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Kenyatta Powers-Rucker

CIO, Maryland Department of Human Services

Kenyatta Powers-Rucker, CIO, Maryland Department of Human Services
As a Black woman in tech, Kenyatta Powers-Rucker said one of her biggest challenges when she first started in the public sector 25 years ago was not having a mentor.

“I was the only woman in the room for a long time,” she said. “Having someone to go talk to about it would have been very, very helpful in my career.”

Powers-Rucker started as a computer network supervisor with the Maryland Department of Human Services and rose through the ranks until she was promoted to the role of chief information officer. She’s been in the leadership position for more than 12 years now.

“Probably one of the reasons why I’ve been around so long is because of having a passion and a heart for what I do, and being able to serve people in need,” Powers-Rucker said, adding that her motivation for working in tech at the human services level has been to make sure clients are able to access the system, programs and support they need with ease.

As the top IT boss for her state agency, her goal is to inspire more women and minorities to pursue careers in tech. She speaks at conferences and workshops, and has even authored multiple books on the topic.

“You can’t be what you can’t see,” she said. “[I’m] out in the forefront and speaking to young ladies, being a mentor, being a coach and really getting out there so that people can see that there are more women in tech.”

She’s active on social media and in professional networking groups that promote workforce inclusivity and advises others who are starting out in the industry to take advantage of those channels to find a mentor.

“If you want help, you’ve got to ask for it,” she said. “No one is really going to come up to you and say, ‘I’m going to take you under my wing.’ It’s a matter of opening your mouth and being able to speak up and ask for what you want.”

This story originally appeared in the May/June 2024 issue of Government Technology magazine. Click here to view the full digital edition online.
Nikki Davidson is a data reporter for Government Technology. She’s covered government and technology news as a video, newspaper, magazine and digital journalist for media outlets across the country. She’s based in Monterey, Calif.