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Workforce Is Key Challenge, Most Critical Asset in Wyoming IT

Wyoming Chief Information Officer Bill Vajda says his No. 1 priority is his people, ensuring they have the right skills and tools at hand and feel supported to grow the state’s technology profile.

Wyoming CIO Bill Vajda
Government Technology/David Kidd
Asked what he would spend money on at the Wyoming Department of Enterprise Technology Services if funding were no object, CIO Bill Vajda had a one-word answer: people.

Workforce is one of the major themes that IT leaders at all levels of government tend to say they’re concerned about, and it came up frequently during the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) conference last week. From recruitment to retention of top tech talent, especially given the common lure of higher salaries in the private sector, it’s no small challenge.

But Vajda wasn’t necessarily talking about salaries when he said he’d invest in people. He wants to be sure his employees in Wyoming have the tools they need and “make sure that they’re prepared to accomplish the things in their career that they want to accomplish.”

Vajda said that in the beginning of a person’s government career, they’re not so invested that they can’t be enticed by other opportunities; in the last few years, they’re so invested that they’re gliding toward retirement. It’s the mid-career employees, those looking to climb the executive ladder or take on a major project, where leaders should focus their energy.

While leadership often knows they need to invest in staff development in this way, they don’t always have a consistent way of doing that, Vajda explained.

“And for me I think that’s tragic,” he said, “because people are the most important part, and if you don’t focus on embracing those great ideas, finding a way to enable them to happen, and giving folks the room to run out and do great things, you’re wasting your most critical asset.”

Lauren Harrison is the managing editor for Government Technology magazine. She has a degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and 15 years’ experience in book and magazine publishing.
Noelle Knell has been the editor of Government Technology magazine for e.Republic since 2015. She has more than two decades of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she 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. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.