Karen S. Charleston, MBA, is a retired information technology architect and project manager celebrating more than 30 years of expertise in her field. Throughout her professional career, she developed a reputation for excellence in enterprise architecture for clients in both the public and private sectors, including open group architecture framework and organizational information technology improvement and overhaul projects.
Much of Ms. Charleston’s career was spent working in public service for the United States government, and she retired in 2022 as the chief enterprise architect for the United States Forest Service. She joined the United States Forest Service in 2009 and, over the next 13 years, managed a team of other enterprise architects to analyze and improve the branch’s information technology infrastructure and execution. In addition to working within the branch to streamline functionality, Ms. Charleston also invested significant time into interdepartmental collaboration with employees from other areas of the federal government, where she helped her team navigate bureaucratic and structural challenges. Prior to her work with the United States Forest Service, she spent over two decades as a project manager for American Management Systems.
Among the highlights of Ms. Charleston’s career is her work in the development of an early cellular phone billing system for the company Telesis. After working with the initial client to develop the system, it was sold to companies throughout Europe and Asia, which allowed Ms. Charleston the opportunity to live and travel globally in Portugal, Poland, and the Netherlands for several years to implement and maintain the product. Her work for the United States government has extended to projects for the United States Department of Agriculture, where she developed an agency-wide architectural repository, and on the development of a federal accounting system that was adopted by the United States Department of Defense. Ms. Charleston later spearheaded the effort to bring this accounting system to civilian users.
Before beginning her career, Ms. Charleston studied at the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in biology in 1974 after excelling as a dean’s list student. She continued her studies at the Pennsylvania State University, where she was awarded a Master of Business Administration in 1980. She has pursued additional professional development opportunities throughout her career, including a certificate in enterprise architecture, and has been certified by the Project Management Institute since 1986. In recognition of her professional excellence, Ms. Charleston has been presented with numerous awards and accolades, including a 2019 Outstanding Federal Supervisor of the Year citation from the state of New Mexico. She credits her success to maintaining an open mind and a change-based attitude and always looking for opportunities to improve and innovate.
In her personal time, Ms. Charleston is active in her community and has volunteered with the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta for more than 12 years. She has spent more than three years constructing a home in rural New Mexico and is passionate about land stewardship and permaculture, which drives her independent study of restoration methods for overgrazed land. In the coming years, Ms. Charleston hopes to begin writing a book.