The Colorado Governor’s Office of Information Technology is looking for a new leader. After two and a half years as its chief technology officer, Sherri Hammons served her final day on December 13, and has returned to the private sector to take a position with Denver-based IQN.

Hammons started as CTO in mid-2011, and has since succeeded “beyond everyone’s wildest expectations,” said Colorado state CIO and Secretary of Technology Kristin Russell. “Not only that, she has left us with a vibrant, strong technology team to carry on for the state of Colorado.

While the agency searches for a replacement, Michael Brown, who was Hammons’ enterprise architect, will serve in an interim capacity.

Sherri+Hammons

Sherri Hammons, former CTO, Colorado Governor's Office of Information Technology. Photo courtesy of the Colorado Governor's OIT

“It’s been an amazing experience,” Hammons said. “The people who work for government are really special, they really care about citizens and about each other, and it’s been really amazing from the ground up.”

Looking back over the past two-plus years, Hammons recalled those achievements she was most proud of, many of which included collaborating with Russell.

The launch of the Colorado Information Marketplace, an open-data portal launched in 2011, was among Hammons’ achievements, as was the development of a business intelligence center that will launch in January along with a developer challenge. Such events and organizations don’t just help citizens and help the agency to provide services, Hammons said, but it helps Colorado develop economically.

Another one of Hammons' proud achievements was revamping the Colorado Benefits Management System. “It never really got off the ground — pretty bug ridden and had a lot of problems — so in the last two and a half years, we were able to transform that," she said, adding that her team also recently launched Medicaid for the Affordable Care Act — a program that brought in an additional 34,000 extra applications on the first day that they wouldn’t have received otherwise.

Another achievement was the four-state consortium for unemployment insurance that was funded in July -- a consortium that Hammons and Russell discussed could also be built as a software-as-a-service solution for all 50 states. "And all the other states were in agreement with that,” she said, adding that she hopes this is her legacy from her time in government.

Government can be clunky and has its shortcomings and barriers, but Hammons says working in government has transformed the way she views it. The passion of the people, the sharing of information and transparency were all refreshing when compared with the private sector, and she hopes to bring some of those things back with her as she continues her career in the private sector.

One advantage the private sector has over the public sector, she said, is the willingness to take risks and to be innovative. Technology has the ability to be transformative and disruptive, but only if risks are taken, and her advice to those she leaves behind in Colorado is the same advice given to her by Federal CIO Vivek Kundra: “Be bold.”

The private sector has the financial motivation to take such risks, but government can take risks too, granted that those risks don’t jeopardize personal data or network security — but innovations are ready to be taken advantage of, she said.

In an 11-page whitepaper called Citizen Engagement Platform published in 2012, the authors — Hammons and Russell — encourage government leaders to rethink how their organizations are structured and to approach government from a more vendor-friendly position. This type of thinking will lead to government organizations within that are completely different from what is seen today all across the country, Hammons said.

Working in the public sector was very educational, Hammons said, and she encouraged private-sector workers to not overlook it both for the learning experience and the career opportunities. Her new position, she said, is one that may not have come along if she hadn’t tried government service.

Colin Wood Colin Wood  |  Staff Writer

Colin has been writing for Government Technology since 2010. He lives in Seattle with his wife and their dog. He can be reached at cwood@govtech.com and on Google+.