New Cybersecurity Initiatives Are Keeping State of Ohio Safe

Ervan Rodgers - Central Ohio Tech Power Player Honoree

Ervan Rodgers


State of Ohio - Ohio Attorney General


Steve Gruetter

Director of Market Strategy - Central Ohio


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SG: We are here today with Ervan Rodgers, who is the CIO at the State of Ohio Attorney General's office. My name is Steve Gruetter of Expedient and I will be your guest moderator today. Let's get started. Ervan?

ER: Alrighty!

Right. So, there is so much in the news today about organizations being hacked and critical being data being stolen. How might this affect the way the business and government react and respond?

ER: Well, you know, Steve, in today's society, it's not a question of if you're going to get hacked. It's a question of when. And so, with that being in mind, the hackers are getting smarter and smarter. Organizations, governments, we all have to work collaboratively together. And as a part of that, the Attorney General Mike DeWine actually created an initiative called CyberOhio. And with that, uh, we just recently put together a Senate bill, House Bill 220 – it just got passed.

And what that is, is, it's an initiative where we encourage businesses that put in cybersecurity. They're patching their systems, they're following a framework, they, they're incentivized with a carrot versus a stick. Um, this initiative started around fall 2016, and in addition to House Bill Senate Bill 220, we have provided such programs to inspire the youth, uh, such as CyberOhio, um, CyberInspire, which is basically a girl's coding / cybersecurity program, aging from the ranges of ages seventh through the ninth grade, where we encourage females to get involved at an early age, um, in our, in our, in our industry. Not only are we, do have a shortage of talent, but we also have a shortage of diversity.

SG: Absolutely, there is. Anything we can do to get the young ladies more involved – we all should be for. So, a question. For everyone out there, listening to our voices right now, where can the, the standard technologist go to learn more information about these programs?

ER: If you go to the website and in the search bar type CyberOhio, it'll come back with search results and you can click on the page, where you can see a number of training opportunities that are available. We'll come out to your business, uh, small business and provide training.

SG: Outstanding. What a great program. Now, do you oversee that for, from the Attorney General's office?

ER: From the Attorney General's office perspective, I am a part of the four founding members. I'm, um, a part of the four founding members. Um, and so that is a part of um, uh, where I have influence.

SG: Okay, wonderful. So, changing the topic slightly-

ER: Sure

SG: Because we've seen so much disruption coming in from the hackers and in the cybersecurity aspect, what is the more exciting aspects of disruptive technologies that’s beginning to have an impact from your perspective?

ER: I'm really excited about artificial intelligence. This is a phenomenal area of growth that I'm just, I'm really excited about because of the interaction between humans and computers. We are in the process of investigating chatbots, wherein which standard questions, we're providing responses back and forth with a computer generated response, uh, wherein which we will have a lot of intelligence and, in the, the back scenes. You're starting to see a lot of government organizations start to adopt this technology. This will be able to provide the Attorney General's office an opportunity to better serve our citizens of Ohio.

SG: Outstanding. Outstanding. So, as you are launching these activities within, within your branch, um, what do you do to fuel the innovation efforts for your team?

ER: So, we have, um, really from the top down, it's been adopted. Uh, my boss, Kim Murnieks, our Chief Operating Officer, came up with a concept and an idea that I fully embraced with my team.

It's called Innovation Days. And so, the Innovation Days allows us to, once a quarter, even in government, yes, in government, we have the ability to create, um, uh, new innovative ideas. And we encourage not only law enforcement, but the legal arms collections and the operation teams to come up with ideas that we can operate better and more efficient. And through the course of this, we've actually developed a room called the Room of Requirements. It's a play on the Harry Potter series.

SG: Okay. All right. That's fun.

ER: Yes!

SG: Now, obviously, you've been exceptionally active in the central Ohio IT community.

ER: Yes.

SG: What for you is the best part – and I'm going to turn it around – and the worst part about being in a leadership position in the Central Ohio IT community? What was the best part about it, and what could, would you want to do to have the community change?

ER: One of the things that I really enjoy about the Central Ohio area is that we embrace technology. There's so many different groups and opportunities to get together and socialize and to network. Um, you have a number of initiatives throughout Central Ohio such as IT Tech Strategy led by Ben Blanquera. I mean, that is an opportunity for not only CIOs, but, uh, senior IT leadership teams to come together where we discuss a whole host of topics, not just government. We talk about healthcare, you know, we, once a quarter, there is a theme. Innovation is happening in Central Ohio and I'm extremely proud to work here. Really, really happy. In addition to that, we have, uh, CIO forums where all the CIOs get together. We share information, so that we're all able to run more effectively. The one thing about, uh, Central Ohio that I think is a challenge that we're all gonna have to embrace and, and get better at is talent. The talent pool.

As we continue to develop, uh, young leaders, um, there is a shortage of talent. And so we're kind of poaching from one another and I would prefer that, um, we continue to develop, uh, talent, um, uh, so that there is an ample, ample pool of talent.

SG: I will agree on both fronts. No community collaborates more than Central Ohio. There's no doubt about that. And on the talent side, it's a challenge for a midsize business like us, for a larger organization like yourselves – we do not want to be stealing from each other. But, so it's time to grow as much talent as possible. I'm glad that there's organizations like Per Scholas and uh, The Tech Elevator and especially the i.c.stars out there helping form a greater pool of talent to come up.

ER: I.c.stars is near and dear to my heart. I'm a board member there, 16 week programs…and you’re right. Tech Elevator, Per Scholas, they all have similar efforts. There is such a, a need for that talent and when they come out of that program, they are so hungry that they are outperforming a lot of individuals and employees that have been in that space a long time, just because they, they want the opportunity.

SG: I've been to the i.c.stars graduation and I do not doubt that for a moment that the kids will be all right.

ER: They will be. They will be, and we’ll be better for it.

SG: You are exceptionally involved in the Central Ohio IT community. Why do you invest your time?

ER: In my career, I have had a number of mentors that have taken the time to plant seeds, um, invest in me, and I feel it's my duty to give, to give back. Um, someone did it for me, and I think it's important that we continue to uplift the community as a whole. And in order to do that, as I'm taking one step forward, I've got to reach back two steps to pull someone or some, some, a couple of folks forward. Um, I think it's, it's a community of, uh, that would provide a greater benefit as a whole. Um, if we, if we can continue to move with that, that concept.

There was once a philosopher, well known in Central Ohio. His name was Woody Hayes. And he said, “You win with people and you always pay it forward.” So there you go.

ER: Yes.

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