Ep.113 Jim Weaver, CIO, State of North Carolina & Mandy Crawford, CIO, State of Texas

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Ep.113 Jim Weaver, CIO, State of North Carolina & Mandy Crawford, CIO, State of Texas

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Show Notes


0:00 - Intro 

2:37 - Legacy systems 

4:16 - The best solutions for the DMV 

7:13 - Mobile app In Texas for vehicle registration and renewal 

10:32 - RTS system 

17:28 - Transforming the physical to the digital 

20:54 - Convince leadership and our business partners on budget 

22:06 - Workforce Challenges 

25:18 - If Wendy had a magic wand... 

29:29 - Solving problems


Joe Toste

Kevin, welcome to TechTables. Super excited to have you on this morning.

Kevin Gilbertson

All right. Great. I'm glad to be here. Thanks for inviting me.

Joe Toste

Awesome. Kevin is Montana's state CIO, and he leads the agency responsible for transforming how Montana government serves Montanans. Before we jump in, today's podcast episode is sponsored by Nagarro Public Sector. Nagarro Public Sector excels at helping senior technology leaders in digital disruption from cloud and AI to big data and digital product engineering to system integration work across platforms. To learn more about Nagarro, you can head to naggaro.com.

All right, Kevin, as we kick off today's episode, you led Helix Business Solutions and a number of successful IT service companies in various roles, I believe even working for the governor before he was the governor-

Kevin Gilbertson

Right, yeah.

Joe Toste

... at one point back then. What are two to three learnings that you've brought and are still bringing to the state of Montana from the private sector that you believe would benefit state CIOs outside of Montana?

Kevin Gilbertson

There's a lot more similar between the public and private than I thought before getting in here, and some of it may be just because I don't necessarily think that there are certainties around the speed that the state needs to go at and things like that. But from the private sector, always pushing, always trying to be results driven. I think that's not a new learning for public at all, but I think trying to continually push toward that execution at a speed so that is similar to private is something that has been a little new for some of the folks that I've worked with. But I think it's also been welcomed coming in.

Other things, I had started my own company. At one point, I had a consulting shop that ended up folding into Helix, that I talked about earlier. When you have your own business, that whole every dollar you have to make a decision on that. Every dollar is important, and also treating the company, or in this case it's the state's dollars, as your own. And as a taxpayer, yes it is. But it's one of those things where you start to realize that it's not like there's an ultimate pool out there that you can go and get whatever you want from. Basically we have to take the best advantage of everything that we have, make sure everything is as efficient as possible. And only through finding savings can we do things like create innovation and buy increased salaries or do these types of things. And so we have to be very careful with dollars. And once again, that's not a new learning, but it's certainly something that I've brought with me from the private side.

And then finally, one of the things I tell all the time is I've been in a number of different roles. It's been a little bit of a different journey for me to get here. I started as a tech writer. After that, I was in a solution engineering or technical sales type of a role. At the same time I was going to graduate school for computer science. I never did finish that, but I got far enough along where I was a developer for a while and things like that. And then realized that the human side was so much more important in a lot of cases than the bits and bytes were here.

I went and started sales. Some folks thought I was crazy to jump into a commission based role, but I had a great time doing it. And just the whole idea of being a solution sales focused, listening first, and then having ultimate confidence in the product that you're bringing and things like that, that I think serves me very well here at the state. Because especially as the CIO, it is my job to sell the vision. And I have to be thinking about that over and over again. Every time I work with someone new, we want to be talking about how are we selling that vision? How are we executing against it, and all of that. Once again, just having full confidence that what we do is going to make a great difference for the state. And so, that sales background I think is something that if everybody has a chance, they should at least sell once in their career, because it does give them some great skills for leadership as well.

Joe Toste

Yeah, I love that. There's a lot that you said there. I love the results. It's not new, but I think there's not enough leaders in the public sector who are pushing this hard, and I don't think that's a bad thing at all. I love what you said about selling the vision and that sales component, really just getting people to buy in. In life, you're going to have to sell all the time. I think in the IT world, people are like, "Oh, it's a little uncomfortable." It took me five years to sell my wife to marry me. Five years. There was a lot of selling there, there's a lot of listening going on there too.

