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State’s Tech Innovator Sets His Priorities: It’s ‘All About Hiring’

In a virtual Techwire Member Briefing, state Chief Technology Innovation Officer Rick Klau laid out his plans as his Office of Enterprise Technology moves to grow its staff by almost 50 percent.

Globe with technology imagery
California’s chief technology innovation officer (CTIO) says recruiting and hiring for his team in the Office of Enterprise Technology (OET) is currently his top priority, even as state agencies work to increase the COVID-19 vaccination rate among state residents.

State CTIO Rick Klau of the California Department of Technology joined state government in February after having spent his career in the private sector. With roots in several startups and then with Google and Google Ventures, he said in a recent Techwire Member Briefing, he decided he wanted to use his skills and experience for the public good.
Rick Klau
Rick Klau

“If you go back far enough in time, I always had this political hobby, alongside my startup and then Google tenure,” he said. “And I ended up crossing paths with a number of people who followed their candidate into public service. … I didn’t have any intention, necessarily, of going into public service, but after leaving Google after 13, almost 14 years, took some time off. By January of this year, it was increasingly obvious that COVID and the subsequent vaccination campaign was really a moment in time (when) I was fortunate to have some time and, through an introduction, got to know (state Chief Information Officer) Amy Tong and realized that someone with my background and skills might be well-suited to some of the work that needed to get done.”

Klau said he was “open to the idea of serving and finding something a little bit more mission-focused for my work.”

Quickly, upon being drafted as a volunteer in the state’s vaccination effort, he realized “that the scope of the work, the scale of the need, was substantial, and it was exciting to realize that I had something to offer. So when Amy asked me to stick around, I was thrilled to not only get the request but to take her up on it. It’s been a privilege since.”

He described himself as gratified to have been given the leadership role in building the state’s digital vaccine record, which he said has been a key accomplishment to date in his months as CTIO.

When asked what opportunities may arise for technology vendors in the next six months to a year, Klau had a ready answer.

“The easiest answer to that is, the next several months are all about hiring. It was exciting – daunting – to see in the (state) budget … that we will be growing the Office of Enterprise Technology by close to 50 percent. That is a tremendous vote of endorsement by the governor and the Legislature, and also heightened expectations for what we will be doing for and across the state.

“As a result,” he said, “we’ve got a lot of recruiting and hiring and onboarding to do to ensure that we don’t just fill the positions, but that we attract the talent that we need to do more things at the scale of what we did with the digital vaccine record for more departments and agencies.”

He’s already filled two key roles in OET with the hiring of Phoebe Peronto as deputy state chief technology innovation officer and Michael Cave as chief product officer.

In a nod to vendors, Klau said he’s “easy to find on email and LinkedIn, or both.”

He said that once his office is staffed up, “I imagine there will be plenty of opportunities to find ways of partnering. … I’m going to need all the help we can get.”

The full video briefing with Klau is available online to Techwire 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.