Lori Wade – Leading the IC’s Data Driven Future

Lori Wade – Leading the IC’s Data Driven Future

Thursday, 14 July 2022 08:33

Lori Wade – Leading the IC’s Data Driven Future
A vision for data and partnership interoperability

By Melanee “Kate” Thomas, ODNI Office of Strategic Communications


ODNI’s Office of Strategic Communications sat down with the IC Chief Data Officer Lori Wade to discuss her priorities in the position, her perspective, and where she will take the community. The below Q&A has been edited for clarity.


1. Tell us about your role as IC CDO.


I am coming into this critical position at a pivotal time. The Intelligence Community is on a critical and complex multi-year undertaking to accelerate our digital and data transformation. In a hyper-connected, data driven, digital world, with edge and cloud computing, the intelligence challenges we face are much more complex and interconnected than ever before. They cross all of our organizational boundaries.


Because each agency and partner relies on each other’s data as much as they do their own, we need an acceleration of the efforts to make data more discoverable and accessible across the IC - in ways we have not in the past. As the IC CDO and Assistant DNI for Data and Partnership Interoperability, I will set the strategy for how we as the IC manage data and partnerships to get the community where it needs to be now, and in the future.


In the IC and the private sector, the CDO is the executive providing the senior oversight and strategic vision for building a data-driven enterprise. It is no longer just about the volume of data, we are focused on end-to-end data lifecycle management, reducing the time from collection to actionable insight by ensuring data is made AI- ready and consumable by both humans and machines. This requires a pivot from a historical, system-centric paradigm, years of legacy practices, and culture, and critical partnerships with my digital C-Suite colleagues, across disciplines, and the private sector.



2. As IC CDO, what are your top priorities for the Community relating to data and information sharing?


First, the IC Chief Data Officer must lead the IC in achieving interoperability of our data at speed and scale. We must accelerate the adoption of enterprise data services that manage data throughout its lifecycle. And, we need to serve as the foundation of a data-centric ecosystem that promotes the use of modern, machine-enabled analytics. The partnerships with private sector are key to this. We need to collaborate with and learn from private sector and academia – to include looking across different industries; medical, financial, etc.


Second, we need end-to-end data management planning for the collection and acquisition of data – from why the data is being collected to who will use the data and how. If data is an IC asset, then we need a plan for it. We need to plan and solve for the intersection of data integration and mission insight.


Third, raise the data acumen and data tradecraft of the IC workforce. Every year it becomes more and more important for the IC to have a data savvy workforce. This includes data acumen beyond data professionals, I’m talking about the leaders and officers working in legal, financial, compliance, policy, and talent development. It is critical for the IC workforce now and in the future to understand how to work with data and stay current on the ever-changing digital and data landscape for not only Artificial Intelligence or AI, but all the emerging technology to coming.




3. What would you say your leadership philosophy is?


I care deeply about the workforce and working with leadership to focus on competencies needed for future IC leaders and officers. I continue to focus on championing diversity and inclusion efforts – devoting time and effort to mentoring and guiding officers on their development and advancement in the IC. Specifically, I am engaging with and expanding my networks with CDOs, technology and thought leaders across the IC, private sector, and key domestic and liaison partners to devise strategic and tactical options to increase the speed of data sharing for mission use.


My experience leading data-related transformation in the IC shaped me, and it started long before becoming the IC CDO. I have led and participated in multiple IC efforts to define and drive the strategy, vision, goals, and objectives to help discover, capture, share, and effectively exploit data/knowledge. In a past assignment, I served as the Chief Mission Capabilities Group at ODNI to advance data discovery and management through the IC Information Technology Enterprise data layer. This experience is proving invaluable for driving the implementation and delivery of IC data services.




4. You’ve served in the IC for over 20 years. Why have you chosen to spend the majority your career in public service?


Like many of my colleagues, the 9/11 attack was a formative moment in my career. It drew me to public service. When I was at the National Counterterrorism Center, I worked on efforts to address data gaps to support our mission. Government work can be challenging, but the mission outcome – making the nation safer – makes every job all the more important and rewarding.


Over the past two decades in roles at NCTC, CIA, and ODNI, I developed executive leadership experience, expertise, and mission experience for leading the IC’s efforts to solve data challenges, drive change, and deliver mission impact. I have worked in and led diverse tech across the IC (in both a private and public capacity) from many aspects of leading large transformations – strategic, governance and oversight, through implementation. I’ve worked with amazing talent across all levels, specifically officers directly supporting the mission by collecting, transporting, exploiting, and analyzing critical data for mission insight that goes directly to the highest levels of national security. Their talent and contributions inspire me and are significant motivation for me to lead digital and data transformation, remove barriers, and clear the way for their efforts to help further the IC’s collective mission.