My basketball team, I had to sell the five guys on Saturday morning that we were going to go beat this team that had 12. And they're looking at me like, "Coach, we're not going to get a single break." And so yeah, selling that vision. And then I love when you have that vision, I love what you said about executing against that vision. And that's the secret sauce I think as you probably learned when you were running your own business, your own small shop, I'm running my own business. You have the vision, but you have to execute against it, and sometimes the execution is you up at 11 o'clock at night thinking about what you did wrong or maybe what you could do right the next day. I love that. I want to go a little bit deeper. You talked about selling the vision, executing against it, but what learnings where you think the private sector could really give to the public sector?

Kevin Gilbertson

I think that just in general the way that we've approached careers in the private sector is a little bit different. It's one of those things that I've been thinking about a lot, and we can certainly talk more about that. Up until, I would even say recently, the whole profile of a government employee has been somebody who's wanted to come on board for a pension, worked there for a good long time and things like that. But things are changing there. And this is basically the same conversation that when I started working for private almost 30 years ago, we were having some of the same conversations. Even back then, this was in '92, '93, that we were talking about even then people aren't going to start with the company and work there for the rest of their life. It was different.

And so the total focus was on developing that employee for the time that you had them there, creating a great place to work. Experience for the people that are there is ultimately important. Things like, in the private sector right now, onboarding and having that be such a wonderful experience, it's so important, and I think we're starting to see that in the public sector as well. COVID changed a lot, I think, in a lot of different areas. One of the big things there was that the location really matters a whole lot less when you have the qualifications. It's not that wasn't already happening anyway. I had worked from home for quite some time before I came over to the state. But when COVID came, all of us moving home, and then all of a sudden even a higher demand for the technical resources.

And now all of a sudden at the state, I'm competing with folks that they can work for any company anywhere, even here in Montana, and make substantially more, in some cases, than what they're making for the state themselves. So we are starting to see a situation where what's best for the employee in terms of income, opportunities for their family, all those other types of things, may be different than they were before. And some of the reasons why you might have stayed at the state before don't exist anymore. So we need to be thinking about what are some of the things that we can do to make this a great place to work, which is something that private sector has been thinking about for a long time.

Joe Toste

Okay. Yeah, that was really great. I was trying to actually lead into the workforce strategy, which we're going to talk on in one minute. But I love what you said about, I think, the thinking through. There's almost this, I don't know if it's a demographic change, but what people care about has evolved from the days of the pension to now anywhere across Montana you could have someone who can go work for any company or, even right now, any place in the world. Just having this distributed or remote culture that companies are embracing. I think a lot of public sector have folks... And it's not actually even necessarily an IT problem. I've talked to some folks where it's a legacy policy issue where they've said, "Hey, you have to work in the city of..." I'm just going to use Boston, I don't know, I'm just making that up, but, "in the city of Boston. You have to stay here."

That's legacy. Because Massachusetts, why not have someone live on a farm somewhere, they have internet, and the cost of living in Boston is so high. I think that's how you level the playing field because I know public sector might not be able to pay as much, but if you can put people in other cities where the cost of living isn't so high, you can equalize on a cost of living adjustment basis, what that looks like. So you can still pay them and they can go work remote on a farm somewhere or in a different state where it's not as expensive, like me in Southern California right now.

So, let's go into the Montana workforce strategy. As I was thinking about this, you've hired and developed a lot of people throughout your career. How do you think about marketing and training college grads to the state? And I love what you said about it being their first and last best job.

Kevin Gilbertson

Yeah, so this is something that we've been thinking about a lot. Like I said, if they're not going to be here forever, what can we do to make sure that we are both offering value to the employees as well as them? Like I said, we're talking about best, first and last. And from a marketing perspective, I still need to change that a little bit, give a nice ring to it. But what we're really talking about there is that we have a great opportunity to bring some young folks in just out of college where, while there's high demand everywhere, it's still in that point where I see on LinkedIn people saying, "How am I supposed to have five years experience if I don't have the ability to have a job?" But here's an opportunity, I think, for the state to bring folks in, get into a developmental mindset to be able to bring in someone straight out of college.

