Page 52 - FCW, November/December 2020
P. 52

Rising Stars
Robotic Process Automation Product Owner U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
When you look up “robotic process automation” on the Department of Homeland Security’s intranet, Meikle Paschal’s name appears — and for good reason.
Without him, RPA at DHS’ U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would still be just an idea rather than the team of bots that is currently saving the agency money and time, said Matthew Graviss, USCIS’ chief data officer.
Paschal is the designated point person for the new RPA Center of Excellence (CoE), which launched in January. The position also marks him as one of the department’s RPA pioneers.
He began his career at USCIS in 2018, when he helped develop the first agencywide data standards and the
case management systems to enforce them. That effort established the foundation for his work on the RPA CoE, whose more than 30 government and contractor employees support governance, training and technical implementation of RPA across the agency.
USCIS wants to use bots to shorten the path to citizenship, which can sometimes take years because of repetitive paperwork and overly lengthy processes. Bots can automate some of the more tedious and repetitious, but essential, portions of the process.
The coronavirus pandemic began 45 days after the RPA program started and kicked the effort into a higher gear. Paschal and his team quickly created USCIS’ first four bots to support the agency’s operations and address productivity challenges posed by remote work. Those bots will save an estimated $2 million a year, according to the agency.
In addition, Paschal’s team developed a cloud-based DevSecOps pipeline to develop, test and deploy RPA applications and allow rapid onboarding of USCIS offices interested in using RPA.
Research Analyst and Data Scientist Department of the Air Force
When senior defense officials talk about needing more
data scientists, they’re probably talking about cloning Nicholas Shields. Barely a year into his role in the federal IT community, he is already known for helping democratize data by collaborating with senior leaders across the Air Force and Space Force to drive enterprise-level use cases.
Shields has helped optimize analysis for the Air Force Audit Agency’s Freedom of Information Act effort and helped develop the Air Force’s Office of Small Business Programs prototype for identifying potential procurement fraud.
He has provided instrumental analysis and direction on 12 enterprise-level use cases across multiple disciplines
— including readiness, insider threat and financial management — and has a keen ability to manage multiple high-visibility projects and communicate with people at all levels of the organization, including Defense Department headquarters.
In addition, he established a data analysis-as-a-
service capability for the Air Force’s Visible, Accessible, Understandable, Linked and Trusted (VAULT) data platform, which provides personnel with secure, cloud- based tools that improve decision-making and readiness. He also formed a partnership with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to help resolve the agency’s concerns about sharing data and directed a feed of DFAS files to the VAULT platform, where they can now be redistributed as appropriate.
Shields is also credited with leading a pathfinder effort to integrate the Space Force’s Unified Data Library and the Air Force VAULT catalog, which could result in a federated data ecosystem for the military service.
Eileen Vidrine, the Air Force’s chief data officer, stressed
52 November/December 2020 FCW.COM

   50   51   52   53   54