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EDD Tech Chief Outlines New Initiatives, Vendor Opportunities

Rita Gass, chief information officer for the California Department of Employment Development, gave an overview of current priorities and future opportunities in an Industry Insider California Member Briefing.

The technology leader for the California Employment Development Department offered an upbeat assessment recently of her priorities, her plans and her department’s new initiatives.

In an Industry Insider — California Member Briefing, Rita Gass, who’s been EDD’s chief information officer for two years, offered some key takeaways on those points and others. The takeaways:
Rita Gass headshot.
Rita Gass
  • “For this fiscal year, we are working on establishing a cybersecurity division,” Gass told moderator Alan Cox, Industry Insider California’s publisher and executive vice president of parent company e.Republic. While information security functions have touched multiple areas of EDD, the new division will consolidate and unify those functions along with anti-fraud, she said.
  • EDD is continuously seeking new talent, she said, and she encouraged webinar attendees inside and outside of state government to explore potential career opportunities. Cox noted that the newly signed state budget includes money for additional positions, including in cybersecurity and fraud. EDD currently has about 647 people working in IT, and that number will continue to grow as the department’s modernization initiative, EDDNext, gains momentum.
  • While the job market remains tight, Gass noted that the recent California Public Sector CIO Academy — held in person for the first time since 2019 — was a great opportunity for outreach and potential recruitment, both by the department and by potential candidates. “EDD is an innovative and exciting project,” Gass said, citing the department’s efforts in innovation and its options such as telework and hybrid schedules for certain positions. “We’re asking for help from our vendor community,” she said.
  • Looking ahead, Gass said she doesn’t expect the department to return to the office full time. “With IT, we don’t have a lot of (office) space available,” she said. “IT has grown over the past two years, so space has been an issue.” But with the department set to move into a new building in December 2025, she said, they will revisit remote work policies in the future.
  • The EDDNext project, Gass explained, integrates three systems into one. “If I had to summarize this initiative, it’s really to transform our service delivery and bring modern computing platforms. We need to break the silo system and enable enterprise sharing of our information and our capabilities.” She said the goal of better customer service is evidenced in the department’s focus in some key areas: “From security to customer service to data management and analytics, we are focused on modernizing the outdated system with new and world-class technology to deliver to our customers’ satisfaction and expectations.”
  • EDD is investing in a new customer experience division, she said, which will be under the department’s Public Affairs Branch, not under the IT aegis. (The department has just opened recruitment for a chief of the Customer Experience Division to lead that division.) The department is also establishing a Transformation Office to support the implementation of EDDNext.
  • Like other state departments, EDD is planning to present virtual Vendor Days — with the first tentatively scheduled for Aug. 25, in collaboration with the California Department of Technology — where vendors will get an overview of EDDNext and some ideas on how they can help with appropriate solutions. “We have a lot of procurements going this fiscal year, so that’s why we’re going to have a Vendor Day,” Gass said. The Aug. 25 event will focus on the Transformation Office, she said, with future events pegged to different needs. Industry Insider will provide details as the plans solidify.
“It’s super exciting, it’s very exciting to us,” Gass said of the modernization push. “That’s why I give a shout-out to any state workers out there who are interested, who are innovative, with a growth mindset, please come over to EDD. We have lots of positions for you, whether you want to be a developer, a mainframe programmer, infrastructure network, cybersecurity — we have all those positions. We really encourage people to look at EDD and hopefully they apply and join our team.”

Gass said she was impressed with the sheer volume of work her technologists have done since the beginning of the pandemic — “200 IT projects in 18 months,” she said. “That’s a lot.”

She also cited a push from on-premise mainframe technology toward cloud technologies, an effort that continues. But, she said, the importance of mainframe technology can’t be dismissed.

“For the vendor community, we have a lot of work,” Gass said. “If they have creative solutions that will address EDD’s issues, that’s where it’s going to happen.”

The full video briefing is available to Industry Insider — California members.
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.