We've got all of the technology that you would see in private sector. I can give folks the opportunity to get in and really get hands-on, that difference between college and real life in terms of what we can get. So, we're really focusing on that. We've brought in a training coordinator into our group, and so we are focusing on what can we do to increase numbers of internships? How can we turn those internships potentially into apprenticeships? We're all very early on that but really wanting to make sure that we have the ability to create some opportunities. We're talking to multiple vendors about doing hackathons with local schools here throughout the state and share some of the problems that we're having with state with the students. So give them an ability to see how they could make a direct difference. And then give them value by training them but also get what we need by having the employees here within the state doing these critical functions that they need in order for us to serve the citizens.

But then we also have to be comfortable that at some point there's going to be something beyond what we can offer that they're probably going to want to do at some point in their career. We're having a hard time competing with private sector in terms of pay, in terms of some other benefits and things like that. Right now in Montana, we're all back in the office and we are moving to be more hybrid. And so that is something that we will offer. But for now, that's something that folks really want and so they're taking some higher pay to be able to work from home anywhere within the state, as you said, and so that's giving them some advantages there.

Now that said, they're also out there on the bleeding edge in terms of some of the technology and things like that. And so, when we start talking about serving the state, there are very few jobs you could have in your life where you impact the citizen of a state as much as you do in state government or in local government for that matter as well. You can see the direct impact of the things that you're doing. You have that ability to directly impact the citizens of the state. So, for example, the problems that we're dealing with, one of the first things when I came on is they we're building a system to help people get housing and rental assistance. Because folks during the time of COVID were potentially losing housing and so how can we get assistance out to these folks? So building an app to be able to allow folks to apply for that, focusing both on the residents and landlords and making sure that people have a place to stay. How great is that, that you can say something that I did was able to help someone at that level?

That's the best first part, where we can come in, we can expose them in technology at all different levels. The whole processes of working in large groups. We are, for example, implementing skilled agile framework, which is something that's very common within private sector. Understanding just not only the code pieces of it, but how to work with others, how to work on teams, how to have a developmental mindset, do all these other types of things.

The last part, which is as folks go through their career, there comes a point too where, at least for myself and I think if for a lot of people, that wanting to give back a little bit. This is my first public sector job that I've ever had. It's almost 30 years that I've been in high tech. I was talking to the governor, and as you mentioned, I'd known the governor beforehand, and we had worked together for about 14 years at one company. And there's an eight year gap and then he was elected governor and was looking for a CIO and I was looking for a way to give back. I've lived in Montana my entire life. I've worked with companies all over the world. I've traveled a lot and done all these things, had some great opportunities. But here was my opportunity to basically give back and be able to see some of the contributions that I'm making to the state in order for the state to serve the citizens of the state itself.

For those that are like me, hopefully my career is not over yet, but although I have heard that CIO does stand for career is over. But, given an opportunity to give back and help folks out. And one of the things that we want to be thinking about is training folks who have worked for the state, so that you come, this is not a situation where if you go somewhere else... As a matter of fact, we're hoping that we can train you so that you're very valuable and that you'll choose to stay here a good long time. But at the same time, and we'll treat you as alumni, go out, you're working on the bleeding edge. And when you're ready to come back and do some service, we want to be here as an avenue for you to provide that service to your fellow citizens. And that's something that we're looking at too.

What kinds of things can we do as people are starting to think toward the latter parts of the career, I'm not going to say end, but the latter parts of their career, where they may want to move back to the state. For a long time, we've had some great tech schools here that have done a great job of exporting expertise out of the state and what are things that we could do to bring people back. And we saw in the time of COVID, this is a place that people really want to move to because now that they can do remote work, we've got some of our areas here that are just blowing up and they're growing like crazy. And I think we have some great things to offer here. And so for those folks that want to come back, come to the state, like I said, we want to offer remote. But at the same time, we'd love to have them here and being a part of the Montana economy and being able to start thinking about that next step.

Joe Toste

Yeah. No, that is great. There's a lot that you said there. And I want to just take it one by one because it is really good. So the first part is when we talk about that early investment, so for me, I worked at a property management software company called Yardi systems.

Kevin Gilbertson

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joe Toste

I don't know if you've ever heard of Yardi. Yeah. Okay. Awesome. And I loved my experience at Yardi. This was 10 years ago at this point, maybe even more.

