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Women Bisnow
February 7, 2008



This issue of Washington Women is presented by
Reznick Group:
"Building Business Value"


By Karin Tanabe for Bisnow on Business

Stopping terror before it strikes sounds like the work of caped crusaders. But for many years, it was on the to-do list of then CIO Deborah Diaz at Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate. She joined before DHS was a department, working until 2007 creating groundbreaking technologies to fight terrorism. Those were what Diaz calls "the real cowboy days."

Deborah in her office at the USPTO, a complex which you need GPS to navigate. 
Today she serves as Deputy CIO for the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Long involved with the feds, she started her career in more of a Jack Kerouac than Jack Kennedy way. "I'm from Attleboro, Mass, a small industrial town, and was one of the only people to leave at the time. I took out a huge loan and spent a year and a half abroad," says Diaz, who picked grapes in France, worked on a kibbutz in Israel, and spent her 25th birthday in Casablanca. When she moved to Washington with her husband, a town they agreed would help both their careers, she worked for State, NATO, and the World Bank, much of her work focusing on public/private technology partnerships in sub-Saharan Africa.
Diaz and co-workers. They thought about erasing the whiteboard for our picture but realized the rest of humanity would have no comprehension of their cryptic diagrams.

In 2000, as a part of President Clinton's goal of creating one website for thousands of government sites, Diaz became the director of FirstGov. "This was the first time it was ever done. We had one month to put it all together," says Diaz. It was a wild success, as back then before Google was a verb, search engines had only 10% of government information online. During 9/11, she kept FirstGov up and running, staying in her office across the street from the White House, updating the site rather than evacuating. As Department of Homeland Security's CIO for Science and Technology, she also worked with her team on IT interoperability, transportation security machines, biometrics and wireless technologies. An example she says, are "those puffer things" at airports that we look at with fascination as we mill around x-ray machines in our socks.


Diaz holding her basket of stress relief objects. "I always have something for people to play around with in meetings."

Diaz's caped crusader days may be over but her role in cutting edge technology certainly is not. "We get first exposure to many different technologies-we get to test trial."  She concentrates her energies on modernizing every aspect of the agency's business systems and processes, and notes that most of USPTO's official trademark applications are done electronically. "We want to make sure that if you're a homemaker with the latest and greatest technologies, you have a chance."
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