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Most Innovative CIOs and CTOs

Today kicks off the Leading CIOs and CTOs series. We scoured the region looking for the most innovative CIOs and CTOs at associations, tech companies, federal agencies and everything in between. Here are the first of 40 to be featured. Want to meet them in person? We'll celebrate them at our April 16 event in Crystal City. You're invited!

Rob Lux
EVP/CIO, Freddie Mac


Rob has been CIO of Freddie Mac since October 2010, overseeing 1,400 people. His team deploys a few hundreds projects a year but one of his most memorable was an upgrade to Peoplesoft Financials from an older, highly customized version. With fewer customizations, the organization is able to quickly and easily update the system with patches. The team is now building a platform for the industry that allows loans to be securitized in a standard way on a single platform.

Career milestones: Building first system—an options trading system for a firm on the Philadelphia Stock Exchange; managing first team; and dealing with the first crisis. 

Interesting facts: Grew up in Philly and still lives there; came to Freddie Mac because of financial crisis; has two daughters (ages 12 and 14), who made it to their respective basketball league championships; and is a first generation American—father was born in what is now the Slovak Republic.

Jonas Hirshfield
SVP, infrastructure cloud platform services, Virtustream


Jonas, who leads about 75 people at Virtustream, has been responsible for continuous operation and growth of Virtustream’s multi-tenanted Infrastructure-as-a-Service for the last year. One of his most memorable projects was at Blackboard, where he led the data center consolidation of various global co-location providers. It returned $5M in annual operating savings, a reduction of 32 co-location centers to 10 over three years, and streamlined operations

Career milestones: Transitioned career from accounting and finance to technology; served as key contributor to Blackboard’s Managed Hosting business from startup to public company; and mentored and supported individual contributors into successful leaders and business owners.

Interesting facts: Grew up on the Jersey Shore on property President James Garfield died on; moved to DC to join a young tech startup called Blackboard and stayed over 15 years; has two young sons (9 and 11); has attended many championship sporting events, including the Super Bowl, World Series, Masters and NCAA finals; and trained and certified on airplane evacuation procedures.

Josh Szmajda
CTO, Optoro


Josh oversees a team of 45 at DC-based Optoro. The company’s tech products help retailers process and manage excess inventory. One of his most memorable projects was relaunching Blinq two years ago. The platform helps consumers buy excess retail products at discounted rates. The first version was built in one month by one person, but the relaunch took about six months with several tech experts focused on customer experience and design. Now Josh and his team are working on a system that allows retailers to make better decisions on whether certain inventory needs to be returned to the manufacturer.

Career milestones: Being involved in raising venture funding for Optoro and having in depth conversations with VCs about its tech; getting to a big enough organization to have to introduce layers of management; and starting first IT consulting company while a teen.

Interesting facts: Grew up in Bowie, MD, and went to Suitland HS; studied music composition and computer science at the University of Maryland; got kicked out of college for never going to class (tech classes couldn’t teach him anything he didn’t already know); he was a bassoonist for the DC Youth Orchestra; and he organizes at least three tech-focused meetups a month.

Dawn Leaf
CIO, Department of Labor


Dawn has been DOL’s CIO since August 2014 after serving as deputy CIO for nearly two years. Her office has about 107 federal staff, with most of its IT services outsourced or supported by contractors. Dawn says one of her most memorable projects was working on the NASA Observing System Data Information System as a private-sector program manager. (The system manages NASA’s earth science data coming from satellites, aircraft, field measurements, and other programs.) The project was complex in terms of technology, data volume, and the variety of science applications at the time, Dawn says. A current project is DOL’s Digital Government Integrated Platform, which will provide the tech needed for mobile computing and data sharing for the agency’s mission systems. 

Career milestones: Serving as DOL’s CIO; also working as CTO at the Smithsonian; and her first overall IT management position as director for the Westinghouse (Northrop Grumman) Oceanic Sonar and Anti-submarine Warfare division.

Interesting facts: Grew up in Maryland and enjoys sailing; lost fear of public speaking while working for a few years at the NIST Information Technology Lab; leadership role models are Theodore Roosevelt, Colin Powell, and grandfather, William Hasse; enjoys remodeling and has her own power tool collection; and bucket list includes visiting all US federal parks.

John Owens
CIO, US Patent & Trademark Office


John became USPTO’s CIO in December 2008 and oversees 500 IT people. The team is working on a unified web-based application built with modern components that will let examiners work in a holistic environment. The agency just relaunched its website, and it allows people to easily search and get electronic access to patents, rather than ordering paper copies. Trademarks can also now get reassigned through the website. John says one of his most memorable projects was supporting a group of DevOps enthusiasts at USPTO or “Devops Doers” as he calls them. The grassroots group helped USPTO make progress in adopting DevOps and has driven up efficiencies. 

Career milestones: Started as software engineer and became a system architect before joining management; managed software releases for AOL to over 32 million simultaneous customers worldwide; and stabilizing the USPTO IT infrastructure and overseeing rebuild of the systems that help strengthen global patent and trademark systems. 

Interesting facts: He’s originally from Rome, NY; in his spare time he makes furniture for his home; he’s done major renovations of his home with his own hands; and he’s a huge fan of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and strategy board games.

Big thanks to our partners on this project: Eastern Foundry, CWPS and Cabot Consultants. Stay tuned for more profiles of these rock star CIOs and CTOs.