But when I first started working at Yardi, when during the interview process, you interview with eight managers. And at the time, the eight managers who interview you, they look for all of the skills. You have these 10 skills, if you check the box, you're going to get a job. I had one out of 10. That's all I had. I knew accounting that's in college. And I didn't know what a DB was. I didn't know anything. And I had this one manager who had owned his own business before and it had got acquired. And he believed in me, he was like, "Hey, I'm going to hire this kid." And everyone else looked at him like he was crazy. And that was the shot. So I went through this process where they just sent me, I learned SQL, I went to coding school, this in person coding school in San Francisco, which is great. Learned SQL. And then I started writing packages, dropping stuff in, updating tables and the whole thing.

I love what you said about you're actually impacting real people, then I started to go on [inaudible 00:16:01]. And normally that was for the PSG group, which is the professional consulting group and I was a technical account manager. And he was like, "Hey, the best way for you to learn is be with the user on site." So he granted me an exception and I would go. And then I started realizing the people in the database, they're real people. When you update the rows and records and everything, you're making real adjustments. There are people's rents, people's information. These are all real humans, even if there's a million of them in it. And so that process, I had thought a lot about, because not too many people or companies were hiring like that. Now, it's a little bit different where companies I think are looking at folks and saying does this person have the ingredients to make a really great employee? And then we can train you. Most people go learn SQL, most people can go learn whatever, web, whatever. It doesn't matter.

I think that's a really fascinating concept where I think even in public sector looking for younger folk and maybe they're just graduating college or I think folks that are hungry too, and they're really smart and they can start that what I'm going to call ecosystem. Where they get in, they learn a bunch of skills, maybe they work two to three years for you, maybe a little bit longer. Then they leave, then they go to private sector, then they come back. And so they have a little bit of a different perspective that they can bring and I think that's really fascinating. And I love what you said about treating them as alumni. I haven't heard it like that before in this context, but I love that. I think I'm going to steal that. More public sector CIOs should treat that as alumni.

As a basketball coach, I'm an alumni. I played at the school I coach. So I am an alum. And it's so fun, now that I'm thinking about it on the basketball court, it is so fun when you have alum come back and they're giving. Whether they're coaching and probably very similar, I get paid zero to coach. But you probably get paid more than zero. But I get paid about zero to coach, but I am actually an employee of the Santa Barbara Unified School District in order to be on campus. So, that's my not waiting until I'm much older to give back. That's my public sector giving back experience right now. But I love what you said there.

And then just that ecosystem of having the alum come through, I think as you start to build that culture, you might not see the impact, you might see the impact very small right now. But I think 10 years from now, 20 years from now, that's just an awesome legacy to leave for the state as younger folks who are in their twenties and thirties, I'm in my thirties, who had come back to the state to serve, which is great. I love that.

Kevin Gilbertson

And on top of that, I've done a lot of studying of goals and research on goals and things like that. And one of the things that they found was the learning goal in a lot of cases is you get more results out of a learning goal than you do out of a specific result. As much as we want to have smart goals in all of this, sometimes just picking a goal to learn something you're going to over accomplish because you're not set by any bounds. You're not setting artificially low goals or anything like that. You're just learning how to do something. And then over that time period, you find out that you're doing much better and there's lots of research and stories that talk about how that can happen. In addition to the benefits there, just getting that mindset and that learning culture I think is an important thing that is going to be helpful as well. And I think you're right, I think in 10 or 20 years, I think we're going to see some really positive impacts from this.

Joe Toste

So when I think about the there's 10 and 20 years from now, but then there's what we're going to do today. And you had mentioned to me about the Montana digital challenge, maybe first describe what is the Montana digital challenge first, and then where do you see that going?

Kevin Gilbertson

Yeah, as part of our state strategic plan, one of our major goals is the citizen one stop shop anywhere, anytime, any device. And so basically it's a lot about going digital and offering capabilities there. On top of that, the governor has basically challenged all of the agency to see who can get 100% digital first. And one of the things that we're doing as a part of that is that we're actually working with one agency, of the Department of Commerce. So I think they're going to be first, I believe, because we're working with them directly. But essentially what we're trying to do is remove all paper processes. And in this case, I'm talking about, I think that a PDF that you download and fill out and mail in is still a paper process. So there's definitely an advantage to having that, but that's not a digital process. We want to truly get to digital.

