Few of the 48,000 active duty personnel in the U.S. Coast Guard know their paychecks are processed in Topeka, KS. As long as they get paid on time, why should they care where the computing takes place, and whether it’s on a mainframe or in the cloud?
That’s how Rear Admiral Robert Day, the U.S. Coast Guard CIO, wants it. He believes the job of the IT department is to provide computing services that quietly support the organization’s mission. The CIO should know the business inside out and anything he or she does should support the company’s core purpose.
Taking Care of Business
In his 35 years with the Coast Guard, Day has had time to learn the business. Simultaneously, he’s built a solid background in technology.
“I’ve been in IT my entire career,” he says. “Since 1982, all my jobs have been related to IT and communications technology. I have worked in so many different environments in the Coast Guard. I’ve been an individual contributor in the field. I’ve commanded various units, some in the field, some at the mid-level, and eventually at the upper-level.
“The ability to understand customer needs and to work with higher levels in the organization has allowed me to advise senior commanders on IT matters. They know how to fly planes and run ships, but when it comes to IT, they’re scratching their heads.”
Some people in the Coast Guard might scratch their heads when it comes to understanding how it works, but nobody doubts that it works. They know they have the support of IT and they will get paid on time.
Payroll is processed on both a mainframe and in a cloud environment. “Our mainframe has been running successfully for the better part of 20 years,” says Day. “We’ve always depended on it for military payroll. As for the non-active duty payroll, that’s processed in a cloud environment managed by IBM.”
Learn a Little Every Day
The Coast Guard CIO is on the Board of Trustees at the Coast Guard Academy, where he’s also the chairman of the Leadership and Professional Development Committee. “As I look back on the last 35 years when I entered that institution, I realize I’ve been learning and practicing leadership all the way through,” says Day.