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CalHR’s Tech Leader Is Driven by Mission and Data

He’s an award-winning veteran of the public and private sectors with a background in engineering and security, and he looks forward to expanding the state’s recruitment and retention of top talent.

A digital illustration of stick figures in blue standing in circles that are connected by lines. One of the figures is orange.
Shuttestock/Connect world
A veteran tech executive in the public and private sectors has been named the new chief information officer for the California Department of Human Resources (CalHR).

Enrique Parker, an award-winning technologist who most recently served as chief technology officer for Covered California, began in his new role last week with CalHR. In an interview Monday with Industry Insider — California, Parker said he’s excited to again be working for a department driven by a mission.

Enrique Parker.JPG
Enrique Parker
“I am excited,” Parker said of his appointment. “I like the opportunity. I see an opportunity in terms of our ability as a state government to recruit, onboard and retain staff, and CalHR obviously has a big stake in that area. Also, in Covered California, I was part of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, so I’m interested in that from a personal perspective. I hope I can make a difference in that area.”

Before serving as CalCareers’ CTO, Parker was the department’s deputy CIO. He previously had worked in a series of increasingly responsible roles in the private sector, in technology and financial tech.

He acknowledged that multiple challenges await him and his department – the rolling wave of state retirements known as the “silver tsunami,” the pandemic-fueled Great Resignation, and the subsequent shift to remote work and now to a hybrid workforce.

“CalHR is a small organization – 300 people strong, I believe – and there’s a lot of expectations set on such a small organization,” Parker said. “So it’s key to be really nimble and also effective at what we do, to focus in on what are the priorities and really executing on those priorities.

“We don’t want to be left behind,” he said. “There are so many opportunities for folks to join the civil service in state government and make a difference. Given the focus of the CalCareers site, we really are looking to make it easy, inclusive, intuitive. We want to really expand the number of candidates who apply and want to join the civil service, as opposed to looking at it as ‘That process is too difficult; I want to move on to the next best thing.’”

But it doesn’t stop with hiring, he said.

“The other part of the equation is how to retain staff. Once they’re in, how do we make it so they’re happy working for the state, that they’re fulfilled in their professional development, so it’s not a labyrinth in terms of their professional development. … It’s value-driven, and everybody wants to make a difference.

“In the end, I come from a very mission-oriented agency, Covered California, to another agency that’s equally mission-oriented but focusing more internally on our state staff and our ability to recruit new candidates into civil service.”

Parker said he has four primary objectives:
  • “I’m a security person, and security is top of mind for me. Cyber threats are always evolving. I want to make sure that I build a strong security program within CalHR to protect our PI (personal information) data for our state employees.”
  • “The ability to convert data into business insights is paramount for us. We have a lot of data, and we want to become a very data-centric organization. We want to make sure that our decisions are based on data. We want to democratize data … not only in the CalHR area, but we want to also publish it outside.” He cited the data-sharing advances by the California Health and Human Services Agency as a model: “I want to be able to share something similar that’s of value to other agencies or outside.”
  • Of the CalCareers website, he said, “It has evolved, and there are still opportunities there to make it even better. We want to modernize process, modernize technology. We have companies really pushing us to look at how to future-proof this application, and we’re going to be looking at those things to see what we can adopt and incorporate and modernize.”
  • Parker said that in his new role, he plans to continue his involvement in DEI: “Diversity, equity and inclusion is within our DNA.”
Parker received his Bachelor of Science in information systems from San Francisco State University and his master’s degree in information assurance from Norwich University. He has a host of professional credentials including Certified Information Security Professional, Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, Scrum Master and Certified Information Systems Auditor.

He is a two-time Leadership Award recipient of at the California Public Sector CIO Academy, presented by Government Technology*.

Parker’s predecessor as CalHR’s CIO was Chad Crowe, who had held that role since 2008 before being named in June as the CIO for the California Department of Social Services.

*Government Technology and Industry Insider — California are part of e.Republic.
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.