CIO, New York State
Bob Samson is currently CIO for New York State’s Office of Information Technology Services, a position he has held since April 2017. Before joining the state, though, Samson spent 36 years with IBM as vice president of the worldwide systems and technology group and as general manager of the company’s global public sector. That’s a mouthful, but what it means is that Samson has dedicated his career to helping government use technology to better serve constituents. That mission is also at the heart of his work today.
Seven years ago, Gov. Andrew Cuomo created the office Samson now runs. At the time, New York’s IT infrastructure was split between 46 agencies, 53 data centers and disparate email systems, some of which were incapable of interacting. Cuomo dubbed the IT infrastructure “incomprehensible,” Samson remembers, and tasked him with making changes. In the past two years under Samson’s leadership, the state has consolidated those disparate parts into one efficient IT group operating at scale, serving all 46 executive agencies. The 53 data centers have been migrated onto one cloud-based system, dubbed Excelsior, the state motto. This all-in model is unprecedented in a state the size of New York, which handles 50 million transactions a day, 17 million resident accounts, 1,600 miles of fiber infrastructure and more.
Samson, however, said these are not his accomplishments. Instead, Samson attributes the state’s IT success to a client-centric approach, process-driven operation and, most importantly, having the right people. Rather than talking about himself, Samson prefers to discuss the importance of skills training and evolution. The most important lesson he tries to impart on those around him is actually one learned from legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson, who broke through segregation in baseball in the 1940s to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson also famously stole home in the 1955 World Series, a big risk with a big payoff. This is the unconventional thinking Samson shares with those around him: Think differently, aim big, steal home.