Now that my job search has come to an end, I’m thinking about how treasure can sometimes be found in the most unlikely of places. From the outset, my job search had two simple criteria:
- Leverage my background as a small business executive. For me, it means an opportunity to create and innovate. I got my mojo from creating new departments with new revenue lines, directing the development of software that constantly evolved to take advantage of new business opportunities, and pushing the limits of established practices (happens a lot in the payments industry). This kind of activity in a small business requires a versatile skill set – wearing many hats, as they say – but rewards you with a diverse set of challenges. After 17 years in small businesses, I figured I was pretty good at it.
- Leverage my skills in operations, technology and/or security. Operations is a broad term, so I’ll clarify by saying technology- or service-driven operations (and not manufacturing- or supply chain-driven operations). I think I’m a proven tech leader with a knack for executing and delivering, and a sensible risk-based approach to security and compliance.
As a result, I really focused my job search in two areas. First, the obvious choice – small tech companies, including start-ups, with ambitions of being acquired or going IPO. For example, I interviewed for the COO position at a small SEO company. Exponential growth, but very product-centric – there was definitely an opportunity to add a consulting services revenue line. And because of the exponential growth, there were plenty of opportunities to find efficiencies.
Second, a department within a larger company that had the feel and needs of a small business. For example, I interviewed for an information security position with a payment processing company of about 500 employees. The information security team was a small but core part of the company’s value proposition, and the company had plans to double within 18 months.
Can’t Hurt to Talk
So when a friend suggested I meet with people at the State, my first reaction was … “thanks, but no thanks.” Working for a government entity seemed to have so little to do with my background that it didn’t even seem worth talking about. But when you’re in a job search, you take all meetings!
The first meeting was with Sherri Hammons, Chief Technology Officer and Travis Schack, Chief Information Security Officer. At the time, Sherri had been with the State for about eight months. Like me, she was a C-suite executive for a small company in the payments industry. I was immediately intrigued because she had already reconciled the move from the private sector to the public sector, from an innovative start-up environment to a seemingly bureaucratic environment.
Subsequent meetings with Kristin Russell, Secretary of Technology and State Chief Information Officer, and Jim Lynn, Agency Services Director, helped turn my intrigue into genuine enthusiasm. Hallway introductions to Kelley Eich, Director of Service Operations, and Todd Olson, Chief Financial Officer, were also positive.
An Unexpected Match
After several family discussions (my father was a long-time employee of the State of California), I accepted a position with the Governor’s Office of Information Technology as their Director of Enterprise Applications. As counter-intuitive as it first seemed, I came to realize that the position was actually a very good fit:
- Within the State government, OIT is a catalyst for change and innovation. Driven by the IT consolidation bill of 2008, OIT is reorganizing staff, modernizing systems and looking for more efficient and effective ways of doing just about everything. As a result, the vibe is similar to what I’ve enjoyed as a small business executive.
- The challenge of delivering services to Coloradoans via well-designed, scalable and secure mobile apps, online services and cloud-based systems is a good match to my skills. And there’s an altruistic angle that I find appealing.
Props to Shawna Williams at Innovative Career Consulting for teaching me how to use organizational value assessments to weigh the relative merits of job opportunities. Today is day one and it feels like a I’m sitting in an AA meeting. “My name is Rick Matsumoto and I’m a public sector employee.” Except it’s not something I’m embarrassed about, just surprised!