“It’s truly an exciting time to be in this business,” Amanda Crawford said to an audience of state information technology leaders and private sector partners. “But that excitement can also lead to discomfort as we approach the unknown. How do we embrace that discomfort and then plan…to deliver our mission? This conference is a great place to start.”

Crawford, who serves as executive director and chief information officer for Texas Department of Information Resources, welcomed guests to the annual conference and technology showcase of the National Association of State Technology Directors (NASTD), a CSG affiliate, on Monday.  

Amanda Crawford, executive director and chief information officer for the Texas Department of Information Resources, welcomes guests to the NASTD Annual Conference and Technology Showcase.

Hosted in San Antonio, Texas,  the conference continued through Wednesday, exploring topics like cybersecurity, public-private partnerships, automation and artificial intelligence, state IT responses to the pandemic and much more.

Vicki Wallis, strategic project manager for the state of Iowa and outgoing NASTD president, says opportunities provided at the annual conference help state technology leaders better serve the public.

“It’s interaction with other states who are going through what you’re going through, the corporate affiliates who’ve got solutions to help you deal with whatever issues and troubles that you’re having,” said Wallis, whose first attended the NASTD annual conference in 2005. “It’s a community of people who revolve around the same issues and situations, so you’ve always got somebody who’s a step ahead of you. There’s always some history and education to draw on.”

Monday’s topics included the relationship of new technology and security, digitization of government services, intelligent automation and the importance of collaboration between state technology leaders and lawmakers.

“Citizens don’t have opportunity to vote with their feet,” said Nick Andersen, chief information security officer at Lumen Technologies, during a panel discussion. “They can’t go somewhere else if there’s a data breach. They can’t go to another DMV to get a license. They can’t go somewhere else to vote, pay their taxes, get a birth certificate. […] Citizens entrusted us with taking care of them and our communities, and we have to do that by integrating technology and security into the conversation.”

A panel discussion on Wednesday focused on state responses to the pandemic. From left: John Hoffman, chief technology officer and deputy chief information officer, Texas Department of Information Resources; Brad Steele, director of unified communications, Massachusetts Executive Office of Technology Services and Security; and Cindy Smith, deputy chief information officer, West Virginia Office of Technology.

Guests also heard from Shayla Rivera, an aerospace engineer, motivational speaker and comedian; attitude coach Matt Booth, who encouraged listeners to focus on the positive; and technology futurist Jack Shaw, who explored digital government innovation and the need for dynamic strategic planning.

A technology showcase on Tuesday, featuring nearly 30 vendors and private sector partners, put state leaders in conversation with industry innovators, new products and future-shaping ideas.

For members, the conference provides a unique venue to share ideas, network and explore new technologies.

“Being technology directors, we get a lot of operational perspective on what other states are doing,” said Steve Patterson, who serves as director of digital services for Mississippi Information Technology Services. “It’s not just strategy — it’s a lot of nuts and bolts and hearing what other states are doing; what their challenges are.”

Like many members, Patterson also appreciates the ability to network and develop new friendships.

“It’s the unexpected conversations I really enjoy, especially with other states, but I’ve had them with vendors as well. A lot of times they’ll start out as rote conversations and turn into something personal where you make a connection out of a great conversation.”

During an awards luncheon on Wednesday, Brad Steele, immediate past president of NASTD, applauded members’ focus, dedication and collaboration over the last year, during which all in-person meetings were cancelled due to COVID-19.

“I no longer think of it as the year that wasn’t,” Steele said to applause. “I now think of it as the year that we made happen.”

This year’s award recipients included the following:

  • Midwestern Region President — Joe Homan, Site Support Manager, Nebraska Office of the CIO
  • Eastern Region President — Cindy Smith, Deputy Chief Information Officer, West Virginia
  • Southern Region President — Jon Minshew, Chief Customer Officer, North Carolina Department of Information Technology
  • Western Region President — Christopher Hope, Network & Engineering Section Manager, Montana
  • Corporate Affiliate Committee Chair award — Bob West, Director of Government Operations, Windstream
  • Host State Award — Texas
  • Life Member Award — John Hoffman, CTO and Deputy State CIO, Texas Department of Information Resources
  • Life Member Award — Karen Robinson, Owner/Founder, KWR Acuity Strategies
  • Outstanding Moderator for 2020-21 Virtual Webinar Series — Vicki Wallis, Strategic Project Manager, Iowa
  • Outgoing President — Vicki Wallis, Strategic Project Manager, Iowa

“These awardees are excellent leaders and professionals who exemplify the best of our organization,” said NASTD Executive Director Mark McCord. “The NASTD Annual Meeting is all about learning, sharing ideas and networking to better serve the public, and we’re so grateful for our members and public sector partners who make it possible.”

To learn more about NASTD, visit: nastd.org.

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