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Sam Orth

CTO and Director of Technology, Columbus, Ohio

Sam Orth, CTO and Director of Technology, Columbus, Ohio
Sam Orth can thank a computer magazine for his career as a public-sector tech leader.

The self-proclaimed “geeky, nerdy kid” who loved RadioShack was an architecture major expecting to go to business school and interested in selling personal computers just as they were gaining popularity in the early 1980s. He found a job at one of the few computer stores in Columbus, Ohio, and things took off from there, with other tech sales-related positions to follow, including at Apple.

Indeed, his early career experience in private-sector sales informs his job as the CTO and director of technology in Columbus. Not only did he often work with clients in education and government, but he learned to help customers see how technology translates into business outcomes and value, and gained a deep understanding of how technology drives change.

“If you don’t like change, you’ll like obsolescence even more,” is how he puts it.

That customer-centered focus applies to his job with the city, whether it is helping to bring body cameras to local police to crafting the city’s first data analytics and integration program. Orth, too, has never lost sight that it’s the people, not just the tools, that make a solid IT program.

“The best motivation is intrinsic, when you want to do something and are passionate about it,” he said. “People want to belong to something bigger than themselves.”

Tech professionals also need the freedom to fail, Orth said. And trust is pretty much a non-negotiable requirement for clients (for instance, other government agencies) and the IT workforce.

“We have to really understand what their business mission is and what they want to achieve,” he said. “None of that happens if you can’t have authentic conversations with people, if you can’t build trust.”

This story originally appeared in the May/June 2024 issue of Government Technology magazine. Click here to read the full digital edition online.
Thad Rueter writes about the business of government technology. He covered local and state governments for newspapers in the Chicago area and Florida, as well as e-commerce, digital payments and related topics for various publications. He lives in Wisconsin.