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Sree Pulapaka

VP and CIO, San Antonio Water System

Sree Pulapaka, VP and CIO, San Antonio Water System
|  Sree Pulapaka’s profile

Sree Pulapaka is a tech guy; he just doesn’t always talk and think like one. As vice president and CIO of the San Antonio Water System (SAWS), he’s juggled the mundane, slogging work of IT — upgrading legacy systems, breaking down silos, improving the communications network bit by bit — with the more exciting job of testing out new technologies, rolling out digital services and beefing up cybersecurity against evolving threats. But ask him about the most important things he’s done at SAWS, and Pulapaka is just as likely to talk about trust and relationships as he is about technology.

“One of the things that I’ve found that changed over the time I was here is the perception of IT within the organization, [so that] people think that it is more customer-centric and more customer-focused, as opposed to it working in its own silo and trying to push technology,” he said.

Those connections aren’t just important for building the kind of buy-in that helps a technology project meet with success. They’re also how Pulapaka knows which fire needs to be put out first.

“It’s relationships that I’ve built across the teams to be able to understand the pain points and be able to address those,” he said.

In more than two years of work, Pulapaka’s team has accomplished quite a bit. Self-service kiosks, interactive voice recognition and callback features all create a customer-friendly support system. Telematics and GPS devices are giving the agency better oversight and control of its vehicle fleet. And a consolidation of SAWS’ SCADA systems, which help run wastewater treatment plants, will make the daily life of San Antonio’s water workers easier.

“The common platform will provide a uniform way of operating our treatment plants. It will provide what we call a consistent HMI — human-machine interface,” Pulapaka said. “So that would make it easier to train our operators. It also makes it easier from a maintenance perspective because we really don’t have to maintain the hardware that would be associated with proprietary systems."
Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.