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Recruitment Begins for Next State CIO and Tech Department Director

State Chief Information Officer Amy Tong, who’s led the California Department of Technology for more than five years, is moving to a new executive role in state government at month’s end.

Amy Tong CA CIO Acad
State Chief Information Officer Amy Tong addresses the audience during a California Public Sector CIO Academy.
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Recruitment has opened for a new state chief information officer and director of the California Department of Technology (CDT).

Amy Tong, who has held that position for more than five years, will leave CDT at month’s end and will move to the Office of Digital Innovation (ODI), where she’ll be the director. ODI, like CDT, is part of the California Government Operations Agency (GovOps).

“California is looking for a technology leader to take CDT and the state into a future where technology is used as a strategic asset,” the job posting says. “The state CIO is responsible for creating California’s statewide technology plan and will lead the overall effort to transform the way we think about and use technology throughout government.”

The position is a pivotal one, as the department works across state government in the areas of technology procurement, cybersecurity, digital transformation, project management and career development.

The state CIO reports to the secretary of GovOps, which oversees technology, procurement and hiring entities for the state along with 11 other departments and programs.

“GovOps is seeking a reform-minded leader to manage department operations and help in the overall effort to transform state government operations,” the posting says.

CDT’s chief deputy director, Deputy State CIO Russ Nichols, will be acting state CIO after Tong, 48, leaves the post on Dec. 31. Nichols, like Tong, is a veteran of state service. Before taking his current role at CDT, he was agency information officer for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

As state CIO, Tong oversaw some significant changes in the state’s technology apparatus – among them, a shift to an agile, more iterative development methodology in which products are released in smaller pieces. That’s a departure from the traditional “waterfall” method, in which a project was developed and then implemented as a whole.

The new state CIO will take over a department that has new leaders in key roles. State Chief Technology Innovation Officer Rick Klau, head of the Office of Enterprise Technology (OET), was appointed to that role in February and has brought in two key deputies to OET – Jeff Barrett, the state’s new transformation and digital stabilization chief; and Gregory Fair, the state’s new digital identity chief.

Under Tong’s administration, the state has also expanded its professional development opportunities under the Office of Professional Development (OPD). Brenda Bridges Cruz, the director of OPD, has added new pathways for advancement. OPD now offers academies focusing on leadership, emerging leaders, project management, digital services innovation and cybersecurity.

Overall, the job posting notes, “CDT has broad responsibility and authority over all aspects of technology operations throughout California,” with about 900 employees and a total annual budget of over $3.7 billion.

The posting details desirable traits for the new state CIO, including:
  • Leadership: A strong attachment toward collaboration and transparency in the development of a statewide vision for technology. The state CIO must see their role as empowering others to achieve strategic goals.
  • Management: A focus on organizational management and developing staff to reach their potential. Experience working in a large organization is essential.
  • Modernization: Experience working with legacy technologies and modernizing operations at scale.
  • Service Delivery: Dedication to delivering services at the highest level. This includes surfacing opportunities to create and deliver the next generation of government services, to both internal and external customers.
  • Governance and Oversight: A practiced understanding of how to leverage governance and oversight to add value and mature overall operations.

In addition to GovOps and ODI, the technology department and its leader work closely with CalData and state Chief Data Officer Joy Bonaguro; the Department of General Services, the state’s main business agent; CalHR, which handles human resources for the state; and the Department of Finance.

The state CIO position has a monthly salary range of $15,015 to $17,233.
Dennis Noone is Managing Editor of Techwire. He is a career journalist, having worked as a reporter and editor at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies in California, Nevada, Texas and Virginia, including as an editor with USA Today in Washington, D.C. He lives in the Northern California foothills.