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A Techwire Q&A With ... AIO Adam Dondro

Adam Dondro is among California state government's newest agency information officers (AIOs), leading the Office of Systems Integration since being appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown in August. In a Techwire exclusive, Dondro shares his perspectives.

Adam Dondro is among California state government's newest agency information officers (AIOs), leading the Office of Systems Integration (OSI) since being appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown in August. Before that, Dondro had served since 2013 as the assistant director for horizontal integration at the California Department of Social Services. From 2010 to 2013, he served as the assistant secretary for external affairs at the California Technology Agency. His experience also includes five years in the Legislature in both policy and budget roles. Based at OSI headquarters, Dondro leads a team of 15 staff who work directly with department chief information officers, chief technology officers and enterprise architects throughout the California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHSA).

Following is a transcript of an email Q&A with Dondro and Techwire, lightly edited for style.

Techwire: What’s the biggest single task or challenge the Office of the Agency Information Officer (OAIO) is facing in the next six months? Year?

Adam Dondro: Over the next 6-12 months, the biggest challenge will be making the transition from working collaboratively through Agency Wide Governance, to becoming one digital government. Over the past few years, the Health and Human Services Agency has created an exceptional governance structure, which has enabled agencywide decision-making and analysis of key issues such as open data, data sharing, leveragability for IT systems and much more. The next step in these discussions is to start driving policies and standards that simplify our IT landscape, promote IT/business collaboration, and bring government closer to the people we serve. 

TW: Do you expect to make any noteworthy changes in the procurement process?

AD: Both internally through our Governance Procurement subcommittee, as well as in collaboration with the California Department of Technology’s State Technology Procurement Division, there are a variety of procurement reform discussions under way. Obviously, the drive toward both agile and modular procurements and design structures has driven much of this conversation. As we use the structures being put in place (such as the Agile Development Qualified Vendor Pool), my goal will be to help departments and projects identify the most appropriate procurement method to achieve the goals for that particular project. Often I see folks striving to use the quickest procurement method with the least red tape, and I’d like to see that change to where folks want to pursue the approach that will get them the best outcome — which isn’t always the quickest. 

TW: Six months from now, what will be the big RFPs?

AD: I will not speculate on RFP releases, but across CHHSA we have many critical projects moving forward over the course of this year.

TW: Do you foresee any significant growth in hiring within your domain in the next six months to a year?

AD: In Health and Human Services IT we always have a strong and growing demand! With projects like the Child Welfare Digital Services leading the way in agile development, and several other projects following that lead, there is a huge demand for skilled individuals who enjoy a fast-paced environment that promises to keep them challenged and teach new ways to define and achieve success! Typically running over $2 billion in IT investments at any given time, I promise that we have plenty of open positions. The Office of Systems Integration (OSI) runs many of those projects, and is specifically focusing on outreach/in-reach efforts to find the best talent both inside and outside state government to drive those projects forward. OSI recently launched a LinkedIn recruiting effort (you need to be signed in on to see the post).

TW: What’s the most rewarding part of working in the public sector?

AD: I would say the people are the most rewarding part of working in the public sector, especially in the Health and Human Services Agency. We have staff at the state and county level who have dedicated their lives to serving the needs of our most vulnerable residents. From children to the elderly, from food to health care, you can see it in their faces when you sit down to talk about how to help them achieve their goals — they are passionate about what they do. It’s an honor to be a part of that passion, and a privilege to bring new and exciting opportunities on how we can improve the way many of those services are provided to meet the people in need where they are, when they need it. 

TW: What’s the most frustrating thing about working in the public sector?

AD: I think people typically expect to hear that bureaucracy and red tape are the most frustrating parts about working in the public sector — but I honestly have found those to be the same, be it public or private sector. For me, the most frustrating part is the lack of recognition that public servants get for their dedicated work day-in and day-out. Especially in today’s increasingly divisive and negative political discourse, people get caught up in the idea of “waste and abuse” and miss the truly amazing stories of service, support and ultimately success in helping people stay or get back on their feet and live happy, productive lives. 

Dennis Noone is Executive Editor of Industry Insider. He is a career journalist, having worked at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies including USA Today in Washington, D.C.