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Chicago Chief Data Officer Tom Schenk Departs for Private Sector

Schenk is the second chief data officer of a major city to depart government service in recent weeks.

Chicago Chief Data Officer Tom Schenk will depart the city later this month to join the consultancy KPMG as director of strategic insights, according to a tweet from Chicago CIO Danielle DuMerer. 

Schenk, who has spent more than five years with Chicago’s Department of Innovation and Technology, has been an influential CDO, regularly serving as a speaker at panels and conferences about better government. Earlier this year, he was also named to Government Technology’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers of 2018, which identifies accomplished individuals working in gov tech. Since becoming Chicago’s CDO in September 2014, Schenk helped build up the city's previously small data operation into a national example.

Leaning on an open-source approach, Schenk contributed to or led projects on city work including food inspection, the spread of disease and lead poisoning.

When Schenk spoke with Government Technology about being named to the Top 25, he gave much credit to his advanced analytics team.

“They have optimized the use of the city’s workforce, helping the city get ahead of problems and just improving the overall efficiency of the city,” Schenk said. “This is a skill set we had not really had before.”

In the wake of Schenk’s departure, DuMerer thanked him on Twitter for his service and “for continuing to advance Chicago’s international leadership in data science.”

DuMerer also noted that Chicago is now seeking a new CDO to continue this work, and posted the job listing here.

Schenk did not immediately respond to a call requesting comment.

Schenk is the second CDO of a major American city to depart for the private sector in recent weeks. Boston CDO Andrew Therriault, who was the first to hold that post in his city, announced in May that he was leaving government work for a position as a data science manager with Facebook.

Therriault spent two years at city hall after previously serving as a data scientist with the Democratic National Committee. While Boston does not have a posting on its website for a new CDO, a position that Mayor Marty Walsh originally appointed, it is currently looking to hire a new CIO and a new chief technology officer.

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.