U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency
Dawn Meyerriecks brings a six-pack of Diet Coke to work in the morning, but she doesn’t seem to need it. Her energy resonates over the telephone before she’s popped open the first can. “I have the best job in the world,” Meyerriecks says.
She relishes meetings with the nation’s best technical minds?part of her job as the top IT strategist for the Arlington, Va.-based Defense Information Systems Agency, the military’s in-house integrators. But Meyerriecks is equally proud of her colleagues. On Sept. 11, Meyerriecks was out of town on business. When she contacted her staff, they told her, “We’re all over this. Figure out how you’re going to get home,” she recounts. “As a leader you think this is exactly how it should work.”
Meyerriecks knows how to get top leaders from the Army, Navy and Air Force to stop squabbling and agree to a shared technical vision. Before she became CTO in 1999, Meyerriecks was in charge of defining a common operating environment for the military’s command and control systems. It required team buy-in. Troops fighting in Afghanistan last year, including Meyerriecks’ brother, an Air Force pilot, got the payoff when they were able to more easily share data about the location and movement of enemy targets.
As a girl in rural Trafford, Penn., Meyerriecks thought she would be a professional musician but decided to major in electrical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. Military service appealed to her, but she didn’t think to enlist. “Where I grew up, it’s something women didn’t do,” says the 43-year-old.
Meyerriecks worked on defense projects at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. In 1993, she moved to Virginia for a detail at the Army’s Global Command and Control Office and decided to resettle there. “My family was all here,” she says. “I had two small kids, and they were going to grow up without knowing who their aunts or uncles were.”