DISA welcomes agency's first diversity chief
by Renee Hatcher
DISA created a new position in the chief of staff’s office last year that’s dedicated to promoting a diverse and inclusive work environment at the agency, and Damien Terry has hit the ground running as its first chief diversity officer.
Office of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs
January 12, 2022
“I’m thrilled that Damien has taken on this challenging new role for us,” said Teresa Pitts, DISA chief of staff. “This position is essential for us to continue improving diversity and inclusion at DISA, and will also be an integral contributor to our overall mission success.”
Terry’s first day on the job was Oct. 12, 2021. In this new role, he will work across the entire agency to identify gaps and remove barriers to attracting, supporting, developing and engaging a diverse and highly capable workforce.
“I will work with the DISA global team to make it the best organization it can be internally as well as externally,” Terry said. “When anyone thinks of an employer of choice, I want DISA to be at the top of the list above NASA, Apple, Google and Amazon. I know this is a tall order, but with the mission of this organization, and the amazing individuals who show up every day to work here, we can achieve that.”
Terry came to DISA with more than 10 years of federal government experience. He has worked in workforce management, outreach and engagement for the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Homeland Security, and most recently for the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Justice.
“This challenge was calling my name,” Terry said. “I know DISA has already generated some great efforts in diversity, inclusion, equity and engagement. I’m here to help take it to the next level, and be that centralized person to track the efforts, reevaluate what we have been doing and continue pressing forward. I hope DISA is ready for me because I am here and ready to work with the entire team to identify and reduce, if not eliminate, any barriers and gaps that are holding us back.”
The first thing Terry did was go on what he called a “listening tour” to find out more about the agency, its culture and the current state of diversity and inclusion. Although technically he’s a team of one, Terry considers the entire DISA workforce as his team.
“I want everybody to know that I cannot do this without them,” he said. “I need their support, their ideas, their ears and their voices to achieve our mission. I hope they will trust that I have their best interests as my motivation. I know it’s never a perfect world, and everyone will not be happy at the same time, but I will do my best to make sure you are heard, validated and informed of all decisions and outcomes.”
Terry recognizes that two-way communication can be a challenge, and is making that one of his priorities, along with following through to completion on issues.
“It’s important to me to keep individuals informed of the challenges we are facing, and the actions we are taking to mitigate issues,” he said. “And, I expect feedback from those directly affected.”
In his first three months on the job, Terry has already seen the benefits of agency tools such as Dateline, DISA’s internal news source, and a new task management system that prioritizes and tracks tasks. He’s also not afraid to be more direct if he’s not seeing results. DISA teammates may expect to receive personal calendar invites to diversity events. And, Terry said he will always have a fresh pair of walking shoes on hand so he can follow up in person on outstanding tasks.
From the workforce, Terry said he’s looking for trust and honesty, and encourages anyone to email him with questions, concerns or input.
“I know that it can be frustrating if you feel overlooked or ignored,” he said. “I am here to help make DISA a better place than it was yesterday, but know that change is not always immediate or exactly how we may want it, but, remember, progress is the key.”
Terry is currently working to draft the agency’s strategic plan for diversity, and then will shift his focus to policies and procedures that can advance the recruitment, retention and development of the DISA team.
“I am here to work and have fun, while making every teammate at DISA truly feel as if this is the best place to work,” Terry said. “I know this is a big task, but I’m okay with aiming for the stars and landing on the moon.”
Originally from Hamlet, North Carolina, Terry’s parents told him he could do anything he set his mind to, and he brought that attitude with him to DISA.
“I have had obstacles in my career and life, but none of them stopped me,” he said. “I am now on the DISA team, and nothing will stop us from being successful.”
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