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CIOs Can Add ‘Translator’ to Their Growing List of Skills

At the NASCIO Midyear conference, Alaska CIO Bill Smith said the ability to explain to business leaders the “so what?” of technology has played a big role in his experience heading up state IT.

Alaska CIO Bill Smith
Government Technology/David Kidd
The CIO role has evolved significantly over time, pushing new attributes to the forefront for effective leaders. No longer does the person leading state and local government IT necessarily need to be a technologist above all. They’ve added communicator, service broker and even storyteller to their toolboxes as tech becomes increasingly ingrained in government services.

At the NASCIO Midyear conference outside Washington, D.C., last week, state CIOs talked about skills they wouldn’t have expected to be so important to their roles. Most centered around relationship management, a critical need for anyone working across state agencies.

Iowa CIO Matt Behrens pointed to empathy as key to providing services both for residents — developing solutions that will truly meet their needs — and other entities at the state level.

“We’re working inside of state government with lots of different stakeholders,” he said. “And it’s so important when we have those conversations that we’re really putting ourselves in their shoes and understanding what the needs of those agencies are because their missions are so important and they’re serving so many different constituencies.”

In a similar vein, Alaska CIO Bill Smith said he didn’t anticipate the extent to which he’d have to be a translator, explaining IT issues and their impact to business leaders.

Lauren Kinkade is the managing editor for Government Technology magazine. She has a degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and more than 15 years’ experience in book and magazine publishing.
Noelle Knell is the executive editor for e.Republic, responsible for setting the overall direction for e.Republic’s editorial platforms, including <i>Government Technology</i>, <i>Governing</i>, <i>Industry Insider, Emergency Management</i> and the Center for Digital Education. She has been with e.Republic since 2011, and has decades of writing, editing and leadership experience. A California native, Noelle has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history.