside the mold and have access to data that wasn’t originally possible,” she said. “Within the IC, I see technology not only as an enabler, but also as a force multiplier. The IC CIO can work with any other office and help them improve their operations.”
As a leader and technology professional, Jones has been a force-multiplier herself. In her close to 20-year IC career, Jones has led several high-impact projects, delivering full-spectrum IT services to stakeholders, customers, and partners in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Working and living internationally on behalf of the U.S. Government showed Jones a world she never imagined. “It was amazing to see how other people live and work, as well as hear languages from different cultures. It was a gratifying experience,” she said.
Leading and inspiring others has extended beyond the IC for Jones. Over the years, she has gained a deep appreciation of Women of Color and the mission of its parent organization, Career Communications Group, Inc., which strives to increase professional opportunities for minorities with science and technical skills. She has hosted panel discussions, participated in sessions at the organization’s BEYA STEM Conference, and volunteered her time, serving as an IC liaison to encourage, recruit, and be an example to other professionals and rising leaders.
“When I first received the email (notifying me of the award), I was surprised,” she admitted, recognizing that such programs might understandably be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “After getting over the initial surprise, I was of course very excited and humbled.”
The opportunities afforded to Jones in the IC have not been lost on her. “As a double minority, the IC has allowed me to have a voice and be part of a conversation that I might not have had in other environments,” she said.
Moving forward, Jones is hopeful the IC will demonstrate a continued commitment to driving diversity and inclusion. “It’s important that the IC fosters diversity of thought, experience and backgrounds. This broadens all of our perspectives,” she said. “I am always learning and growing from others—and I’ve often viewed my career more of a journey than a destination point.”
Acting IC CIO La’Naia Jones will be formally honored as a Technology All-Star during the 2020 Women of Color STEM Conference on October 9, 2020. Learn more about the awards program and conference here.