Amy Tong, the Chief Information Officer of the State of California, immigrated to America with her family in 1986. They brought only eight suitcases with them, and relied on public services to get acclimated to their new home. And because of those services that allowed Amy and her family to build a life in California, she chose to become a public servant.
“Public service is too important to simply give up because there are challenges ahead of you.”
Amy was the deputy director of the Office of Systems Integration in 2014 when the State of California began to experiment with user-centered, agile development. It became clear that her leadership was needed to manage these changes, and Governor Jerry Brown appointed her to the role of CIO. Amy is a prime example of what we can and should be doing when it comes to hiring tech leadership in government: not always bringing in “saviors” from the private sector, but elevating dedicated public servants and giving them the tools they need to succeed.
“Changing a government this big is not easy. We have to assess on a daily basis on what are the small wins that we can build on and what are the big potholes that we want to make sure we don’t step into.”
Under Amy’s leadership, California has made enormous technological progress in Health and Human Services, cannabis regulation, the DMV, and more. It hasn’t been easy — it’s required coaching, resilience, late nights, and the occasional ice cream run. But by staying positive, committed, and engaged, we will continue to move forward on making government work in the digital age.
To hear Amy’s story in full, watch the video below.