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Meet Catherine: Acting Executive Director of Strategic Design and Delivery

Catherine Chernoff — acting Executive Director of Strategic Design and Delivery

1. What is your role in BC GOV and what product are you currently working on at the Exchange Lab?

I am the acting Executive Director of Strategic Design and Delivery which includes accountability for the Exchange Lab. I started this role in March 2021, so I’m still feeling quite new. Previous to this role, I had been working closely with the Exchange Lab for the past four years in the Information Innovation and Technology Division in the Natural Resource Ministries, so I do not feel new to the Exchange Lab… in fact, I feel old. The services that we deliver and that I am currently working on include Digital Academy, Digital Talent, Digital Marketplace (procurement tools), Digital Community and Engagement, Digital.gov.bc.ca, Strategic Policy, Organization and Team Consulting services and SSO Authentication service.

2. What do you like most about working at the Exchange Lab?

From my early days working at the Lab, I have loved that I can walk in the door with big problems to solve and no vision of how to proceed and run into the people who would be happy to co-design solutions with me. Literally, my problems would disappear when I went to the lab for a visit. Now that the Lab falls under my area of responsibility, I like that my job involves being available to help co-design solutions for other people. You can implement something if you can picture it, and I love being able to help people picture how things could be.

3. Do you have a favorite failure or apparent failure that has set you up for later success?

I don’t think I have a favorite failure… most are so painful. I failed Calculus at University (don’t tell my kids). I don’t know that that set me up for success, but it certainly was an eye-opener for me as I transitioned into a more adult type of consequences that had some financial implications.

Some very impactful failures that caused me to accept a position with the Exchange Lab were around the number of products that were built in the project space, and then the team would disappear when the project money ran out and the product was in production. This left no money or team for ongoing maintenance and continuous improvement. I had been so optimistic at the beginning of these initiatives that we would be able to “figure something out” before the money ran out, but as the number of unsupported applications continued to grow it started to become obvious to me that something was not working. I considered each unsupported application a failure. So, this sense of failure is what has led me to this position where I will hopefully have an ability to influence and shape a different financial model of supporting Digital Service Delivery in the BC Public Service.

4. What is an absurd thing you love?

I have two obsessions that have encroached on my ability to be reasonable since COVID started. One is my home network, which I have spent way too much time and money on — including afternoons spent in my crawl space laying down more network cable and weekends taking courses in how to do advanced network configuration on my router. One day when one of my kids said they thought the network was slow, I responded with, “Don’t insult my network. I love it more than you.” That is when I knew I had to take a break from that hobby. But my network is excellent and very secure and I love it.

The other area of absurdness that afflicted me during COVID was when my son asked me if we could set up a Minecraft server for him and his friends to play on. It took some time to figure this out, but after I got my head wrapped around how to do it… that is when the problems started. I wanted to see how fast I could set up a Minecraft server on several different cloud providers. Before I knew it, months had passed and I was supporting 3 Minecraft Servers: one on AWS, one on Digital Ocean, and one on VPS server. When my son asked me if I could please stop working on the Minecraft servers so that we could go on a hike, I realized the balance was off. I have now reduced it to one server, and this seems much more reasonable. For those of you who are curious, I kept the one on Digital Ocean; it was the cheapest for what I was trying to do.

5. What is a book that has greatly influenced your life?

When I looked at my bookshelf to try and answer this question, I realized most of my books fell into one of these categories: how to parent, how to train a dog, digital transformation books, leadership books, and books about faith and spirituality. I noted to myself a lack of novels and have now decided to expand my reading into that area as it seems like more fun. It was tough to pick a single book, so I went with two. How To Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk would be up there on the top of my list. I think parenting books can be useful in all areas of life. The second book that I would choose is Tattoos on the Heart, an incredible nonfiction story about a Jesuit Priest working with a gang member in LA — a definite role model for boundless compassion.

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An exchange of ideas, stories and lessons learned from folks building teams and tools to build better public services in British Columbia and beyond.

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The Exchange

The Exchange

We're a tech-forward public sector innovation lab; a place for the experimentation, learning & inclusive collaboration needed to solve today's wicked problems.

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