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New Pennsylvania CIO Shares Key Focuses for Her Tenure

Coming from the private sector, Amaya Capellán says she will look to improve digital experiences for residents as she also seeks to make state government IT a more compelling place to work.

Amaya Capellán.
Courtesy of Pennsylvania Office of Administration
As Amaya Capellán settles into her third week as Pennsylvania’s CIO, she’s setting her sights on digital transformation and making user experiences easier and more accessible.

Capellán, who took office July 24, also aims to make government IT jobs more attractive — saying they should be just as sought-after as private-sector IT roles. That’s something with which she has personal experience, having herself moved into a government IT role from the private sector.

Most recently, Capellán was a vice president at Comcast. But after she connected with a nonprofit that helps government recruit tech leaders — Tech Talent Project — Capellán began considering public-sector work.

Joining Pennsylvania IT spoke to her, because she wanted to be part of an organization that could have a significant impact. She saw that reflected in state government’s reach and mission, pointing to its wide user base and provision of fundamental resident services. Plus, the governor’s emphasis on digital transformation aligned with her own passions and meant she could expect strong leadership support for that work.

Capellán said she hopes to create a “no wrong door” experience for residents trying to access government services, thereby ensuring a smooth process for users. The current legacy tech can make such improvements challenging, however.

“It’s hard to deliver great customer experience when you’re working on really outdated technology that lets you work in a really limited way,” Capellán said.

But not everything can or should be modernized at once, and such digital transitions need to be done carefully, she said. That means targeting modernization efforts at critical systems for the most impact and tying transition efforts to specific, measurable desired outcomes, she said.

Capellán also said she’s looking for opportunities to streamline and accelerate government technology procurement processes — and that a relatively new resident experience team may be well-positioned to explore that. The Commonwealth Office of Digital Experience (CODE PA) was launched in April, and it is housed within the Office of Information Technology (OIT). One of CODE PA’s early initiatives will be looking to see how technology could help make permitting and licensing processes faster and easier.

Capellán compared the CODE PA team’s model to one she’d participated in back at Comcast. She’d been part of the company’s Xfinity mobile team, which she said operated outside the main business with “a fair amount of free rein and agency.”

That’s what the formula and model we’re following for CODE PA [is],” Capellán said. “They’re a separate team, an incubation team, that’s really been given the agency and support to go address problems in new ways, find new ways of working. I think that model is always really successful.”

CODE PA is a growing team, and the state will discuss upcoming positions on the team in a webinar this month.

Capellán is also looking internally and putting attention on IT employment. She hopes to ensure OIT is an attractive place to join and stay, by looking for opportunities for staff to grow their skill sets as well as by emphasizing the mission and impact of the work. And while she hasn’t had to make any hires yet herself, she said increasing diversity is an important goal.

“Especially when we’re designing digital experiences, we want to represent the base of the constituents that we support,” Capellán said.
Jule Pattison-Gordon is a senior staff writer for Government Technology. She previously wrote for PYMNTS and The Bay State Banner, and holds a B.A. in creative writing from Carnegie Mellon. She’s based outside Boston.