On Thursday, June 24, INSA hosted a 2:00-3:00pm ET panel discussion, “Remote Work and the National Security Mission.” Gabriel Alix, Vice President of Intelligence at Applied Insight and co-chair of INSA's Cyber Council Remote Telework working group, moderated the conversation with panelists Wanda Jones-Heath, Principle Cyber Advisor (Acting) for the Department of the Air Force, Alan Dean, Program Director for Unified Communications (Voice and Video) at NGA, Mel Kepler, Practice Lead for Talent Development and Engagement at LMI, and Saurin Shah, Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton.
To begin the discussion, panelists identified the roadblocks their agencies and organizations faced over the past year and how they have overcome those hurdles. The panelists agreed that organizations should continue to look ahead and not retreat to their past mindsets. While there have been many challenges to overcome this past year, there have also been some triumphs. At NGA, Alan Dean pointed out that VADM Sharp increased their remote work capabilities and implemented resources into every meeting to help the hard of hearing and deaf community.
A shared consensus across panelists, it is important for leaders to understand their workforce, its capabilities, policies, and partners. Leaders have to remove the assumption that everyone has equal access to programs and must work to find a way to enhance and enable them for all employees. Additionally, it is integral to define your company or agency’s end goals and work backwards, to ensure the use of proper resources. Looking for resources outside of your geographical location may offer your organization more innovative solutions.
Workplace culture is an important element that has drastically changed due to the pandemic. Fostering an environment where employees feel they can communicate is the first step in helping them be better equipped in balancing their lives. In fact, panelists agreed that over-communication is extremely important during this time. As Mel Kepler noted, it has been essential for leaders “to create a virtual engagement culture that was deliberate and explicit.” Although remote work is important, the workforce must also not lose sight of the national security mission. Ensuring the infrastructure is sound is vitally important. Attention to behaviors and networking with teams can help ensure security of systems and improve the understanding of what solutions work best.
To close, the panelists emphasized the continued need for change across all organizations. While the world is slowly reopening, it is important to not look in the rearview mirror, but rather continue forward. Learning from the lessons of the last year and integrating them into the current national security mission will allow for better capabilities.