IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Laura Clark Brings Cyber Background to Michigan CIO Office

As both CIO and chief security officer in Michigan, Laura Clark explains how her office is addressing IT recruitment and retention and what they’re doing to modernize major state applications.

Michigan CIO Laura Clark
Laura Clark was appointed Michigan CIO in 2021 while already serving as the state’s chief security officer. Clark, however, did not give up her previous post and now serves in a dual role. With cybersecurity topping nearly every state’s list of tech priorities, the decision made sense, putting Clark in the top IT job while allowing her to continue guiding Michigan’s cybersecurity strategy.

1. How has your background as CSO informed your work as CIO?

One of any CIO’s top priorities is cybersecurity. Having a cybersecurity background, or at least a solid understanding of the cybersecurity landscape, is critical for any IT leader, because cybersecurity isn’t just one person — it’s a shared responsibility. I would highly recommend any IT leader spend a good six months with their cybersecurity team, otherwise it’s really hard to understand the day-to-day functions. It’s hard to understand the mission the team is trying to accomplish if you aren’t actually in the trenches with them, seeing what they’re seeing. It’s helped to truly prioritize cybersecurity and to make it one of our primary focuses in everything we do as an organization, rather than just thinking of it as the cybersecurity team’s mission. It’s helped me make it a strategic goal for our entire organization. And we’re seeing a trend. Three or four states have CISOs that have moved into the CIO role.

2. How is Michigan addressing IT recruitment and retention?

Focusing on retention is where we start. We want to truly maintain the highly talented workforce we have. Michigan conducts employee engagement surveys every two years for all state agencies. We just received our surveys, and we’re using the data to evaluate and create an employee engagement plan. We’ve also been working on doing a salary study and looking at our compensation packages to see if we’re in line with the market. For recruitment, we’re looking at the job names that we post to make sure those who are applying understand what they’re actually applying for. We’re also looking to see if we can open jobs up to alternative education and experience opportunities, and at ways to engage alternative career path placements.

3. How is your office helping Michigan secure federal funding?

There are a couple different facets here. One is with the cybersecurity funding each state has received through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Michigan applied for and received its first-year funding. The money is helping us right now create a cybersecurity plan. We’re working actively to do that in accordance with the grant requirements. In Michigan we’ve always called it a cybersecurity ecosystem, because we’ve focused on how to help Michigan as a whole. We’ve now been given the opportunity with this money to work with our local agencies.

Our governor’s office has also established the Michigan Infrastructure Office to look at the funding opportunities that are out there and to work with state agencies when opportunities are identified to help ensure we go for the funding that makes the most sense for Michigan. We work pretty closely in tandem with that office.

4. What projects are you focusing on for the rest of the year?

Workforce is a big focus. We are also looking at legacy modernization. We’ve been highly centralized in our infrastructure, cybersecurity and shared services. The next step is to look at how we’re doing application management and modernizing that, too. We also have our IT Investment Fund. Each year, we work with state agencies to identify priority areas and we request funding for modernization of their applications. One of the projects is for our unemployment insurance agency to rewrite that system. We’re seeing some different trends coming out of the pandemic. We have some areas that traditionally hadn’t gotten a lot of funding focus now being prioritized.

This story originally appeared in the June issue of Government Technology magazine. Click hear to view the full digital edition online.
Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.