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A Q&A with Amy Tong, Director and State Chief Information Officer, CA Department of Technology

Sunday, October 29, 2017   (0 Comments)
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Governor Jerry Brown appointed Amy Tong as Director of the California Department of Technology (CDT) on June 30, 2016, after she had served as Acting Director since April 1, 2016.


As the Director and State Chief Information Officer (CIO), Ms. Tong is responsible for advising the Governor on the strategic management and direction of the state’s Information Technology (IT) resources. She is also responsible for establishing and implementing state IT strategic plans, policies, standards and enterprise architecture while minimizing overlap, redundancy and cost to the state by promoting the efficient and effective use of IT. Ms. Tong coordinates the activities of Agency Information Officers (AIO) and department CIOs for the purpose of integrating statewide technology initiatives and ensuring compliance with IT policies and standards in the areas of Digital Services, Information Security, Project Delivery, Innovation and IT Workforce development. She promotes alignment and effective management of IT resources by working to improve organizational maturity and capacity in the effective management of IT. In order to achieve success in these areas, Ms. Tong has emphasized the importance of strategic clarity within the department. She has aimed to instill a sense of common purpose throughout the organization through structural realignment and improved internal communication with the end goal being a department that is pointed in the same direction and continuously working toward one common goal.


Ms. Tong has over 22 years of business, technology, and management experience in the public sector. Prior to being appointed director of CDT, she served as the Chief Deputy Director and Agency Chief Information Officer in the Office of Systems Integration at the California Health and Human Services Agency, Deputy Director and Chief Information Officer at California Lottery, Chief Technology Officer at Board of Equalization; Chief of the Data Center at California Public Employees’ Retirement System; and was the acting CIO at the Water Resources Control Board. Ms. Tong has a Bachelor of Science degree in Management Information System (MIS) and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from California State University, Sacramento.


Ms. Tong has also spent the past 17 years serving her community as a volunteer. She is a national senior adviser and immediate past national vice-chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Public Affairs Association, a non-profit organization, dedicated to empowering community members in civic engagement, youth leadership development, and community collaboration. Ms. Tong is continuing her community involvement by serving as the Planning Commissioner for the City of Elk Grove.


MISAC: What drew you to the field of information technology?

Tong:   Technology, even from my earliest levels of schooling, has always fascinated me. I think the core of my fascination has always been using technology to solve problems small and large. And I think exploring the scale of problems that technology can provide solutions to has always drawn me to the field.


MISAC: How has your professional background prepared you for your current role?

Tong:   I have been working in the state technology field for more than 20 years. Working at various levels in a complex organization like state government has given me invaluable perspective. Certainly, knowing organizational structure is hugely important but so too is knowing how all the pieces interact with each other and how they can be leveraged to achieve the department’s goals. It also helps me to identify where California Department of Technology (CDT) can potentially help other state entities.


MISAC: What do you like best about your job?

Tong:   This is an exciting time for the department. We’re really changing how the organization operates in a variety of ways. We’re looking at everything, cybersecurity, project delivery, professional development, through an innovative lens. What I like the best is the team that I have around me. Having the right minds that can creatively and effectively lead initiatives is critical to success. I’m proud of the team and all of the hard work they do.


MISAC: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Tong:   As my boss, Government Operations Secretary Marybel Batjer always reminds us, we are on Governor Brown’s clock and that clock is constantly ticking. So one of our biggest challenges is accomplishing our goals before the Brown Administration ends in November 2018. The administration has ambitious goals in a lot of areas, not just technology, and I know my fellow department directors are all working as hard as they can to see that these goals are accomplished.


MISAC: How do you approach analyzing proposed legislation?

Tong:   CDT evaluates proposed legislation to ensure that it furthers the department’s goals of organizational sustainability, improved project delivery and strengthened statewide information security in order to deliver critical public services in a value added, cost effective manner on behalf of the people of our state.


MISAC: What characteristics do you look for in a good bill?

Tong:   Information technology is critical to the business of government. CDT identifies bills that improves the state’s ability to deliver efficient technology solutions to state and local governments in order to serve the public.


MISAC: What are your thoughts on CALNET?

Tong:   The CALNET program continues to offer a suite of competitively bid telecommunications contracts that offer reduced pricing through economies of scale. The current customer base is approximately 2,200 – with local government accounting for 50% CALNET customer base. The current CALNET3 contracts will be extended to June 30, 2019 and we invite input from our city and vendor community partners as planning continues for the next generation of CALNET services.


MISAC: What is the future of copper telecommunications services?

Tong:   Copper will continue to be a common transport for services. It is very prevalent in contractors’ infrastructure. Services over copper will be maintained in the current CALNET 3 series and into the next generation of CALNET.


MISAC: Can you share a bit about the new CISO office and Security Operations Center?

Tong:   Our Security Operations Center is a constantly evolving office. We stood it up and it became fully operational as of July 2017. Right now, in September, we are 85% staffed and we expect to be 100% staffed providing 24/7 coverage by October. The overall goal of the office is to take a more hands on approach for risk mitigation strategy to help departments meet a maturity state.


MISAC: What would you like MISAC members to understand about your current initiatives?

Tong:   All of CDT’s current initiatives revolve around the theme of creating one technology community. This starts, first and foremost, with breaking down silos not just in our department but in the technology community as a whole. We want to instill the idea that all of our initiatives affect each other, none of them exist in a vacuum. From a broad strategical point of view, to creation of policy and all the way down the line to implementation, everything should work together as one. A successful IT community is one that helps one another.


MISAC: What potential areas for collaboration can you identify?

Tong:   We see several opportunities for the state to collaborate with our partners at the city level. The first that comes to mind is cloud services. We recently partnered with Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services to expand our cloud service offerings. We’re also looking at cybersecurity, which we see as a collaboration between all levels of government: local, state and federal. And, of course, legislation is always an area where we can work together to represent the state’s technology community to the legislature.


MISAC: What can MISAC and its members do to best support your priorities?

Tong:   Similar to my answer to number 10. The concept of “one technology community” does not stop at the state level. We view our partnerships with organizations such as MISAC and CCISDA as extremely valuable relationships that can be leveraged in a mutually beneficial community. Continuing to collaborate and keeping our eyes open for areas that could be improved via a collaboration is critical to growing these partnerships.


MISAC: What about the fall conference are you most looking forward to?

Tong:   This is my first opportunity as state CIO to meet our city partners and learn about their needs.

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