by J. Greg Hanson

What It’s Like To…Be The First CIO Of The U.S. Senate

Dec 15, 20042 mins
IT Leadership

I was CTO of a high-tech firm in Northern Virginia, and then one day in early 2003 I got a call from Bill Pickle, the sergeant at arms for the U.S. Senate. He told me that the Senate was interested in raising its level of technological sophistication and wanted to know if I would be interested in being its first CIO. I thought about it for maybe a nanosecond.

Contrary to some perceptions, the technology I found in the Senate is actually quite good. I’m responsible for technology vision, leadership and the general information infrastructure. I work with everyone from the network administrators at the 137 Senate offices to the senators themselves to make sure that everything is running the way it should. (Each of the 100 senators and 37 Senate committees and leadership offices are responsible for their own LANs.) It’s like running a mall in the sense that the stores have their own systems, but I need to provide the water and the electricity. The senators are very tech savvy. They have BlackBerrys and PDAs, and a couple of times a year I organize emerging technology conferences where vendors and industry leaders come to talk about technology trends and products.

I’m interested in politics and I’m interested in history, but what attracted me to the job had more to do with the opportunity to serve. What I love about my job is the sense of honor and responsibility that comes with it. Sometimes I have to serve late-night duty and I get to walk around the Capitol at 9 or 10 when there’s nobody else here. During President Reagan’s funeral I escorted former President Bush and Mrs. Bush through the Capitol rotunda. These are special moments.

—As told to Ben Worthen