1. You’ve been the Deputy Chief Information Officer for the DC Metropolitan Police Department for a little over 4 months, and before that worked in the Office of the CTO for the Gov’t of DC for over 11 years. Could you tell us a little about your role now and why you found it so attractive?
I truly enjoyed working at OCTO as the Associate CTO, my various positions at OCTO gave me opportunities to work in a variety of capacities, on many different projects, and initiatives over the years. OCTO was more than a place to have a job, it was somewhere to build both skill sets and a career path.
The role of Deputy Chief Information Officer with MPD is continuation of that career path. Although District agencies are separate, I view all of D.C. government IT as an extended unit, a networked team, collaborating to support and enable government agencies and the mission to serve its constituents.
Moving from OCTO to the Deputy CIO position at MPD has been a learning and growth opportunity for me. My previous role was highly concentrated in networking and telecommunications. At MPD, my present role is more extensive and multifaceted. I’ve had to broaden my scope and understanding of the comprehensive IT field, especially in the applications and data arenas, all with a focus on public safety.
2. As the virus continues to spread, businesses are asking people to work from home. How is the DC Metropolitan Police Dept. taking steps to make sure your staff have the systems they need to stay productive, while ensuring that your existing security infrastructure gives them the access that they need to work securely?
MPD is a front-line response agency. Clearly officers cannot telework in their role in public safety service. What the MPD Information Technology Bureau (ITB) has focused on for our sworn members is identifying any points of interaction in which IT can assist in improving the process and supporting social distancing via IT solutions when possible.
About 15% of MPD are civilian employees in mission support roles. With this segment of the workforce, ITB has had the same challenges as everyone else with enabling telework platforms especially for many that are embarking on this mode of operation for the first time.
Fortunately, we already had telework policies, procedures and security measures in place pre-COVID-19. The challenge has been launching, managing, and supporting the scale of new teleworkers.
3. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, what specific technology/technologies do you feel are crucial to support our extremely important first responders as they protect and serve?
As public safety applications and technologies are already held to a high performance and scalability standard there has been little lift in these areas. The focus has been more on the backend business systems and collaboration tools. Many of the tools we had inhouse only had to scale up, others were made to be quickly accessible by OCTO for partner agencies to enable IT shops to meet the pandemic challenge.
Enabling members to work from anywhere with secure VPN and dual factor authentication, and providing them access to all the tools/data they would have from their desks is the biggest challenge.
Secondarily the focus has been on replacing paper and manual processes with IT enabled solutions for remote document signing, replacing PDF with interactive online forms, and cloud-based solutions for document and files sharing with partner agencies.
Finally, we’ve empowered teams and workers with a full suite of collaboration tools to include video conferencing, instant messaging and cloud workspaces.
4. Given everything you’ve seen with the pandemic, and your unique perspective of being on the front lines, what do you think is the most important thing all CIOs/CTOs should be focused on to help lead their teams?
The biggest lesson of the current challenge is that you can’t go at it alone. To succeed you need to lean on others.This includes your team, other groups within your agency, interagency collaboration, vendors, partners and support among your peer group of CIOs and CTOs. It is important to not go at it alone, by utilizing existing support structures as well as relationships you have built over time you can face this challenge and not feel crushed by it.
The hardest part in this health crisis is to protect the wellbeing of the team while not letting the support mission suffer. It has been inspiring to see individuals and the IT team as a whole rise to the challenge, performing at a high level while 85% remote. As this is a long-haul situation and not a single event crisis, it is important to monitor your team, and yourself, for burnout. Everyone also needs some personal time to recharge and refresh. As many of us are working from home, it can easily feel like you're always at work. Encourage your team to participate in activities that they enjoy and also to maintain focus on self-care, take breaks and step away from the keyboard.
Finally, while your primary concern is operational fires and supporting the mission, don’t lose sight of the learning opportunity offered by the current situation. Acknowledge those that have stepped up on your teams. Take note of employees that you may want to mentor for future leadership. Which of your processes need improvements? What repairs and enhancements should you make with your systems? Now you have your FY21 performance goals. Which vendors demonstrated true partnership during this challenge versus those who used it as a sales and marketing opportunity? What would you have done differently to prepare six months in advance if you had known what you know now? How will you use that knowledge to be better prepared in the future?
5. You have been a SIMCAC member for a while now. From your perspective, what is the primary value proposition of SIMCAC membership, and what would you say to other senior technology executives that are considering membership?
SIMCAC provides an opportunity to build those relationships that you can count on when you need support or advice from a leadership perspective. It is especially valuable for widening your professional network outside of your immediate field and line of business. Being a SIMCAC member, you are provided with venues and occasions to learn from a cross section of sectors to include government (local/state/federal/defense), contracting, commercial and vendors.
Additionally, the meet up and events are well run and organized. They are always focused on a beneficial topic and offer a great way to engage via Q&A and networking.
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