A Bittersweet Farewell to Maria Roat: Fireside Chat with Francis Rose

A Bittersweet Farewell to Maria Roat: Fireside Chat with Francis…

March 31, 2022

A Bittersweet Farewell to Maria Roat: Fireside Chat with Francis Rose

A pioneer of federal information technology for four decades, Maria Roat is now on the cusp of retirement. She sat down for a fireside chat during AFCEA Bethesda’s recent Engage & Connect event to discuss her extraordinary career in government service with Francis Rose from Scoop News Group.

Maria was introduced by Kathleen Cowles, AFCEA Bethesda’s president, as an authentic leader who is mission-driven, self-aware, and focused on the long-term. Roat’s own anecdotes from her time in government made it clear that her federal service has been marked by her resilience and dedication to finding ways to make a difference. (Speaking of resilience, did you know that she became the FedRAMP director after acing a job interview while suffering from the flu?)

In that same vein, Maria has been known to crack more than one glass ceiling over the years. When she began her career, the vast majority of IT professionals were men. Undeterred, Maria worked hard and became CTO of the US Department of Transportation at a time when there were far fewer CTOs in the federal government than there are now.

Roat approached every position she held in government as an opportunity to learn new skills and grow as a leader. At the US Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Roat enjoyed navigating a learning curve that required her to quickly grasp the ins and outs of the organization. In return, she brought a unique perspective to OMB.

Reflecting on the evolution of the FedRAMP program–a key piece of the government’s cybersecurity arsenal–Roat said the government has grown the program while remaining true to the primary security goal. “The vision is still the vision,” she said, noting that she is nonetheless hopeful that FedRAMP will accelerate the certification process without compromising security.

Roat also reflected on the importance of hiring people with passion for their work. “Seeing people succeed and do whatever their passion is was the most satisfying achievement,” she said, elaborating on how helping people to find positions that match their talents is how a leader gives back. She recalled a Marine with a passion for communications who was stuck in HR doing paperwork. Roat worked for months to ensure that he landed at his perfect communications job and was gratified to subsequently watch his talents take off.

“Follow your own path,” she advised. Roat’s peripatetic career path zigzagged in a way that made sense to her. Looking out at the audience, she encouraged attendees to pursue their passions and opportunities for growth. Roat concluded by sharing her amazement at the varied missions the federal government is pursuing and achieving with the help of this workforce.

At the end of the day, the secret to Roat’s success is no secret at all: hard work and passion. As expressed by Cowles, “She leads with her heart.”

When asked about the timing of her departure, Maria said her three daughters are on their own; her house will soon be paid off; and she is eager to spend more time with her family.

Access more highlights from Maria’s fireside chat on Francis Rose’s ‘The Daily Scoop,’ available here.


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