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Worcester, Mass., Director of IT on Tech Work in a Mid-Size City

Samantha Sendrowski outlines her approach to AI, learning from her peers, and the advantages and challenges of managing systems in New England's second largest city.

Worcester, Mass., Director of IT Administration Samantha Sendrowski
Worcester, Mass., in the center of the state, is not a small city by any stretch, but it’s also not nearly as large as nearby Boston, which has more than three times its population. This has created a set of unique circumstances for Director of IT Administration Samantha Sendrowski where she has resources to work with, yet also flexibility.

1. What are some of your top priorities?

This fiscal year our main priorities are safeguarding the city’s technology infrastructure, assets and data. Like any municipality, security is really important to us. We’re also modernizing our core technology platforms to ensure consistent, high-quality services. We’re working to empower business users and support business process transformation.

We’re also focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. For us, that means working to ensure our department and also its services better reflect the city that we serve. And we are implementing standards and processes that position us for successful outcomes.

2. What advantages and challenges come with running IT for a mid-sized city?

We have a lot more resources than a smaller city, but we also have a lot less than a larger city. We’re actually the second largest city in New England, at a little over 200,000 residents, but one of the nice things about the size of our city is that while it is big, the actual city employee population is manageable. I know almost everyone who works here, and I can really build strong relationships across the city that helps us be a lot more flexible as well as responsive to business needs.

3. How does learning from peers inform your work?

I’m relatively new to government. I’ve been in this role for a little over a year, and before that I was in the private sector, across multiple different industries, all related to technology. I have been trying to increase my network and communicate with more jurisdictions. GovTech has actually been really helpful in that regard. Other members in my department have been helpful in connecting me with their contacts and their resources.

One of the really nice things about working in government is that there’s no competition. Everyone is very open about sharing both their best practices and their challenges.

4. How is Worcester approaching AI?

Worcester is using AI responsibly and thoughtfully. We want to be mindful of the biases in the technology and we want to safeguard our data privacy. We’re using it in a few different areas right now. The primary one is our new 311 information system for non-emergency requests, which uses machine learning. Information that residents are looking for is put into the 311 system, and then responses are produced through an online chat. In the future, generative AI could be used, so we’re starting to look at that.

Another way is in cybersecurity. That’s something people don’t generally tend to think of — you’re already using tools that have AI built into them. It helps you keep track of vast amounts of data to help spot unusual activity in the network so you can move to protect the information. We’re not relying fully on AI for that; we also have a robust cybersecurity training program and other non-technology resources to help us.

Generative AI is definitely something we’re keeping an eye on. We’re always looking at the latest trends, but being in government, we really want to be cognizant that we have a lot of data to protect. We want to move cautiously.

This story originally appeared in the May/June 2024 issue of Government Technology magazine. Click here to read the full digital edition online.
Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.