2 Longtime State IT Leaders Named CIOs of the Year

Two state chief IT officers — Karen Ruiz of Covered California and Ron Ralph of CalFire — were awarded CIO of the Year honors this week at the 2019 Public Sector CIO Academy Awards in Sacramento. The awards are given in recognition of the IT leaders' roles in tech procurement and governance.

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Two state chief IT officers —  Chief Technology Officer Karen Ruiz of Covered California and CIO Ron Ralph of CalFire — were awarded CIO of the Year honors this week at the 2019 Public Sector CIO Academy Awards in Sacramento.

The awards are given by e.Republic, parent company of Techwire and Government Technology, in recognition of the IT leaders' roles in tech procurement and governance.

According to e.Republic Executive Vice President Alan Cox, who presented the awards, Ruiz:
— Is a major supporter of the California Department of Technology's IT Leadership Academy (ITLA) program as well as the Project Management Leadership Academy, the Digital Services Innovation Academy and the Information Security Leadership Academy. She encourages and supports her senior IT leadership team to attend the newly developed Covered California Executive Leadership Cohort.
— As executive sponsor, Ruiz was instrumental in spearheading the effort with the vendor and the business partner during procurement, execution and implementation of CiCi, a chat bot for the Covered California website named CiCi. Ruiz has significantly reduced call traffic volume to the call center staff by answering basic questions and directing users to the appropriate forms, links and other resources.
— Helped to implement agile methodology, which the state has adopted and is furthering.
— Previously was the project director for the CalHEERS system project, which is a joint venture between Covered California and the California Department of Health Care Services. In addition, she served as project director for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s (CalPERS’) $500 million pension and health system consolidation and modernization project. Launched in September 2011, it consolidated more than 49 legacy systems and became the single system that manages pension and health benefits for more than 1 million public employees.

Ruiz started with the state in July 2005 and has worked in the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS), CalHEERS, the state Employment Development Department, the Department of Social Services and the California Public Employees Retirement System.

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Ralph has been CIO for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) since 2002 and is responsible for the management of information technology across the department. He manages a multimillion-dollar IT program, overseeing management, acquisition, and integration of the department's information resources, according to his executive summary on the CalFire website.

Ralph joined CalFire in 1990, and his roles have included support technician, systems programmer, systems analyst and technical supervisor. Before joining CalFire, he worked in the private sector in the IT and electronics industries, where he worked in various capacities including electronic technician, systems and applications programming, systems analyst, technical writer, and technical supervisor.

In receiving the award, Ralph was lauded for:
— His 17 years of service to the state, the last two of which have been marked by record highs in the number of and magnitude of wildfires.
— His agency having greatly enhanced its emergency management capabilities through the implementation of new emergency equipment and vehicle locator technologies. These technologies allow CALFIRE to quickly locate and dispatch equipment/vehicles throughout the state during emergencies.
— He has led the way in the mindset change of technology groups. “Our business is not about the hardware and software or the things in the data center," he's said. "It’s about the delivery of services. It’s about providing access to technology resources, services, systems, data and the ability to allow the business to do what they need to do, when they need to do it, and from anywhere it needs to be done.”
— Oversaw CalFire's implementation of a new state-of-the-art wide-area communication network that provides for improved communication and connectivity.
— Has led the creation of an agile and secure environment that places the power of services and information into the hands of employees and stakeholders including software-defined technologies, cloud services, virtual compute resources, shared-services, software-as-service, data-as-a-service, and platform-as-services.
IT Leadership Awards were also given to:

— Jason Benitez, IT Specialist II, Covered California
— Suman Biswas, Director for Statewide Welfare Automated Systems, Office of Systems Integration
— Raphael Carrillo, Principle Network Engineer, Department of Water Resources
— Jessica Chin, SAP Manager, Department of Water Resources
— Sarah d’Eon, Project Director for the Case Management Information and Payrolling System, Office of Systems Integration
— Trisha Duggan, Chief, Enterprise Project Support Services, Covered California
— Brandon Hansard, Deputy Director of the California Project Management Office, California Department of Technology
— Kimby Hirschi, Benefit Accounting & Employer Reporting Group Supervisor, Employment Development Department
— Kimberly Holder, Manager, Application Services Group, California Highway Patrol, Information Technology Section
— Binh Huynh, IT Manager, Database Management Section, Franchise Tax Board
— Beth Jackson, IT Governance Chief, Department of Fish and Wildlife
— Frederick Koch, Mobile Digital Computer (MDC) Sergeant, California Highway Patrol, Information Technology Section
— Rebecca Kramer, Enterprise Applications Manager, Department of Industrial Relations
— Victor Krause, Information Technology Manager II, Network and Server Operations, California Correctional Health Care Services
— Michelle Lawson, Chief, Technology Information and Business Advancement, CalPERS
— Marlon Lewis, Chief of FI$CAL Service Center (FSC) Level 2 Support Services Section, Department of Financial Information System for California (FI$Cal)
— Amarjeet Litt, UI Online Development Group Supervisor, Employment Development Department
— Tammie Lopez, Project Director for the Appeals Case Management System (ACMS), Office of Systems Integration
— Hugo Mercado, Chief of Infrastructure Services Section, Department of Financial Information System for California (FI$Cal)
— Robert Noakes, Chief Information Security Officer, CalFire
— David Parker, Chief of DWR Flood Management Technology Operations, Department of Water Resources
— Nick Perez, Data Service Engineer, California Natural Resources Agency
— Guy Pontecorvo, EPMO Project Manager, Covered California
— Tina Rau, Information Technology Supervisor II, California Department of Technology
— Satish Rikhi, Project Manager, Supporting Department of Fair Employment and Housing, California Project Management Office, CDT
— Ron Robinette, Project Approval Lifecycle Branch Chief, California Department of Technology
— Bobbie Singh, Information Technology Supervisor II, SeviceNow Development & Support, CalPERS
— Melisa Stone, IT Manager 1 over Business Process Management (BPM) section, Franchise Tax Board
— Rick Vancil, Manager, Employment Development Department
— Myrna Viloria, Information Technology Supervisor II, California Highway Patrol
— Sherrie Vitt, Lead Principle Technology Engineer, California Natural Resources Agency
— John Yu, Software Engineering Section Manager, Secretary of State's Office
— Jessica Zheng, Information Technology Manager II, Electronic Health Record System Project Director, California Correctional Health Care Services