Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series covering columnist Dan Lohrmann’s experiences as the “Undercover CTO.” Part one appeared in the August issue. 

My second role as an “undercover boss” occurred on a busy Monday morning at our Client Service Center (CSC). I made the mistake of stopping by my office first, so I strolled into CSC Director Teresa Spalding’s office at 8:10 a.m. Uh oh, she’s not happy.

“You’re late, and Bobby Adams is waiting for you.” We rushed over to a cubicle and observed a smiling middle-aged man leaning back in his chair. He was simultaneously viewing several monitors, typing something on a cool-looking keyboard, talking into his headset and motioning for us to join him.   

“Glad to help! Call back anytime.” He’s persuasive — but do we really want them calling back?

“Welcome, sir,” Bobby continued as he shook my hand with an even broader smile. “Have a seat and let’s jump right in.” He handed me a headset and immediately pushed a few buttons and started talking with confidence. “Good morning. Client Service Center, this is Bobby. How can I help?”

A flustered woman proceeded to describe several application problems. Bobby seemed unfazed as he pulled up her account and communicated at me with facial expressions while nodding his head. He knew just what was going on.

“Tough Monday, eh? Well let’s just get this taken care of. But first, we need to find out if you’re smarter that a fifth-grader.” What is he talking about?

The caller’s voice changed as she answered several security questions. Her problems were fixed within a few minutes, but more than that, her tension seemed to dissipate. By the end, she was actually laughing at Bobby’s jokes, and I was laughing even harder. Good thing my line was muted. Wow! This guy is a natural on the phone. He makes this fun. Bobby just turned her day around.

Over the next eight hours, I learned a ton answering customer laptop encryption questions with Carol, looking at call-metric reports with Jonay, analyzing new software requests with Brandy, prioritizing tickets with Doug, issuing SecurIDs with Linda and discussing Tier 2 support with Zach. Along the way, it became obvious that call wait times were too high on Monday mornings. Note to self: Redeploy more staff to answer phones during peak times.       

A few weeks later, I spent a day on the front lines in Detroit. Although I had previously been to conference rooms within Cadillac Place for meetings, I had never walked the floors or mingled with our support staff in their workspaces. Now I was helping to install and fix PCs in blue jeans. Needless to say, several technicians and customers were shocked to see me. One acquaintance even stopped me and said, “Whoa … I can’t believe it. I never thought I’d see you, here, dressed like that!” Ouch. Still, he thanked me for coming and praised our staff.

The visit was well worth the time. I learned that our new scheduling processes were working, but still needed more adjustments. Trouble tickets were closing faster and customers were generally happy. And yet, some of our best and brightest told me they weren’t feeling motivated. My mind raced. Can I offer anything?

On the two-hour drive back to Lansing, Mich., I had a heart-to-heart discussion with two mid-level managers, Vickie and Duane. During the morning drive, we had talked about dozens of work-related problems. But on the ride home, it was more personal — discussing life experiences, families, hobbies, church activities and more. I remember thinking, “That conversation was really different.” 

There’s much more to tell, and so little space. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know a telecom installer named Rick St. Charles. He is a humble pro with extensive technical knowledge in the public and private sectors. Rick does outstanding work. His comment to me: “We’re the forgotten guys in the organization who sweat on the front lines every day. Our team is rarely acknowledged.”

Rick was right. If I had to choose just one takeaway to share from this summer, it would be this: Recognize our people more. They make technology tick. Where to start? Listen to their stories. Understand their perspectives. Act on their good ideas. Learn from past mistakes. Thank them. And yes, walk a mile in their shoes.

Dan Lohrmann is Michigan’s CTO and was the state’s first chief information security officer. He has 25 years of worldwide security experience, and has won numerous awards for his leadership in the information security field.