Essentially what we're doing is working with all of the different agencies to be able to get to the point where 100% of what they offer is part of a digital process that enables folks to do what they need online, to run it through a workflow within the state and make sure that we're doing things as quickly as we possibly can, as efficiently as we possibly can. Now, there's obviously a big challenge in that. Any state, there's a lot of legacy paper, and there's also a lot of legacy applications that are not part of this challenge. Modernization is another huge thing that we're working with. What can we retire, eliminate tech debt, can we do all these? And so a lot of the tools that we're going to be using are going to be quite similar.

And we have tools that are quite different now than they did 20 years ago. But unfortunately there are still systems in place that are 20, 30 years old. And we're having to have folks that are up to date on those systems. Quite honestly, some of the stuff is not even taught anymore. In college, you'd have to take special classes in order to get some of this. Finding people for it is hard. We've got a lot of this. And so a big focus that we have here is low code, no code.

What we're trying to do is we understand that as an IT organization, just for us to go and say within the next year to replace everything and have a digital process for everything would be next to impossible. So we can pick out one agency and swarm it and make sure that we have something done there, which we are doing. Like I said, we've chosen the Department of Commerce and we're using that. We actually have several other agencies who are volunteering folks to help be a part of the process because what we're doing at the same time is we're developing governance for that. We're developing best practice. We're doing all of this with the tools that we have in place there.

But the reality is if we're going to truly be digital from here on out, what we need to do is what I like to refer to as authorized shadow IT. The business users want to be doing this anyway. So what do we need to do to create tools? And I'm a firm believer there's no one tool for every job. We're looking at several different vendors. We are asking that there are ways to bring all the data into a common repository over time so that we can do something with that data as we go with it. But essentially looking at a lot of different tools in order to enable the business or citizen developer, if you will, to be able to build out some of these tools. Getting that closer to the business is something that is a huge goal for us, and something that we're focusing here on the short. And so that's how we're going to get to 100% digital.

But like I said, governance is a big deal. We want make sure that it's not just some form that's out there that's feeding data into nowhere and creating bad experience for citizens because it's not going anywhere and it's not providing what it needs. We want to be able to monitor, we want to make sure that there's best practice, we want to be able to provide a good user experience, all these other types of things. So that's the work now is defining that tool set and creating the guidelines that we need to give to the business in order to do what they need to do.

Joe Toste

So you said the governor made a challenge to the agencies? I don't know, I haven't researched all 50 governors. Actually, I don't know if I've researched any governors. When I was prepping for this podcast, he had owned a software company before, a fairly large one. So I think I had read that he had made that challenge to the state agencies. That I think is, you're the state CIO, but he's got to have a level of technical expertise in depth too. When the two of you get together, is it like an easy conversation where you're just like, "Hey, that's it, this is what we're going to do." and then you're just off on your way? And then working with the state agencies? Just the dynamics of that.

Kevin Gilbertson

I'll back up. So, yeah, he's very technical. He has started multiple software companies. He ended up selling the last one right now, technologies to Oracle. And that was for, I believe, $1.8 billion. So he had grown into a large size and that was the company that I had worked with him for there. So I was a very early employee there, worked through the sale. Worked at Oracle for a little bit too after the sale was there. But I think that background working with the governor was one of the reasons why I really wanted to take this job. I knew that, one, he's an inspirational leader and he is a guy that you want to work for anyway. But he's also from a technical perspective, very technically savvy. There's certainly nothing that I can pull over on, or anyone can pull over on him when it comes to the technology. So he digs deep into it.

But I think between that background in his technical capabilities and how having worked together before, it is easy. There are things where we can walk in. I think that there's a little bit of a shorthand that may not have existed there without the history that we have together, which like I said, for me, was a huge reason to take the role. I knew that he's very progressive when it comes from technology. Hard driving, he likes to get quick results. He's very results driven. And so those are all things that I thought would, coming in, enable me to also make a difference in terms of what I'm doing. But yeah, it's been wonderful to work with him again. It's been a great experience.

