The State Worker

Will Silicon Valley job titles help Gavin Newsom recruit new California IT leaders?

Gov. Gavin Newsom is launching a new office to rethink state government’s technology programs, and he’s turning to Silicon Valley for inspiration in his job advertisements.

The Department of Human Resources last week released proposed job descriptions for what would be five key executive positions in Newsom’s Office of Digital Innovation. If the Legislature agrees to Newsom’s request and authorizes the department, it would launch this summer with a $36 million budget and authority to hire 50 employees.

With titles like “Head of Product” and “Head of Design and User Experience,” the proposed job titles are rooted in the private sector instead of state government’s civil service manual.

Take, for instance, “Head of Talent.”

The position has a salary of $10,277 to $11,669 a month and is listed as a career executive assignment, which means it is an at-will job outside of union representation.

It’s “responsible for creating a vision, strategy, and corresponding plans for talent management initiatives” that align with the office’s mission. This deputy director will “help ensure a pipeline of incoming talent to fill critical positions throughout” the office, according to the posting.

A similar position at Cal Fire is titled “chief of human resources.” At lower levels of the government, HR employees have titles like “personnel supervisor I” or “staff services analyst.”

Newsom’s move to create a new state technology office follows an effort by former Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration to make civil service more appealing to millennial employees in part by modernizing job descriptions.

Government Operations Agency Secretary Marybel Batjer since 2013 has been purging obsolete positions in state government, overhauling government websites and improving gender-biased language in state regulations. She is a member of Newsom’s cabinet.

California has long struggled to implement large technology programs on budget and on time. One example is a $900 million accounting program that the state has been developing for 14 years. Another is a $90 million payroll project that the State Controller’s Office scrapped after a failed launch.

Newsom’s proposed Office of Digital Innovation aims to “build a culture of continuous program improvement and 21st Century service delivery methods,” according to the governor’s budget summary.

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“In this new office, we are seeking talent from both in and out of government that is interested in approaching problems in a new way,” said Lynda Gledhill, a spokeswoman for the Government Operations Agency. “These job titles align with similar positions at other entities throughout the world that do this kind of work.”

The five deputy directors will “lead groups of multi-disciplinary teams to collaborate with departments on digital services using design, technology, data, and behavioral insights to deliver better services for Californians,” according to the position proposal.

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Kyung Mi Lee, from Yale, writes about government and politics for The Sacramento Bee. She is originally from Honolulu, Hawaii.
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