Dan Lohrmann Dan Lohrmann  |  Contributing Writer

Daniel J. Lohrmann became Michigan's first chief security officer (CSO) and deputy director for cybersecurity and infrastructure protection in October 2011. Lohrmann is leading Michigan's development and implementation of a comprehensive security strategy for all of the state’s resources and infrastructure. His organization is providing Michigan with a single entity charged with the oversight of risk management and security issues associated with Michigan assets, property, systems and networks.

Lohrmann is a globally recognized author and blogger on technology and security topics. His keynote speeches have been heard at worldwide events, such as GovTech in South Africa, IDC Security Roadshow in Moscow, and the RSA Conference in San Francisco. He has been honored with numerous cybersecurity and technology leadership awards, including “CSO of the Year” by SC Magazine and “Public Official of the Year” by Governing magazine.

His Michigan government security team’s mission is to:

  • establish Michigan as a global leader in cyberawareness, training and citizen safety;
  • provide state agencies and their employees with a single entity charged with the oversight of risk management and security issues associated with state of Michigan assets, property, systems and networks;
  • develop and implement a comprehensive security strategy (Michigan Cyber Initiative) for all Michigan resources and infrastructure;
  • improve efficiency within the state’s Department of Technology, Management and Budget; and
  • provide combined focus on emergency management efforts.

He currently represents the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) on the IT Government Coordinating Council that’s led by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He also serves as an adviser on TechAmerica's Cloud Commission and the Global Cyber Roundtable.

From January 2009 until October 2011, Lohrmann served as Michigan's chief technology officer and director of infrastructure services administration. He led more than 750 technology staff and contractors in administering functions, such as technical architecture, project management, data center operations, systems integration, customer service (call) center support, PC and server administration, office automation and field services support.

Under Lohrmann’s leadership, Michigan established the award-winning Mi-Cloud data storage and hosting service, and his infrastructure team was recognized by NASCIO and others for best practices and for leading state and local governments in effective technology service delivery.

Earlier in his career, Lohrmann served as the state of Michigan's first chief information security officer (CISO) from May 2002 until January 2009. He directed Michigan's award-winning Office of Enterprise Security for almost seven years.

Lohrmann's first book, Virtual Integrity: Faithfully Navigating the Brave New Web, was published in November 2008.  Lohrmann was also the chairman of the board for 2008-2009 and past president (2006-2007) of the Michigan InfraGard Member's Alliance.

Prior to becoming Michigan's CISO, Lohrmann served as the senior technology executive for e-Michigan, where he published an award-winning academic paper titled The Michigan.gov Story — Reinventing State Government Online. He also served as director of IT and CIO for the Michigan Department of Management and Budget in the late 1990s.

Lohrmann has more than 26 years of experience in the computer industry, beginning his career with the National Security Agency. He worked for three years in England as a senior network engineer for Lockheed Martin (formerly Loral Aerospace) and for four years as a technical director for ManTech International in a U.S./UK military facility.

Lohrmann is a distinguished guest lecturer for Norwich University in the field of information assurance. He also has been a keynote speaker at IT events around the world, including numerous SecureWorld and ITEC conferences in addition to online webinars and podcasts. He has been featured in numerous daily newspapers, radio programs and magazines. Lohrmann writes a bimonthly column for Public CIO magazine on cybersecurity. He's published articles on security, technology management, cross-boundary integration, building e-government applications, cloud computing, virtualization and securing portals.

He holds a master’s degree in computer science from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Valparaiso University in Indiana.

NOTE: The columns here are Dan Lohrmann's own views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the state of Michigan's official positions.

Recent Awards:
2011 Technology Leadership Award: InfoWorld
Premier 100 IT Leader for 2010: Computerworld magazine
2009 Top Doers, Dreamers and Drivers: Government Technology magazine
Public Official of the Year: Governing magazine — November 2008
CSO of the Year: SC Magazine — April 2008
Top 25 in Security Industry: Security magazine — December 2007
Compass Award: CSO Magazine — March 2007
Information Security Executive of the Year: Central Award 2006