Joe Toste

Yeah. I imagine that's got to be really helpful because you've got to pass bills and all this kind of stuff where not only can he explain it technically, but also I'm sure he can explain it in very simple terms to the legislative body in order to actually push this through. In the private sector, you hear every company's a software company now. And then, so I was thinking the public sector, I haven't quite heard that. They haven't quite embraced that yet, that every agency is a software where, or a digital agency. But I've got a feeling you and the governor in Montana are going to change that really quickly. Every agency will become a digital agency. You also said authorized shadow IT. I love that.

So this jumps perfectly into the next question around low code, no code. So, you're right, users want to be able to take ownership. They want to be able to use applications without having to pick up the phone or submit a ticket to IT. You know that, I know that. We've probably been in this scenario where we had to submit that ticket and you're waiting through this unnecessary process. You had this great quote, you said, we're trying to figure out if there's a low code or no code type of solution that we can get into the hands of our business users. You just echoed that earlier. I was curious what excites you most about empowering the business users throughout the state agencies to deploy low code, no code applications?

Kevin Gilbertson

I think there's a lot of different things there, but a lot of it comes from my history with enterprise applications. Low code, no code is not to the point yet where I believe that the performance or the ease of use would allow a normal business user to build out a full enterprise application. I don't think we're there yet. I do envision a day where that happens and we're able to do that. However, we're coming out of the era where, and unfortunately it's still here where in Montana we've got a lot of custom build. We've got a lot of custom builds that take years to put in place. And in my experience in building out enterprise applications, even if we're just talking about configuring and doing some customization of an existing SaaS application. But when it goes on for years, giving the users exactly what they need is always a bit of a challenge, especially back in the old waterfall days where the users would explain what they need and then the developers go away for a good long time and then they come back and it's nothing close to what the developers needs.

Agile has fixed that in a lot of different ways. Getting working soft software in the hands of the users as fast as possible is certainly something we can do. But I've never been a part of a process where we've gotten it 100% the first time. But usually when we go out and collect requirements, come back, get working software in front of the users. A lot of the times that first time I'm happy if we got 50% of it. And then it's only by seeing what the developers have interpreted from it, where the user can say, that's not exactly what I was talking about. In my business, I need to do this. And this is not including we've got folks who said I needed the button to be red that is not something I want to get into.

But I do want to say, we need to collect this payment. We need to be able to notify them that this happened, and the true business requirements that we go. One of the things, a low code, no code standpoint is that there is the ability to allow folks to get into the world of programming without having to go too deep. Get an understanding of what an MVP might look like. In a lot of ways being able to, even if it's just able to get us to a point where it's more of a clickable prototype. Often, I think that puts us into a better or position than we were in before.

And then from a state perspective, when we think about applications, a lot of applications that we have quite honestly are very simple form with a very basic workflow behind it. Let's say, for example, we used to host for the counties, burn permits. Where essentially somebody goes, they fill this out, there's a little bit of logic behind it. At the end of it, they pay their $15 or whatever the amount is. I'm not sure what it is. And then they have this permit in place and then that gets communicated to the local fire department and so they know what's going on and all of that. And so at the end of the day, it's a form with some ability to have some approvals to do some notifications and then collect the payment. So it's an application, but it's not a complex application. And so it's stuff like that, where I think that it put low code, no code to a position where if we need something very simple like that, to be able to collect some data, that we could fully put that in the hands of the business users.

I think with COVID, we saw a lot of situations where what wasn't digital before became extremely exposed when people were sent home. And so, while that's already happened once, I think it's going to be ongoing as we continue to have people staying at home. The digital mindset, I think, is not going to go away. It's going to be there. And so, I think that we are at a point right now where users are ready to take that on and to do, like I said, something very quickly.

And then in all of my career, I've never worked with a company who basically said, "My IT group, they just have way too many people and not enough things to do." It's never happened. There's always too much to do and the resource to do that there. That's one of those things where in anything else, wherever you can create efficiencies, there's always another important job that needs to be done and being able to take and pivot toward what are the highest impact things that we can do as an organization to move forward?

