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Industry Insider One-on-One: Assistant Chief on Transformation, Hybrid Work

This story is limited to Industry Insider — California members.
This story is limited to Industry Insider — California members. Login below to read this story or learn about membership.
As part of Industry Insider — California’s ongoing efforts to educate readers on state agencies, their IT plans and initiatives, here’s the latest in our periodic series of interviews with departmental IT leaders.

Veteran state staffer Dason McJimsey is assistant division chief in the Technology Infrastructure Services Division at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, his latest role in nearly 15 years at the executive branch agency. He was previously the agency’s benefits domain unit manager, from July 2018-May 2019. Before that, he was application development unit manager for nearly five years and application development manager for nearly six years.

McJimsey has an associate’s degree from Santa Rosa Junior College and followed that up with studies in mathematics and computer science at California State University, Sacramento. His professional licenses and certifications include being a graduate of the California Department of Technology’s Information Technology Leadership Academy. He is also an Eagle Scout.

Industry Insider — California: You are an Information Technology Manager II at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. Please discuss your role and responsibilities and how those may have evolved in recent years.

McJimsey: My state classification is Information Technology Manager II. In my role as assistant division chief of Customer Technology Support, I have six areas of responsibility: enterprise endpoint device services, IT help desk, enterprise access management, collaboration services, production service and voice/telephony service. My teams are essentially responsible for end-to-end support of all IT devices used at CalPERS. My specific responsibility is to ensure CalPERS business areas have the appropriate equipment to perform their respective jobs. In my role, I must also stay abreast of changing business needs and technology. The COVID-19 pandemic tested my team’s readiness to adapt as it also forced telework support on many businesses around the world. Fortunately, we already had a remote work support model in place – it was just on a very limited scale. Prior to the pandemic, my teams and I were researching remote support software and beginning to transition users from desktop PCs to laptops. So, we had some necessary equipment when the pandemic hit, we just needed more of it. Over the past several years, our responsibilities have shifted from primary support for onsite to primary support for telework to, now, a hybrid support model.

Industry Insider — California: What big IT initiatives or projects do you currently have in the works?

McJimsey: My teams are currently working on a couple of different efforts. The first is a continuation of an effort we started during the COVID-19 pandemic. In preparation of a hybrid work schedule for CalPERS employees, my teams began to prepare the conference rooms with video-conferencing systems to enable users to have collaborative meetings regardless of their physical work location. My teams also provided training and support for collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive and Zoom – all products that help maintain productivity in the hybrid environment. Our focus now is to work with the customers to provide them the appropriate collaboration room equipment, software and training for over 150 mixed-use conference rooms. With the decreased number of users working onsite the past few months and the continual effort to be even more green, my team is working to reduce the number of network printers and multifunction devices throughout the CalPERS campus. We currently have more than 300 devices. Our goal is to reduce that number by 20 percent.

Industry Insider — California: What big IT initiatives or projects are coming up? What sorts of developing opportunities and RFPs should readers watch for in the next six to 12 months?

McJimsey: One of our main initiatives is to improve our customers’ hybrid work experience. First, in preparation to the move to Microsoft Windows 11, we are working on the modernization of IT device management. Currently, our customers must come onsite while we complete configurations on their work devices. When devices need updates, our customers are often required to bring in the device for services. Second, we are working toward enabling our customers to use their work phone number from any location. Lastly, we are working to update many of our conference rooms to enable our customers to collaborate easier with each other. Overall, we are working toward a model where we can better support our customers regardless of their work location.

Industry Insider — California: How do you define “digital transformation?” How far along is your organization in that process, and how will you know when it’s finished?

McJimsey: In my view, digital transformation is the adoption of digital technologies as tools and resources to help make the customers’ experience better. Although companies could purchase and implement new technologies to help with their digital transformation, reassessing the way customers do business and using the existing digital technologies may make the changes faster, easier to accept and less expensive. Over the past several years, CalPERS’ IT branch has worked with its customers to transform some of their processes. As an example, we’ve developed an in-house digital routing and signature system that interfaces with our employee listing and organization structure. Previously, for internal documents that needed signatures, documents were printed and placed in a folder with routing slip. The envelope was placed in an interoffice envelop and physically walked around to be signed. Some documents would take months to get signed and returned to the originator. IT worked with our customers to understand the existing process and the pain points. With the new digital solution, routing packages complete with documents and necessary signature workflow can be set up in minutes. Email notifications are sent to the appropriate resources on the routing workflow. In many cases, documents needing six to eight signatures and/or reviewers could be completed in one day. There are several other processes CalPERS has improved using digital technologies. While these have been beneficial and provided a better experience for the end users, digital transformation should be a continually evolving and ever-refining process. In short, it will and should never be considered finished.

