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Colorado CIO Returns to Her IT Roots at Dish Network

Exiting Chief Information Officer Suma Nallapati will return to the company where she started her IT career as a programmer in 1997, this time as its chief digital officer overseeing application delivery and digital strategy implementation.

Colorado’s Chief Information Officer Suma Nallapati will join Dish Network in mid-January as senior vice president and chief digital officer, according to a news release Wednesday from the state.

Appointed in 2014 by Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose term ends Jan. 8, Nallapati held a dual role as Colorado’s CIO and secretary of technology. Over the past four-plus years, the news release said, Colorado became the first state to move its health and human services integrated eligibility and enrollment systems to the cloud. Nallapati and her staff also modernized systems for unemployment insurance, drivers' licenses and registration, the department of corrections and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Her office also helped create a Military and Veterans Transition Program website to bring technically inclined veterans into the workforce by connecting them with training.

Nallapati told Government Technology that when she joined the state, her predecessor had launched several major projects, like the introduction of the cloud and consolidating government emails onto a single platform, which required some guidance on her part.

“A lot of hand-holding was needed to implement some of those visionary strategies,” she said.

Hers was also the first office in the country to appoint a digital transformation officer, a role focused on improving the user experience of interacting with government.

The Governor’s Office of Information Technology under Nallapati’s direction received numerous industry awards. These include a special recognition from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) in 2017 for the state’s five-year IT plan; two 2015 NASCIO awards for the state’s cybersecurity initiative and Universal Application program to connect eligible families to government benefits; a 2015 Cybersecurity Leadership and Innovation Award from the Center for Digital Government*; and a 2015 CSO50 Award from International Data Group for the state’s multi-year strategic security plan.

Through years of modernization and security improvements, Nallapati said she’s proudest of her focus on serving citizen-customers.

“There will be technology challenges, as you know, but the biggest change for me is being able to implement transformation in culture and becoming more customer-obsessed. … We are creating applications and solutions to help the most vulnerable populations of Colorado. That, I’m the most proud of,” she said. “And making sure that those applications are accessible, for example, to the visually impaired, or people with different needs.”

Nallapati said one of Colorado’s next tasks will be learning where, if at all, blockchain technology can improve the state’s operations. Hickenlooper created a council in May for this purpose, including Nallapati along with members of the office of economic development and other agencies.

Of her next job at Dish, Nallapati said she’s grateful to return to her professional roots in an entrepreneurial environment with bleeding-edge technology.

Her advice for her successor was simple: Remember that the opportunity to serve a state, and especially vulnerable populations, is sacred.

“Treat it with a lot of respect,” Nallapati said. “If you make a mistake, be fearless in owning that mistake, and be your true, authentic self.”

*The Center for Digital Government is part of e.Republic, Government Technology's parent company.

Andrew Westrope is managing editor of the Center for Digital Education. Before that, he was a staff writer for Government Technology, and previously was a reporter and editor at community newspapers. He has a bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and lives in Northern California.