And then, once again, we talked earlier about the challenges that we've had with competing against private sector for talent. The reality is that over time we're going to have to do more with less. It always comes down to you have to do more with less, but I think that as the talent competition heats up, I think that's going to become even more and more important. How do we create the tools in order to enable us to do more with less over time and make sure that we just can't stop delivering the services from the state perspective? How do we make that so efficient that we can get that into the hands of the folks that know the business better than anyone else or are able to deliver that service? And then at some point we're going to have an MVP solution built in low code, no code that's not going to be able to scale, and so we bring in IT. And so basically it puts us all into a different lane, I think, in order to deliver that ultimate experience.

Joe Toste

Yeah, that was great. One of the things you said about customization after years is it compounds, but in a negative way. Every little change, it just compounds. And then eventually you end up with a giant beast of whatever your monster you have created for your enterprise application. Yeah. No, I love what you put there. And then even deploying the low code, no code, during COVID, putting up a landing page for vaccine information or distribution, signing up, figuring all that stuff out. I know a lot of CIOs, not a lot, but there was actually a number where it hit them and they were trying to put up something and it crashed. And there was just the hot mess of what was going on. They put up the page, but they put it up and they didn't test it themselves where I think having business users being able to deploy applications very easy and quickly I think is really great.

So I've got a quick update for everyone on TechTables. Everyone knows I've been launching this episode today, but I've got a new series called the TechTables Suite Talk series. I think we got to get Kevin out there at some point. So I got these small intimate conversations happening live across the US starting April 21st in Phoenix with Arizona state CIO Jr. Sloan. He's been on TechTables a couple times. And Arizona Department of Education CIO, Elizabeth Neeley, ex-CSO for the state of Arizona, Doug [Ducey 00:33:09], and in the city of Goodyear CIO Justin Fair. Plus four other special CIOs in Phoenix. Again, on Thursday April 21st. And that was the first one and then it just started snowballing because then other CIOs started connecting with me and then we just started making this happen.

And then on May 18th, we've got audience fan favorite, Mandy Crawford. She's been on three times and we've done it live. So, I'm super excited. So, May 18th. So, Wednesday May 18th in Austin, Texas. We're going to do that one. And then I just interviewed Jim Weaver and he said, "Joe why are you not coming to Raleigh?" And so now on July 22nd, I will be in Raleigh. And actually Mandy's going to be there too for the TechTables Suite Talk Series, grillin' and chillin' because Mandy and Jim have a North Carolina/Texas barbecue showdown that they want to have. So those are all live podcasts in presidential suite, except for the one in Raleigh's going to be a little bit bigger, but it'll be under 25 people.

So later this morning, I haven't even released it yet Kevin, but I recorded an episode with my wife where she interviewed me about this series. And everyone right now was saying, "Joe, normally you release it at 4:00 AM on Tuesday morning."And I didn't hit the button last night to schedule it. So now everyone's wondering when episode 78 is going to come out. Well, it's going to come out after I finish with Kevin. And so you can head to events.techtables.com to check out that. Super excited. And if you're interested in having me host an event in your city for the TechTables Suite Talk Series, just email me joe@techtables.com. All right. So we're almost done. I want to wrap this up with a few audience questions and thoughts. We've got Mark from Snowflake. I don't even know if you know Mark, but he dropped something in the comments. He said, "What are a few hidden gem fly fishing spots?" I don't even know if you like fly fishing.

Kevin Gilbertson

So I definitely like fly fishing, but those I typically keep those to myself. I'll tell you, I live out of Bozeman, flying in there there's a ton of guides around. It's certainly a great place to go. And I will say that my brother does guide from time to time on the Bighorn. So I've always got to recommend the Bighorn.

Joe Toste

The Bighorn. I've never been to Montana and I've never been fly fishing, but I'm now very interested. What are the best months to come to Montana by the way? This is actually a great question.

Kevin Gilbertson

I think that you could find something great at any time coming to the state. If you're a skier, there's a lot of great skiing all over the place, the winter is always a good time to be out here. Folks are coming in to go to Glacier or Yellowstone, but different times. Usually that's more of a summer event. And I'm just in love with Montana in the summer because I am a fisherman and a lot of great opportunities to go hiking. So many great rivers to go out and be on. Like I said, there's almost no bad time to come out. It's just a matter of what are your main interests. It really helps if you're an outdoor person, because there's definitely a lot to do here.

