Carlos Ramos ’86, Director, California Department of Technology

Carlos Ramos ’86 (Communication Studies) originally envisioned a career filing stories in a newsroom and even interned at Sacramento television station KCRA. Today, Ramos sits in an office perched high above the Sacramento skyline where he manages a multibillion-dollar portfolio of the state's largest and most complex technology initiatives.

But spend a little time with the director of California's Department of Technology and it quickly becomes apparent that the tech-savvy industry leader hasn't strayed far from the journalistic principles of connecting with an audience.

"I think about being on the consumer end. If many had a choice, they wouldn't be doing business with government in the first place," Ramos says. "But they simply don't have a choice when it comes to paying taxes, being unemployed or getting food stamps. If we can make it easier for them, for example by providing access to services online, they have more control and maybe that's helping make government a little friendlier for people."

State government is a major economic driver for California and the Sacramento region. Of the approximately 200,000 people employed by the state, more than 74,000 are located in Sacramento County. And when it comes to the technology industry, California-based companies lead the nation with nearly $700 billion in revenue and more than a million employees.

"I actually fell into my technology career path after getting my first foray into state service as a student advisor in the Educational Opportunity Program and as a student assistant in the Hornet Foundation (now known as the Hornet Club)," says Ramos. "I found that I liked it and was able to use some of my communication skills since a lot of management consists of communicating vision and getting everyone to move in the same direction," he adds.

Over the past two decades, Ramos has accepted numerous taps on the shoulder for leadership positions. These include CIO of the Department of Social Services, director of the Stephen P. Teale Data Center and director of the California Office of System Integration. After briefly leaving the public sector to start a consulting firm, Ramos was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011 as director of California's Department of Technology.

"Government has a responsibility to be more effective and efficient, and often accomplishes this through the use of technology," says Ramos. "A great example is how the Franchise Tax Board modernized its technology systems and collected more than a billion dollars in tax revenue in the past three years simply by doing a better job of administering its tax program." Improvements included better customer service, maximized transparency, as well as a number of self-service options for taxpayers.

In his position, Ramos' goals are to make smarter decisions in how the state invests in technology, to develop a more capable workforce and to increase cybersecurity.

"What's ironic and cool is that now days technology and media are converging with social media and video conferencing. In a roundabout way I'm getting back to what I wanted to do in the first place."