Written by Benjamin Freed
As heat waves hit much of the country and people take their final vacations, we asked a group of state chief information officers and other government IT officials what they had read this summer.
Responses included a few books on business, management, and technology, but also several volumes of history, biographies, memoirs, and rediscoveries of some science fiction classics. Recommendations are reminders that – like the rest of us – CIOs have their range readings.
Vermont CIO John Quinn says he recently read “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty,” a 1997 book on networking by longtime syndicated business columnist Harvey Mackay. The inside flap of the book presents it as an authoritative guide to professional networking.
“It’s a great refresher on the relationships you build, whether you’re in college, in sales, or as a CIO,” Quinn says. “The relationships you have in your life.”
Quinn says he also read Ashlee Vance’s 2015 biography of Elon Musk. Although it was published at a time when Musk was more the enigmatic founder of Tesla and SpaceX than the chaotic billionaire trying to take over Twitter over its content policies, Vance’s book contains possible lessons, Quinn says.
“I often think back to my time in state government and [Musk’s] drive to get things done and how that relates to what we’re trying to do,” he said. “How his tactics would go here. I can often be seen as someone who pushes people a little hard sometimes.
San Francisco CIO Linda Gerull says she’s read “The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias,” by Pamela Fuller and Mark Murphy of business coaching group Franklin Covey, and AT&T Business CEO, Anne Chow. Gerull says this is one of many books focused on social and workplace equity that she has consulted.
“I plan to take my leadership team through some of the exercises,” she said. “We have a very strong focus on equities in San Francisco. [Mayor London Breed] has a dedicated Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office. We have all hired equity coordinators and efforts are being made at all levels to diversify our recruitments, although I think in the area of technology we are ahead.
Other DSI’s summer playlists are a bit more extracurricular. Amanda Crawford, CIO of Texas, names “Big Wonderful Thing,” Stephen Harrigan’s 2019 story of his home state, which spans the mid-16th century, when a wayward group of Spanish explorers set out was beached on what is now Galveston Island, to the present day. Crawford also lists Lily King’s 2020 novel “Writers & Lovers” and comedian David Sedaris’ recent memoir, “A Carnival of Snackery: Diaries.”
Brady Vaughn, Crawford’s budget and public affairs director at the Texas Department of Resources, says he’s been leafing through the autobiography of Alex Ferguson, the longtime Manchester United manager who won 13 Premier League titles over the past of his coaching career. Vaughn says his Man U. fandom dates back to the club’s 2001 acquisition of Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, whom he first met through the FIFA video game series.
“When he came to Man United, I never missed a game,” Vaughn said.
A few state CIOs say they have been driven by recent Hollywood adaptations of sci-fi classics to revisit the source materials. Illinois CIO Jennifer Ricker says last year’s “Dune: Part One,” which won six Oscars, prompted her to choose Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel.
“I think my brain has needed a complete escape in my reading lately,” Ricker says. “I enjoyed last year’s movie and decided to go back and read the classic.”
Ricker says she’s also watched Richard Phillips’ ‘The Endarian Prophecy’ series, as well as a pair of World War II historical dramas – Mark Sullivan’s ‘Beneath a Scarlet Sky’ and Kate’s ‘The Rose Code’. Quinn.
Meanwhile, New Hampshire CIO Denis Goulet says watching Amazon Prime’s “The Wheel of Time” made him revisit Robert Jordan’s epic 14-volume series.
While the Amazon show was recently picked up for a third season, Goulet called it a little underwhelming, but a reason to go back to the books: “It reminds me of how much I loved the show,” says -he.