Joe Toste

I love that. Someone told me that about Chicago, there's no bad time to come to Chicago. I lived in Chicago and I'll tell you that winter lasts for about eight months. So there is a bad time and it's in January and February. But I think you can't actually go so snowboarding in Chicago, so you just get the very cold ice to your face, chill off the lake. But yeah, I'm excited. I have never been to Yellowstone, that's on the bucket list. So I definitely want to do that. My wife would have a ton of fun with the kids too. Snowboarding, it's on the list. It's on the list, Kevin. So I know we are almost out of time. Real quick, very short. So Mandy said that you've got big ideas and you're doing great things in the beautiful state of Montana. She can't wait to hear the podcast. What are those big ideas? You got two to three big ideas this year and next year that are in your back pocket?

Kevin Gilbertson

Always lots of ideas going on. It's great to hear from Mandy. Obviously I can understand why she's a fan favorite of yours. She's just fantastic. A lot of things. I think from a people development standpoint, we've talked a lot, she's done some great things there by having a person who deals with culture and people development. That's something it's a big idea for me. It's certainly something that she's already accomplished. And so I'm hoping to get some advice from her moving on.

But just a lot of the things that we've talked about is just in making sure that there's no vendor lock with cloud hosting and things like that. So how do we manage multiple different environments and make sure that we can do that in a way that protects the state interest at all time, is certainly something that we're interested in. A lot on the people side, as I mentioned before, we're implementing scaled agile framework. We've talked in the past about that whole being able to work across the entire state and have a very transparent and yet interlocked planning of all of the different it organizations across the state itself.

And so that's some of the things that we're looking at and then the list goes on from there. A big thing that we are really looking forward to that's going to take time with the infrastructure grants that are coming out we are hoping to be able to work towards. And like I said, this is not anything new, but zero trust. We really want to start pushing towards getting there sooner rather than later. And once again, they're not new ideas, but certainly ones that take a lot to execute on and things that we're really focused on trying to get into sooner rather than later.

Joe Toste

People and culture, I am 99% sure that is Lisa Jammer. At some point, she's going to come on TechTables in Texas. I think she's the director of people and culture there. Going back, just to wrap up, everything we've talked about, not new, but having the vision and executing against it. If I had a theme, that's what it takes. Kevin, where can people find you? Where do you hang out? LinkedIn? Twitter? What's your spot? Where do you like to hang out?

Kevin Gilbertson

I'm on both, but LinkedIn probably every day. Twitter probably once a month. So LinkedIn's definitely the place to get in touch me if you need.

Joe Toste

Awesome. Thank you for coming on TechTables. Really appreciate it.

Kevin Gilbertson

All right. Thank you so much. I had a great time.

Podcast Questions

Jim - we’re in your home state - so let’s start with you. You’ve had the privilege of serving as state CIO on two coasts - Washington State and North Carolina - not to mention CTO for the State of Pennsylvania.

According to Robert Half, burnout, or work fatigue rates, are rising across the US - north of 40% of workers say they are burned out this year.

North Carolina is often viewed as a top 10 state across technology and people. What’s your secret to helping people across your teams who might be battling work fatigue?

Mandy - What’s your secret?

Jim - People may not know this about you, but you’re an active North Carolina Army National Guard member with the motto “Always ready, always there.”

So you are serving as Secretary for IT & State CIO for the State of North Carolina, but you’re also serving in the North Carolina Army National Guard.

Where have you experienced crossover? In other words, what tools are in your belt as a result of serving in both these capacities?

Mandy - let’s go back to our very first podcast. You mentioned, "The IT systems can be automated, but not the culture." Could you share some of the wins that you’ve had in driving connection and community and creating a stronger team culture in the State of Texas?

Jim - I was just at a conference where they talked about the relationship revolution. And what struck me was that we have come to a place where we’ve traded connection for convenience.

Would you agree? Disagree? And what are 2-3 tips for working to build relationships within your teams?

Mandy - any diamonds we can mine from you?

Want to dive deeper? Check out my episode on TechTables -


And if you're a CIO or technology leader interested in coming on TechTables, shoot me an email at joe@techtables.com

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Joe Toste

Host of the TechTables Podcast. Podcaster by day, basketball 🏀 coach by night. Sharing human-centric stories with CIOs and technology leaders