eDiscovery Daily Blog

The 2024 California CIO Academy: Musings From an eDiscovery Guy

By Rick Clark

Spending the past 20+ years in forensics, eDiscovery, and investigations has kept me in a legal conference circuit lane, but this week I stepped into a new and interesting adjacent world: information technology leadership in public service. This conference is formally called the California Public Sector CIO Academy and its organizer, e.republic, hosted over 800 attendees from all over the state.

When preparing to attend the conference, I reviewed the agenda, speakers and keynotes and was pleasantly surprised that most of the curriculum was focused on personal and professional development, leadership upskilling, and public speaking advice. At first, I wondered why there wouldn’t be deep dives into generative artificial intelligence, or the latest in IT strategies and technology, but rather the focus was dominantly professional development with themes like making a difference, skilling up in career and communication in today’s CIO role and mastering executive presence to name a few.

My highlights could easily end up being a long form article after taking pages and pages of notes, but my favorites are the following standouts that all hover around personal and professional development.

The keynote, Guy Kawasaki, formerly of Apple, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and Chief Evangelist of Canva and Author of “Think Remarkable” enthusiastically set the tone for the conference with some incredible insights in how we can best make a difference in our career and personal lives.

His list of 10 keys to making a difference were all gold, but what especially stood out to me were:

  • Work backwards when building a platform, service, or process. Start with what you know the customers want. The process allows a customer-centric focus from the beginning. This process can be even as simple as trying to address change management in deploying a new process or platform or can be a new public facing experience like what the California Department of Motor Vehicles completed with their website. This takeaway mirrored a similar example discussed throughout the conference with Amazon writing the press release of the platform they are beginning to build.
  • Go See; Go Be. As a creator of a new process or platform, continue to have the team go through the customer/user journey. Be the customer and work through the same experience the end-user will be journeying.
  • Get Unique and Valuable. The best position to be in is when your product or service is both unique and valuable. For example, if you are rolling out a new platform and it is just unique, but has no value, it will be near impossible to get off the ground.

The breakout session that I attended first was titled “The Expanding Realm of Today’s CIO,” with Maisha Dottery, the CIO of the Department of Community Services and Development with the State of California moderating. Speakers included state-level representatives Thomas Boon, CIO, Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz); Don Foley, Chief Information Officer, Deputy Director, Office of Environmental Information Management, Department of Toxic Substances; Quentin Wright, CIO, Chief Information Officer, Department of Technology; Calvin McGee II, CIO Chief Information Officer, Department of Real Estate; plus Michael Rockstein, Director, Consulting Services, CGI and Shaw-chin Chiu, IBM, Managing Client Partner.

The lively discussion had an engaging flow. Panelists first covered practical approaches to understanding the evolution of technology in the past 10 years before transitioning to the evaluation of emerging technology to homing in on the strategic or tactical aspects of department growth.

Boon stated that IT doesn’t hang on to technology like they used to 10 years ago, as now they must keep asking “what’s next” to ensure they are keeping up to date. He even went further to say that he blocks out Wednesdays as “vendor day” to ensure that he is up to date with the evolving technology offerings.

McGee echoed a similar sentiment by saying that it used to be about “the building,” but in today’s remote work lifestyles that people and technology are no longer just in the building, with many platforms moving to the cloud.

The question was then posed as to how remote work has impacted staff and departments. Don Foley emphatically stated that communication must be more intentional as in-office interactions are more available, whereas remote workers may not seem as accessible.

Lastly, the question was posed: is a strategic or tactical focus necessary for proper departmental growth? The response from McGee was that there needs to be focus on both, but individually. This is done by selecting those team members who will focus on strategic growth and direction while others are tactically getting the tasks done to get the organization there.

The breakout session discussion on “Mastering Executive Presence” danced between personal, interpersonal, and professional development. This session was moderated by Mike Driessen, VP at Government Technology and state-level panelists Christine Blake, Product Manager, Health and Human Services Agency, Center for Data insights and Innovation; Michael Muth with the same agency and Sam Silva, CIO, Office of Technology Services, Department of Pesticides Regulation.

The panel relayed points of success that began with Muth discussing how public-facing projects always have a human-centered design in mind. If IT can see how effective it is in the field, it can translate that effectiveness to the screen when developing web-based solutions. Blake emphasized the importance of IT leadership pulling together the programmers to develop a positive end-user experience that builds trust with the public. Silva offered to ask the end-users to share their stories, so that they can understand the challenges that need to be solved.

After the practical discussion on product and project management, the conversation moved to soft-skill development and laid out practical ways to improve your communication skills and interpersonal relationships, including the following points:

  • Christine Blake:
    • Be an active listener (not waiting for your turn to talk) and that will help you build trust and accomplish goals with that relationship
    • When speaking with executives, communicate at a high level only. Getting into the details will almost guarantee a loss of interest
    • Leverage your emotional intelligence and pay attention to non-verbal communications by how people are responding to you and your message. If they are looking away or at their phone, find a way to get them to engage
    • Being vulnerable shows strength rather than weakness because it is difficult to do, and people will respect this
  • Michael Muth:
    • Speak in a way that your audience will understand…don’t speak above or below your specific audience whether it is one person or a group.
    • Working virtually has allowed most of us to multitask during meetings and will take some learning to not do so when getting back in person.
  • Sam Silva:
    • Continually ask for feedback so you can grow personally. Have a growth mindset
    • Be intentional (with your interactions) and don’t multitask. Doing so can show your respect for the person who is talking
    • Bring joy to the people around you regardless of position, education, or any other factor

Many more insights were shared on day 2 on effective leadership in the technology space, which we will include in a future blog.

If you work in city, county or state government and are interested in learning more about how CloudNine can help speed your response to public records requests, contact us today to learn more.

About the Authors

Rick Clark is VP, Strategic Partnerships at CloudNine and has 20+ years of experience in forensics and eDiscovery. Focused on innovation and education, he co-founded ESI Analyst, now CloudNine Analyst, as well as Wave Software and the Master’s Conference.