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Department of Rehabilitation Names New CIO, Deputy Director

The new executive is a 10-year veteran of the department and has more than 20 years in state service. He was also a consumer of the department’s services for the disabled.

The California Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) has a new chief information officer and deputy director — and he’s one who has personal experience with the agency’s mission.

Jacob “Jake” Johnson, a veteran of more than 20 years of state service, said it was a special experience to be named CIO and deputy director of the department where he’s worked for more than 10 years. His appointment was announced last week.
Jacob Johnson.
Jacob “Jake” Johnson.

“It’s been kind of a whirlwind week,” Johnson told Industry Insider California in an interview Friday. “I’ve been with the organization for a while, so I’m fortunate to know the organization and I have all my colleagues that I know. We have a lot of new folks, so we’re all learning together and going through the same things, where people have fresh memories of their own transitions. … I feel very grateful to have a lot of people to lean on and learn from.”

Johnson, who has been legally blind since birth, began his career in the private sector, then joined state government as an associate systems analyst for the California Department of Finance (DOF) in 2001. After moving up the ranks in that department, first as a systems software specialist and then as a senior systems analyst, he moved to the state Franchise Tax Board (FTB) as an information security technical specialist. After three years at FTB, Johnson moved in 2012 to DOR, where he served successively as a senior business analyst, supervisor for Accessible Technology Services, IT supervisor and then IT manager in the Customer Service and Administration Branch before being named CIO last week.

“It’s interesting when you think about the organization and moving from one culture to another,” Johnson said. “I’ve been with DOR for about 10 years now, in different leadership roles. Before that, I was at Franchise Tax Board, and I’ve spent a lot of my career with the Department of Finance. And the cultures of those three organizations are all different, and I’ve also done some private-sector work before coming into the state. So making those adjustments … it’s kind of different because the program staff at DOR, we’re serving our consumers, people with disabilities, a counseling type of role and an empowering kind of role to them, versus Franchise Tax Board or Finance, where the program is more about finance and accounting and those kinds of things. It’s different.

“We’re still talking about databases and web servers and PCs and all that kind of stuff. But the way we approach decisions can be a bit different, just based on the culture. I’ve been really mindful of that.”

Johnson had been acting CIO and deputy director for DOR since July, succeeding Jon Kirkham, who moved to the private sector.

As CIO and deputy director, Johnson provides executive oversight to the division, which includes 65 managers and staff who provide support in Database Administration and Applications Development, Project Management and Administration, Software Quality Assurance, Web Services, Technical Support Services and Assistive Technology, Field Support, Infrastructure Services, and Information Security and Privacy.

The department’s internal announcement, which was shared with Industry Insider, says of Johnson: “Jake has a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in linguistics, a master’s degree in education, and is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional. He is a graduate of the California IT Leadership Academy and Sierra Health Foundation Leadership Program. He has served as president of the Association of California State Employees with Disabilities (ACSED) and remains active in the state’s civil rights community as a member of ACSED and the Asian Pacific State Employees Association.”

Johnson is an alumnus of California State University, Chico. The department announcement says he “enjoys spending time with his wife, Patty, and two spoiled ragdoll cats. … He runs a weekly Dungeons & Dragons game that is fully accessible and collects mechanical computer keyboards.”
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.