For 20 years, Rosa Akhtarkhavari has been serving government in various IT roles. Akhtarkhavari started as a programmer and later served as the deputy CIO of Orlando, Fla. She was named the city’s CIO three years ago. In an interview with Government Technology, Akhtarkhavari discusses her leadership style, career goals and technology trends in government.
You’ve been CIO for almost three years, what career goals would you like to achieve over the next three years?
Transformation is at the top of my list because without that we really cannot drive progress. We’re focusing on partnering with departments as well as delivering projects. We have major projects that are in the works. We are doing the implementation of the city’s ERP system that’s a [software as a service] solution. We are in the process of releasing an RFP for a first-time joint CAD for police and fire. We are looking at replacing our permitting code enforcement system. We have many efforts that are moving forward so we’re trying to get those done in a timely manner, within budget, but with a major focus on security and quality.
How are you sparking innovation in your department?
A few years ago, I established what I call innovation teams. We give them a challenge, we ask them to select a lead for the group and we expect reporting. We allow them the time and some funding to address an issue or challenge that we have at the city. And we try to mix it with different age groups; we try to bring the drive of the youth with the wisdom of the senior staff members. I think it’s always interesting to see those open discussions.
What principles or core values do you lead by?
I value trust and honesty. Those are very important for me so I try to always be as honest as I can to my clients and build a partnership. The really important part for me is continuous learning. I don’t think any of us can stop learning. The minute we stop learning, we stop growing and producing.
What are the top three technology trends you see in government and which do you think will stick around?
I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but mobility. It’s just going to grow. Big data is major. As it comes to government, we always deal with big data and analytics/predictive analysis. Those are the ones we really need to focus on.