How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.
Both technology and policy are critical to bring government services back to a point where they meet citizen expectations and needs. When citizens download an application on their mobile devices, if it does not work, they replace it with one that is simple, efficient and meets our needs.
That is what government must look like in order to maintain and build public trust. In the private sector, innovation and change is driven by the need to stay viable, but the burning platform for government is not always as evident.
I use technology to drive results, whatever they are, in a more interesting, collaborative, open, and designed for excellence manner. In my classroom, we focus on the need for public servants to be iterative and interactive in all that they do. I demonstrate this concept using a non-tech visual concept, but in parallel, showcase technology-based tools. This allows for choice depending on the comfort level of the student.
With this type of approach, students and employees leverage the technology at the level they feel confident, develop a solid base, and then move up the stack at a pace that matches their level of confidence. That being said, if the technology is not crisp, clean and easy, it drives adoption rates down and negatively affects our ability to modernise.
In government, we have not traditionally designed with user needs in mind – including those of our employees. Furthermore, we operate with a lot of legacy technology and technical debt. In the private sector, companies that do not overcome this, quickly lose their market share, whereas in government, we become irrelevant.
I firmly believe that if public servants have easy operable, basic tools at their disposal – such as ubiquitous Wi-Fi, modern tablets and laptops, collaboration and chat tools, and systems with basic interoperability – then employees will start to leverage more advanced technology such as AI to more rapidly modernise services as they will no longer be worrying about the basics. This was my driver in my previous role as CIO at Shared Services Canada, where there is now a workforce that is equitably-enabled and able to focus on driving to modernised services.
What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2019?
In spring 2019, I made a major shift in role when I assumed the first faculty position at the Digital Academy within the Canada School of Public service. My singular focus for the first six months was to help design and launch classroom content for public servants to drive them to work and think in a client or citizen-focused manner, iterating as they design their services.
Although in its infancy, the content is solid; the model is scalable, leveraging best practices from many jurisdictions and embodying the Canadian Government Digital Standards; the format is engaging; and the demand for our product is already greater than expected.
We designed and launched our product in a manner and at a speed never before employed in the school, thus proving our ability to design in an agile manner. This next fiscal year will see us scaling this content to reach a much bigger audience through multiple channels.
What is the best thing you have experienced in your career?
The best thing I have experienced in my career has been amazing teams, teams that make me proud, that click, that build amazing stuff, that are good to their people, and that make all of us want to do better. For me, there is no better feeling than that of belonging to something that is making good into awesome.
Further to this, having worked in many organisations both within the public and private sectors. I can honestly say that I have not met a team yet that is not, or can not be amazing. Knowing that potential exists wherever we go, presents amazing opportunities through every new career door. I am always excited about the next awesome team.
If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2019, what would it be?
Early in 2019, I recognised that without trust from a manager, the ability to innovate and guide effective change is limited.[ Furthermore, the old-school mantra of needing to constantly justify, prove trust and worth, is exhausting and counter-productive.
Conversely, by allowing those to take decisions and experiment with autonomy, when there is clearly limited manageable risk, brings massive value and opportunity to the greater team. This is big!
What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2020?
In 2020, my eyes will be on concrete ML or AI implementations in the public sector that are driving to whole-scale renewal of various public domains. Currently there are many pilots and projects underway, leveraging lots of very clear business drivers. But in FY2020, we should be hearing stories about results and change that will drive to even more citizen-impacting opportunities.
What are your priorities for 2020?
My first priority for 2020 is a return to a balanced lifestyle, something that has eluded me for a few years; one in which I thrive mentally, physically and as a leader. In parallel, I will demonstrate the opportunity for others to have this balance as well, all the while revolutionising how we work, by helping to build and implement digital dexterity and acumen across the Canadian public sector. Not a small feat, but one which I know I will help drive.
What is one challenge you would like to take on in 2020?
In 2020, I wish to help drive leadership in the public sector to review how we work as an executive cadre, for the purpose of moving away from the current exhausting senior leader work/life integration model and to one where we value focus, balance and healthy choices. We do this well in the ranks of the public service but not in the executive cadre, thus leading to instability in our executive ranks, which has a profoundly negative affect on our workforce.
What has been your fondest memory from the past year?
Amazingly enough, my fondest memory of this past year was when I started car-pooling with my kids to work or school in the morning after years of leaving that role to my husband. My current work environment values the skills I bring all the while allowing me work flexibility, which results in better health, more creativity, higher productivity and the ability to be a better leader.