Bryan D. Sivak

Creating a results-based, risk-tolerant environment

Bryan D. Sivak was hired in 2009 by Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty as the district's chief technology officer, one of the most visible technology jobs in the public sector. He was filling a vacancy left by Fenty's previous CTO, Vivek Kundra, who was appointed by President Barack Obama as the nation's first federal CIO.

Fenty's approach was to hire innovators for top positions, such as schools chief Michelle Rhee, who was featured on the cover of Time magazine for her work in the district, as well as Sivak, who was a founder of knowledge management firm inQuira Inc.

New approaches often spark controversy, and Fenty faced backlash over Rhee's school reforms. In November, he lost his re-election bid and many appointees, including Rhee and Sivak, were suddenly out of work.

But in just over 14 months of running the District of Columbia's technology operations, Sivak "left it better than he found it," says Asha Aravindakshan, chief of staff for the CTO. He accomplished this, in part, by moving away from a "command and control" operation, she says.

Upon taking the job, Sivak, 35, eliminated silos and gave employees the freedom to innovate and experiment while not penalizing them for failure. Instead, employees were held accountable for agreed-upon deliverables. With those changes, "you actually will create an organization that can execute on anything," he says.

Sivak was also moving the operation to a "results-only" work environment that gave employees flexibility to set their own hours and work remotely, where possible, to establish work/life balance.

Aravindakshan praises the leadership of her former boss. "He made us feel very involved in the decision-making," she says.

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