Sitting Down with Joanne Woytek- Elected Customer Representative to The Open Group Governing Board

By Ash Patel – Marketing Specialist, The Open Group

Recently we reached out to Joanne Woytek (Program Director for the NASA SEWP Program), to discuss her role as a Governing Customer Member Representative for The Open Group Governing Board.

Ms. Joanne Woytek is the Program Director for the NASA SEWP Program. Ms. Woytek manages the strategic direction, planning, and day-to-day operations of SEWP -a premier Government-Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) providing Federal Agencies access to the latest in Information & Communication Technology solutions. Ms. Woytek is a 40+ year veteran at NASA.

Upon talking to Joanne, we discussed her role, advice she may have for those looking to work in the field she is in and much more. Thank you again to Joanne for her time. Please see the full interview below:

What is your occupation, and what made you get into your line of work?

My current occupation is Program Director for the NASA SEWP Program. I got into this line of work through science which got me into being a programmer for scientists, back in the 70s, making computers work for scientists long before computers worked for anybody. Which involved how to interface that, working with them and also learning about technology and customers. Eventually I got involved in a program that was created, I wasn’t the creator for it but I was one of the initial participants of it. The program was for the Government, enabling them to buy technology in an easier way, for which I was a technical rep for. I eventually got involved in how to put the program together when I said “I kind of like this more business part of it and the program part..”, so they all agreed that I would become (so far only, in 1999) the program manager for this program and have been running it ever since and have been having a good time with it.

What do you do as an Elected Member Rep?

As an elected member I attend meetings and serve as an outside voice for those who utilize with The Open Group, who provides but doesn’t steer, as that is the Platinum Members job. 

What has been your journey in becoming an Elected Member Rep with The Open Group?

My own little journey coincides with The Open Group, the X/Open days. Back in 1993, our program was being built for buying technology and we tried to figure out how to do a proposal to industry and one of the areas we decided to focus on was UNIX procurement. Through this we became the first for an official proposal that cited the X/Open then (The Open Group), UNIX trademark as a requirement. Therefore, our program that cites X/Open goes back all the way to 93’. I had been attending events then, as a representative initially for the UNIX piece and then for a database piece that I got involved in as there was always something about The Open Group that things happened to the program.

This eventually led to the program that I brought in focusing on Security R&D, including one person who became heavily involved in the Security Forum at The Open Group and became the first of my programs’ customer rep elected member. He was the first representative of my group over there and then when he decided it was time for him to step down, I was then asked if I would run to be a part of it. So really it’s a long term relationship, based on having (from my point of view), that long association with the program and between program(s) and The Open Group itself.

What does collaboration mean to you as an Elected Member Rep?

Generally, collaboration is always good, both as an elected member rep and an Open Group member. What I have been most interested in is seeing how industry and major players can collaborate themselves, to find a common ground upon which to move, in this instance whether that be Architect, Security or Supply Chain.

With the program that I have run, I have learnt a lot about industry and different views of how businesses operate in the technology world by seeing how they collaborate and don’t collaborate with each other. As I feel that we are really the intersections of what goodness is.

I really enjoy that view of it and feel it is important to have that ability to find that common ground, which I really think this particular Supply Chain group, OTTF, that I was most apart of, just really showed that too me. As I learnt a lot of lessons from watching in and to some extent being part of that collaboration as well.

Is there a particular story that you would like to share that you feel has shaped you professionally into the person you are today?

Yes, there is. I think, in trying to shape it within the context of being a customer and professionally would be a side effect of being part of The Open Group. I mentioned that I come from a technology background, that involved all the technical stuff, leading me into a manager position where I did a bit of both, but never really had an opportunity to grow outside. As I have been at NASA my entire career, I have had one vision of life. Therefore, being a part of The Open Group, has really taught me a lot, especially from learning from the CEO of The Open Group, Steve Nunn and what The Open Group has gone through overall.

I would say that I have certainly learnt how one can mould an essentially non-profit business into one that is always growing and has to balance multiple sources of interest, with the board and other activities. As I have actually gained a lot from that and am constantly bringing to my staff “here is an idea that I heard from The Open Group” and its actually from the board part: the strategic planning and other things that happen. That has certainly been there and also even after years of strongly being against the word Architects and even with the word showing up in many of my managing styles.

I ended up hiring Tony Bevans who was on the board at the time, who came on as a consultant for my program and taught me how to understand how Architecture would fit in, in making my program better. The result of which, we actually ended up hiring somebody for this. So really, I both changed my mind professionally by being open to what was happening around me and then from a program point of view actually managed to grow the program better as well by analysing what was happening. Further just being open to that word and learning how we change for the better by learning what others are doing.

If you could develop a new type of technology, what would it be and why?

One of the things that describes me and the staff that work for me is that I am a visionary, as my view is “what is going to happen next?” and therefore I have a lot of thoughts about it.

My current focus is technology in the sense of where I see us slacking in the current technology of working with users and how to make life easier for our customers. Since this past year, I have a group that’s been working on the question. Back in the early 90s we had basic websites and then in the late 90s Java and such came along and you were able to add an interactive element to websites and since about 2000s websites haven’t changed that much at all, as what I see today looks like what was so exciting 20 years ago.

In terms of how information is presented on a website, forms being filled out etc. Although there has been Meta changes people want to see more practical things, and how they can work with it. This leads me to the simple question that I am asking out there of “How can we change the entirety of the web interfaces to the world?” So that it becomes much more user orientated to dealing with the amount of information that we want to give to our customers. Which really leads me to the observation of how we could do this so that its more presentable and uses AI, using things that help move along the customer in a way that is visual in nature (that’s one of our features), what can we make more visual to them, not virtual but visual. So I actually have a bunch of people looking into this right now and we are seeing where we can get with it.

Is there a business philosophy or principle that you follow?

What is different about me is that I am a Government Employee, I work for the Government but I actually run a business, which is more relevant than it might seem. As I essentially run a business within a Government, where we get paid by fees, have to satisfy customers for them to make us use us, in order to received fees for me to run the program, which in itself is very business orientated. I also think the biggest focus of late if…First, how to handle a growing base, from a handful of people to around 115 now, with around 20 openings for staff active now, proving very successful at the moment and thinking about how to take that success forward, in order for us to continue growing. This leads me to the philosophy that I am trying to build upon, which is really all about strategy, in terms of how I can be strategic in planning for the operations of today to what we might need in the future. I would say that I am still trying to find the right philosophy however have definitely been learning alot from Steve Nunn and others, in what they have done.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to work in your field?

If it’s in the field of technology or even a program vs management of technology, then I would say from a technology point of view and what I wish most people would do more of is not just take what you learn but also take what you see and try to build your own way of making the world better through the technology. That’s a philosophy I try to bring to it all.

Ash Patel, Marketing Specialist, joined The Open Group in 2020, initially working in the Certification Team as a Certification Services Agent, before moving into the Marketing Team where he now works on digital communications, content for the staff intranet (O-Zone), SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and analytics. Ash holds a First-Class Bachelor’s Degree in Media Production (BA hons) from Coventry University and has a background in content writing, copy writing, script writing, photo editing, and video editing. He is based in the UK.