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I like to take on tough challenges—things that have never been done before—and not only meet the desired
That’s what has motivated me throughout my career.
During 25 years at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), I created enterprise-level information systems that the agency still uses. I undertook the largest IT reorganization in government history, architecting the VA’s Office of Information and Technology and moving over 7,000 employees into the chief information officer’s purview.
I also created a national data center program that included the resiliencies that kept the information systems at New York and New Jersey VA hospitals running on and after September 11, 2001.
At Booz Allen, I work to transform how the nation provides health services to its veterans. My dad served in World War II, and after
Charles De Sanno runs Booz Allen’s Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health portfolio, leading all aspects of service delivery to the business’ new and existing clients.
Based on considerations of value proposition and agility to market, he assesses candidate solution sets for innovative tendencies, and sunsets older methodologies and products. Charles also works to grow and advance the firm’s technology services with a focus on mobility, government shared services, Agile, DevOps, and the cloud.
Prior to joining Booz Allen, Charles served as
Before his time at Lockheed Martin/Leidos, Charles served as executive director
His work for the VA included engineering and operating one of the world’s largest IT infrastructures, overseeing a multibillion-dollar budget, and managing a 6,300-employee IT workforce.
Charles was a driving force and primary architect behind the VA’s 2006 reorganization and centralization of IT staff, governance, and budget, providing full governance to the VA’s chief information officer. Through the creation of the VA’s Office of Information and Technology, he led the creation of foundational policies and processes that are still in place today.
In 2011 and 2012, Charles was honored with Federal 100 recognition awards for his VA work, including the development of a secure, cloud-based infrastructure for sharing medical data and improving veteran care.
He attended NYU and Polytechnic University, majoring in computer science.
What do you do at Booz Allen? I’m on a team responsible for overall leadership of our VA health account—making sure we maintain quality of service and delivery throughout the lifecycles of our client work in that realm.
I work on health-related initiatives for other clients as well.
What makes you excited to come to work in the morning? I’m a technologist and leader within the technology space. What motivates me is building information systems that improve healthcare for our nation’s veterans, plus unlocking the potential of data analytics to find ways to further improve that service. Having been VA’s head engineer for 25 years, I’m excited to continue that work.
I’m also passionate about technology and all the ways it can help businesses achieve their objectives.
Why do you have the career you have? Twenty-seven years ago I began as the engineer in charge of information systems for the VA’s New York hospitals. I worked my way up to being chief information officer for the NY area, and then the entire Northeast Region.
When VA undertook an IT reorganization, I became head of enterprise systems engineering for the entire agency and went on to architect its systems for healthcare, benefits, and memorials.
After 14 years in that role I moved to Leidos, where I was chief operating officer, and head architect of the medical appointment scheduling system that VA is currently deploying.
The skills I picked up rising through the ranks to leadership at VA, then Leidos, helped prepare me for my current role at Booz Allen.
What was your very first job? I worked at a supermarket in Brooklyn. They trained me in every aspect of marketing and I eventually managed their dairy and frozen foods department. I was actually involved in one of the first deployments of barcoding computer systems there.
What advice would you give a new boss? Always take care of your people. Be there for them. That’s what my mentor for 20 years at VA told me when I rose to a national position, and I observed people following him into battle every day in the workplace.
What are some of the greatest challenges facing healthcare right now? Deploying and standardizing electronic health records systems. It’s a massive, potentially disruptive undertaking. It comes with significant clinical and cultural change, but it’s necessary so that the entire industry can share that information across the spectrum of a patient’s care, and use data analytics to make more fact-based decisions.
Also, from a technical point of view, continuing to transition our health customers to the cloud, so that they’re accessing that information securely, and hosting it on platforms with the elasticity to be scaled and adjusted as necessary.
What’s your strongest character trait? I embrace my employees and lead by example. Also, I’m transparent. I like to openly communicate with the people that work for me so I can understand their challenges and help overcome them.
What’s been your proudest accomplishment so far? On 9/11, when Verizon’s central switch—on West Street, one block from the World Trade Center—was compromised, the information systems at the VA’s New York City and New Jersey-area hospitals stayed up and running due to resiliencies that I implemented. Some people questioned their necessity, but I was able to get them implemented anyway. Sometimes being a visionary is difficult.
We were able to communicate via email—a VA email system that I built—when significant parts of New York and New Jersey were without landline and cellular. I would say that’s my proudest accomplishment.