Industry Insider — California: How might vendors best educate themselves before working with either your team or with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System?

McJimsey: Depending on the services they provide, vendors have the opportunity to engage in multiple types of contracts and agreements that the state of California has to offer. Prior to working with CalPERS, vendors should research the difference between how CalPERS and the state of California may approach contracting services. Vendors should also review both the CalPERS’ overall and IT-specific strategic plans to see what areas of focus are most important to both and how IT’s efforts align with their customers.

Editor’s note: Find CalPERS’ 2021-2022 Business Plan here.

Industry Insider — California: You were recently recognized at the California Public Sector CIO Academy with an award for your work in making telework happen across the system, on new equipment standards, in strategic initiatives around endpoint support and in implementing a technical infrastructure, and for your support to business groups and team members. Talk about those areas of focus and what takeaways would you offer from those initiatives?

McJimsey: Yes, a lot of work was done to make telework successful for CalPERS team members. Although I was presented with this award, there are many others in IT who deserve to be recognized for their efforts as well. I helped coordinate and lead my teams in putting together some of the pieces, but my staff and other IT managers were instrumental in this effort as well. To enable CalPERS team members to work remotely, two things were necessary. First, CalPERS team members needed the permissions to log into CalPERS system from a remote location. I worked with my access management team to track team members who still needed access. Second, I worked with another one of my teams to start to deploy equipment to CalPERS team members. For the immediate needs, I approved the use of Laptop Checkout Program equipment (older laptops and some smaller desktops to be used for telework). Fortunately, even prior to COVID-19, because we were already moving toward providing more and more telework options, we had many of these infrastructure pieces in place. Using research presented by my lead technical team member, I approved the purchase of 1,000 micro PC and newer monitors for remote use. As time passed and it was evident that CalPERS team members were going to be working remotely for an undetermined time frame, for both on-site and remote work locations, I developed equipment standards that include headsets, webcams, monitors, keyboards and mice. My team and I worked with the data center infrastructure teams to implement a more modern VPN and multifactor authentication solution that no longer require the use of RSA tokens. During the last two years, I assisted with several strategic initiatives to support the telework model. My team improved nine areas of focus, including tools, processes and services to better support CalPERS team members regardless of their physical work location. Some key takeaways that I would offer are: First, although there are many times when responding reactively is necessary, always take time to work with your customers and business areas to think strategically. Second, build open communication lines and trust-based working relationships with not only your customers but other areas in IT. Knowing who to reach out to is critical for success during emergency situations.

Industry Insider — California: In your tenure at CalPERS, which project or achievement are you most proud of?

McJimsey: One of the most rewarding achievements I had the fortune of being part of was the transition of the primary development and support of the myCalPERS system from the existing vendor to CalPERS team members. I led a team of other managers to develop a transition plan, which included a request for additional team members, onboarding and ongoing training plans, a two-and-half-year physical cubicle redesign and relocation project plan for more than 300 team members, and consultant reliance reduction schedule. The effort took more than seven years and impacted most IT and business areas, but in the end, the maintenance, support and enhancement of the myCalPERS system transitioned almost completely to CalPERS team members.

Industry Insider — California: If you could change one thing about IT procurement, what would it be?

McJimsey: I think all companies should have demo products available. I would like to be able to test more products prior to making a financial investment on something that may not ultimately be a good fit for my customers' business needs. On a related note, almost everything is on a “purchase, use it until it dies, then purchase new” cycle. I would like to see a “trade-in” or “upgrade program” for computer-related equipment.

Industry Insider — California: What do you read to stay abreast of developments in the govtech/SLED sector?

McJimsey: Most of what I read is either from Gartner, GovTech* or Wired. I just recently also started following VentureBeat. In addition to those, I am in continual communication with my colleagues in other state departments.

Industry Insider — California: What are your hobbies and what do you enjoy reading?

McJimsey: I enjoy design and building things. Every year, I design and build sets for my church’s vacation Bible school programs. I have also designed and built small things like a bookshelf and large things like a sound booth. My next project will be either a window seat at home or a soundproof drum set enclosure. I also enjoy being outdoors: camping, hiking, jogging and playing sports. I am actually not much of a reader. I prefer watching a movie or an episode of one of the (too many) shows on my list.

*Government Technology magazine is a publication of e.Republic, which also produces Industry Insider — California.

Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for style and brevity.