Karen Robinson

Who: Karen Robinson, CIO, State of Texas

“As the CIO of Texas and Executive Director of the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR), Karen Robinson manages the IT needs of more than 4,400 publicly funded entities, including the operation of the state’s IT security, communications technology services, cooperative contracts, data center services and the award-winning Texas.gov. This Texas native is a national role model for young women and men in public service as well as the science, technology, engineering and math field. She brings more than 35 years of government and private-sector experience to Texas.” – Thomas Johnson, Chief Communications Officer, Texas. Johnson nominated Robinson for the NextGen Advocate award.

In 2012, Karen Robinson launched an 18-month pilot program to study the benefits of cloud computing. Back then cloud was a buzzword, and very few people actually understood the technology. Robinson was adamant that Texas needed to understand and adopt the cloud.

“I kept hearing about the cloud, but I really needed to get my head around how the cloud worked,” Robinson said. “I need to better understand what the definitions were because it’s my job to help educate the legislature and leadership about technology.”

Robinson launched the Pilot Texas Cloud Offering (PTCO) project. It was focused on infrastructure as a service, but many of the lessons learned can be generalized for government agencies adopting any cloud offering.

“We gathered a couple vendors and did a pilot project. The pilot gave me the fodder I needed to go across Texas and say, ‘The cloud is here, it’s not going anywhere, this is the direction we need to go, and this how we need to approach things.’”

As a result of PTCO, the legislature mandated that agencies consider going cloud first when doing large projects.

But the cloud isn’t the only area of Texas that Robinson has been instrumental. She has also been a force on the redesign of Texas.gov.

“I was involved in promoting a data awareness, and going online and do things like renew your driver’s license, renew other licenses, really reaching out to the community. We focused on the community. We had to say, if their customers are happy, and my customers are happy, then I’m actually a good provider. Texas.gov is an award-winning program.”

With all of Robinson’s success, it would be easy for her to find a high paying career in the private sector, but Robinson says the mission of government drives her to succeed. “I have been in state government for almost 20 years. I felt like this is such an opportunity to work with amazing talent and really highly recognized elected officials. I took hold of technology, because I see it as a way to move the state forward. And through the advancement in technology we’ve really focused in Texas around economic development, and capitalized on our public and private partnerships.”

Don’t even try telling Robinson that government is dull. “People think government is stifling or bureaucratic or boring, but they are wrong. There are really energetic, bright shiny stars in government, and it is so fun to watch them grow and change government for the better.”