Government Innovator Q&A:
Ed Kelly, Chief Data Officer
for the State of Texas 

Meet Ed Kelly, Chief Data Officer, Texas Department of Information Resources

With over 40 years of experience in business and information technology leadership, Ed Kelly has become one of the top innovators in both data & government – and was even named one of DataIQ’s Top 100 Most Influential People in Data for 2022!

He currently serves as the Chief Data Officer for the State of Texas at the Department of Information Resources (DIR). In his role, he works with state agencies and institutions of higher education to collaboratively develop data policies, standards, and best practices to improve data governance and data management statewide.

Prior to joining DIR, he held public sector positions with the Texas Department of Agriculture as Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and with the Texas Department of Public Safety as Chief Information Officer (CIO). Additionally, Ed’s experience includes a variety of roles and responsibilities in the private sector at State Street Bank & Trust Company, Fidelity Investments, Dell Computer, Dell Financial Services, and Unisys Corporation.  

Q1:

As the Chief Data Officer for the State of Texas, you’re a leader to so many. What what do you find most rewarding about this particular role?

Answer: I have been in my position for almost 7 years, and I can say that the best part of the role is working with such a great diverse set of people. We get to work and collaborate with almost every Texas agency and institution of higher education. Getting to know the individuals, learning about their functions/challenges, and making a difference by helping them to succeed in their data management journeys is very personally and professionally rewarding.  

Q2:

Your Government Innovation TX Keynote Session will address ‘How to Scale an Effective Data Literacy Program’. Why is data literacy important to the success of a good data management program?

Answer: Data literacy provides a foundation of understanding and a common vocabulary associated with the key principles of data management. Formalized data management practices are a relatively new area for the public sector. Having educational resources available for agency data officers to help inform their organization’s executives, program level management and IT professionals aids in clarity around the goals and objectives of the program. Additionally, it helps that data officer define his/her role and objectives going forward. 

Q3:

What’s the best advice you’ve received regarding your career or working in the public sector?

Answer: Be passionate but be patient (but not too patient). Things sometimes move at a slower pace in state government, but it is often up to you to drive the success of your program and initiatives. Too much passion without a degree of patience can sometimes lead to frustration on all sides. Too much patience without the drive of passion leads people to question what you are doing to contribute. Balance your drive for success with the organizations’ culture for success!

Q4:

What advice would you give to the next generation who are currently considering a career in the public sector?

Answer: Be welcoming to opportunities that come your way. Sometimes on the first look they may not be interesting or maybe a little too challenging but make it your own, embrace it and do the best you can. You never know where it may lead you! Also, focus on building relationships with your customers and have a servant minded approach to helping others be successful. One of my favorite quotes is by Harry S Truman – “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit”. 

Q5:

Bonus round: What is your favorite screen-time break activity at work?

Answer: We have a hybrid work model at our agency, so right now I am in the office 2-3 times a week. When I need a break from the screen, I still enjoy the “walk around” to see and talk with my colleagues. Sometimes it is a work discussion, sometimes we just talk about the weekend or maybe an upcoming vacation. The people interaction makes a big difference! 

10