Ellen Christy’s LinkedIn tagline says everything you need to know about her IT philosophy. Below her name, it states she is a senior technology executive, helping companies translate their business goals into reality.
And as a midmarket IT leader, Christy knows well that tech leaders must focus on improving the overall business. After a frenetic 15-year career with HarbourVest Partners, Christy took a break to catch her breath and refresh, then landed a role as Secretariat CIO for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. Christy has been a longtime member of the Midsize Enterprise Summit Board, helping to guide and steer the event. She has pivoted from a career in the private-sector to immersing herself in the public sector.
The Midsize Enterprise Summit editorial team recently caught up with Christy to discuss a wide range of issues facing midmarket CIOs and IT leaders.
MES: What’s the biggest challenge you are facing in your role as an IT leader in a midmarket organization?
Ellen Christy: Having moved from private sector to public sector, the challenge has been funding in areas that I know need attention. In addition, since government is widespread and my IT control/purview is solely in one branch of government (secretariat level), I find it challenging to operate alongside evolving technologies that are not driven by me.
On the one hand, it is extremely cost-effective and convenient having commodity services such as email, voice, and cloud storage provided by an overarching IT services organization. On the other hand, these services are out of my control, and thus, I find it challenging to operate under someone else’s agenda and timeline. Cooperation and flexibility are keys on both side of this equation.
MES: Hybrid cloud has been such a hot topic lately. What is your organization’s approach to hybrid, private, and public cloud?
Christy: As a commonwealth, we are an adopter. As we begin to wrap governance around this type of commodity service, I find that my secretariat is at the forefront of assisting the overarching IT services organization with defining what that governance should be from the requisition, acquisition, use case, and security and monitoring standpoints.
MES: Can you discuss some of the key projects/initiatives you are current working on?
Christy: Statewide cybersecurity controls and remediation, governance models, and the migration away from internal infrastructure and the hosting of legacy systems to more contemporary platforms in the cloud.
MES: What key technologies are you keeping an eye on for future consideration?
Christy: Data discovery and data cleansing tools, data analytics tools, data loss prevention tools and security monitoring, to name a few areas. For me, it’s less about the infrastructure and plumbing, but more about the services around data that are important.
MES: What advice would you share with other midmarket CIOs and IT leaders?
Christy: Be as diligent and flexible as you can about protecting your data assets. Don’t get too hooked on any one technology, as the landscape is changing, and more and more players are entering the market with great cost to value propositions. Outsource where and what you can. Office 365 is a wonderful thing.
MES: I understand you are a newly returning member to the MES Advisory Board. Why are MES and the MES board important to you?
Christy: I have learned so much from the MES Advisory Board, fellow attendees, and particularly from the vendors who have been present over the years. I get more varied and valuable information in three days at MES than I could by attending a topic-specific conference. Many of the solutions I have purchased over the years in the private sector were first introduced to me at MES. MES is a great way to establish lasting vendor-buyer relationships built on trust and value. It is by far the most interactive conference I attend, rich with relevant content and learning opportunities. Now what could be wrong with that?
For more on midmarket CIO career development, read this article Job Hunting Success