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Following Your "North Star": Ghada Ijam, System CIO

Ghada Ijam

Ghada Ijam has always had dreams of being a leader in the technology field. She describes this aspiration as her “north star” – the part of her that provided her passion, purpose and life direction. As Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the Federal Reserve System since 2020 and recent inductee to the CIO Hall of Fame, she has certainty accomplished her goal—but not without her own share of struggle along the way.

As a mentor once told Ghada, building a career is like rock climbing: The path to the top is rarely a straight line.

“As you summit your own mountain, stay true to your sense of purpose, even when the route ahead seems unclear or obstacles come your way,” Ghada shared. “I have found the greatest success when every choice and transition I made was aligned with my north star.”

Ghada Ijam with award

Ghada with her Capital CIO ORBIE award, one of three awards she’s recently received for her excellence in leadership as CIO for the Federal Reserve System.

Ghada pursued a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Kuwait University before she and her family immigrated to the United States to escape conflict, a deeply impactful event that instilled in Ghada a sense of purpose and a spirit of determination—as well as the motivation to lead with empathy and compassion. As Ghada herself experienced, a person’s struggle does not always present itself on the surface.

Although tech has been part of Ghada’s story since she was young, she was specifically inspired to become a CIO in 1998 when Intel, where Ghada managed and directed global teams for 12 years, appointed its first woman CIO. To Ghada, seeing someone who looked like her achieve that goal was monumental for being able to someday see herself in a similar leadership role—and for motivating her to be a similar role model to other diverse women working in the industry.

According to Ghada, part of shaping the future of tech includes being an advocate for increased diversity on all fronts in the field of technology, as fostering an inclusive environment is critical for encouraging transformational ideas and transformative future leadership.

“No matter what position you’re hiring for, look for someone who has high emotional intelligence and can work with a diverse group of thought leaders,” said Ghada. “This is especially critical in IT because the roles require a high level of interaction with multiple business lines and effective collaboration to succeed. To create an inclusive team that performs well, everyone should have the skills to form relationships with people from different experiences and with diverse thought processes.”

When asked what it means for her to be recognized with prestigious industry awards like her induction into the CIO Hall of Fame, Ghada replied, “I’m honored and humbled. It’s a privilege to be recognized, but I am keenly aware that the praise is not mine alone. It takes a village to deliver on the Fed’s IT mission, and I have the privilege of leading and working with amazing teammates. It’s a shared journey of dedication, collaboration, and commitment, and I am delighted to work with our System IT team to innovate and shape the future of tech in the Fed.”

Congratulations on your honors, Ghada!

Ghada Ijam with award ceremony

Ghada gathers with members of the System IT Women in Technology group during a June 2023 Tech RVA event in Richmond. Ghada serves as executive sponsor of the Women in Technology group, which seeks to increase gender diversity in technology roles across the Federal Reserve System.

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