Lauren Lockwood, Boston's First Digital Officer, Leaves Position But Not Civic Tech

Boston's first-ever chief digital officer arrived from the private sector in December 2014 and led creation of the city's digital team and its website redesign.

by / May 17, 2017

Lauren Lockwood, the former Morgan Stanley investment banker who became Boston’s first-ever chief digital officer (CDO) two-and-a-half years ago at age 28, is leaving her post effective immediately.

In a tweet that linked to a Medium post, the trailblazing CDO who came to work for Boston in December 2014 said on Tuesday, May 16, that she was “saying goodbye” to City Hall the same day “and taking with me a truly eye-opening experience.”

Her family is moving this summer to Philadelphia where her husband works, she wrote. It’s unclear where she will land professionally, but Lockwood said on Medium that she’s not leaving the civic tech community and will instead “be working to scale what we (and others) have learned to other cities.”

Diana Orthman, executive assistant to Boston CIO Jascha Franklin-Hodge, confirmed to Government Technology that Lockwood's last day was May 16. Franklin-Hodge was out of the office and unavailable for comment.

In a statement released via email May 17, the Boston Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) said Lockwood "did an incredible job" and leaves "big shoes to fill."

Plucked from the private sector, Lockwood — named one of Government Technology’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers of 2017 in late March — came to 1 City Hall Square with the mission of improving Boston’s digital services and boosting citizen interactions.

The two issues are common pain points as municipalities work to keep up with the increased availability of online services across the private and public sectors.

Her first visit to the city’s hulking, concrete, Brutalist-style City Hall left one impression, but Lockwood, also a Harvard Business School graduate, said on Medium that meeting with Franklin-Hodge gave her a new perspective that she adapted to good use. Franklin-Hodge felt City Hall’s architecture was misunderstood, Lockwood said on Medium, and could instead be seen as “impressive and even beautiful” with the right lighting.

“What a lovely and unexpected adjective for government,” she wrote. “Exposing the beauty and simplicity in government became a rallying cry and a perfect metaphor for the work we’ve done on the Digital Team.”

By July 2016, her efforts were coming to life: A redesign of the city’s website aimed at incorporating ideas from residents and making 20,000 pages relatable left the beta phase that month. It was created by a staff roughly as new as Lockwood herself.

“The digital team proper didn’t exist before my role did. Coming in in December 2014, my first goal was to build a team that could support that mandate for digital,” she told Government Technology earlier this year. “Two Web content managers wasn’t going to cut it.”

It was only possible, she said, with the city’s tremendous well of talent and base of institutional knowledge — crediting Boston on Medium for stepping up to invest in “a solid launching pad” from which “only now are we getting to launch rockets.”

“You’ve got an incredible journey ahead, and a killer team to do it with,” she wrote to her replacement.

DoIT praised Lockwood's work with Boston's digital team and on its website redesign but also commended her efforts overseeing a new internal-facing intranet system and rolling out the "Now Hiring" campaign that highlights open city positions and employee stories.

Reilly Zlab, a digital team member since 2015, will serve as interim CDO, DoIT said, "until a new person is hired for the position," but indicated it's not certain when that will be.

"There is no looming timeline in place as we search for our next chief digital officer," DoIT said, noting the department seeks someone talented and passionate about the role.

Lockwood's LinkedIn account still listed her as CDO nearly 24 hours after the news broke, but a city webpage featured a posting for her position that had been activated on Tuesday, May 9.

Her successor, the listing said, will manage an “interdisciplinary team” of about 10, and advocate for customers by building products and services that “make user needs a priority” and by “evangelizing user-centered design principles” in city government.

Boston’s next CDO, according to the posting, will also be responsible for continuing to develop internal and public road maps for digital services through both short-term projects and a long-term strategic vision.

“The stereotypical view you might have of government is that it’s resistant to change, but in fact I found the opposite was true,” she told Government Technology. “There were a lot of people already thinking about these things, so in a way our job has been really easy."

Editor's Note: This article was updated with information from DoIT's statement. 

Theo Douglas Staff Writer

Theo Douglas is a staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes covering municipal, county and state governments, business and breaking news. He has a Bachelor's degree in Newspaper Journalism and a Master's in History, both from California State University, Long Beach.