DIS Ahead of the National Curve in Girl Power

DIS Public Information Coordinator

Janet Wilson, DIS Public Information Coordinator

A company in Northwest Arkansas recently hosted 40 girls from an area high school for a five-day Girl IT Up summer camp on computer programming. Six women from the company’s information technology department shared their experiences of working in IT with the participants.

The premise behind the camp was to introduce girls to and get them interested in a career in information technology. A news article about the camp cited two interesting statistics. 1) Women make up only 25 percent of the nine million people nationwide working in 13 computer-related occupations. 2) Women received 12.9 percent of the bachelor’s degrees awarded in computer science in 2011-12.

After reading the article, I took a look at the girl power present at DIS. The most recent agency demographics available were from 2011 when nearly 40 percent of DIS employees were women. In creating a mental picture of our organizational chart in my mind, I believe that ratio still closely exists today. As the premier provider of information technology products and services for Arkansas state government, it was a point of personal pride to learn that DIS is way ahead of the national curve in the percentage of women it employs.

Women encompass a variety of roles at all leadership levels at DIS. Women lead the fiscal division, customer relations division, communications department, Arkansas Wireless Information Network, Arkansas Continuity of Operations Program, human resources department and other areas. They also represent a wide range of knowledge, skills and abilities from the highly technical to the creative.

DIS applauds the efforts of organizations taking steps to introduce young women to the field of information technology. These endeavors could ultimately pay dividends to DIS in its ability to recruit future IT talent and enabling it to at the forefront in the percentage of women present in an IT-centric workplace.

To perpetuate the focus on women in IT, DIS will soon conduct a week-long social media campaign spotlighting one of the dozens of talented professional women at the agency. Each segment will provide a snapshot of her role in carrying out the DIS mission of providing technology leadership and solutions to assist the agency’s customers in their delivery of public services to Arkansans.

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DIS is Losing Decades of IT Knowledge, Experience as Employees Retire

DIS Public Information Coordinator

DIS Public Information Coordinator

By: Janet Wilson

A top issue for chief information officers across the nation has been preparing for the skills gap due to the increasing numbers of retiring employees.

As the DIS public information coordinator, I help arrange the proper recognition for retiring employees for their years in public service. I’ve noticed a gradual increase in the number of retiring employees, so I looked back through my records. Since May 2013, 13 employees have retired from DIS. We’ll lose eight more June 30. The numbers could increase at the end of the year.

As an agency of around 250, this represents an almost 10 percent loss of our most experienced staff putting DIS on track with a trend being felt nationwide by state IT organizations. Adapting to the significant number of state IT employees retiring and competing with the private sector to recruit new IT talent.

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers cited a study, “Preparing for an Aging Workforce” in which 40 percent of survey respondents said up to 20 percent of their state IT employees will be eligible for retirement in the next year. Thirty-two percent said employee retirements are affecting and altering the way IT services and support are delivered. Eighty-six percent said it was difficult to recruit new employees to fill vacant IT positions. A majority also said there is a shortage of qualified candidates for IT positions.

With these seemingly dismal statistics, comes opportunity. As we honor and express our heartfelt appreciation to those who have dedicated their professional lives to the IT sector of public service and have chosen to depart for a life of retirement, DIS, like other state IT agencies, must work to recruit entry level employees capable of filling the growing knowledge, skills and abilities gap created by the departure of veteran staff.

Government salary rates and pay grade structures pose challenges in attracting and retaining IT talent. To counter the challenges, state governments are learning that money isn’t everything to all people. States are emphasizing benefits not always found in the private sector. For example, Arkansas state government offers job stability; flexible schedules; attractive annual and sick leave accumulation and retirement plans; training and certification opportunities; and the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of fellow Arkansans.

Multiple career opportunities are now available at DIS to qualified applicants. Positions include computer support specialist, data specialist, program manager, programmer analyst, security specialist, senior system administrator and project manager. More information about these open positions can be found on the DIS website (http://www.dis.arkansas.gov/aboutDIS/Pages/openPositions.aspx). Applications are accepted through the Arkansas State Jobs Web portal (https://www.ark.org/arstatejobs/index.php).

We look forward to welcoming new employees who will set a course for the future at DIS focused upon innovation and cutting edge technologies. We recognize with deepest gratitude our June 30, 2015, retirees who have built a solid foundation for their successors.

  • Herschel Cleveland, deputy director, 8-years of service**
  • Bob Fischer, state systems specialist, 32-years of service
  • Bruce Lantz, network support analyst, 15-years of service
  • Richard “Rick” Lowens, accounting coordinator, 42-years of service
  • James “Jim” McManus, database administrator, 38-years of service
  • Margaret Perritt, senior software support specialist, 25-years of service
  • Nancy Ray, data warehouse specialist, 37-years of service
  • Mike Zeno, quality analyst, 28-years of service

**Before joining DIS, Herschel also served the state for several years as a member of the Arkansas Legislature, including service as the speaker of the House.

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Employees Often the Frontline of Defense to Effective Cybersecurity

DIS Public Information Coordinator

 

By: Janet Wilson

DIS Public Information Coordinator

My agency director gave a keynote speech at a conference on cybersecurity. As the public information officer for the department, I helped him prepare by researching statistics about cyberattacks and data breaches in the public sector.

In doing so, I learned a lot about cybersecurity. Not enough to deliver a keynote speech, but enough to create greater self-awareness of the volume of cyberattacks that take place across the world every day, enough to make me much smarter about my own online security and enough to make me truly appreciate the hard work and effort of our cybersecurity experts at DIS to safeguard state data assets.

Did you know that several hundred thousand cyberattacks occur each day across the globe? Want evidence? Check out a super cool interactive map showing cyberattacks in real time from the point of origin to their destination. It is the Cyber threat Real-Time Map created by Kapersky Lab. Governments are an attractive target for hackers because of the sizable volume of personal data they house.

Did you know that the multiple layered defensive mechanisms block 75,000 attacks per day on the DIS-managed state network alone? Did you know that our systems block approximately 400,000 spam emails per day? Did you know DIS monitors all incoming and outgoing traffic across the state network 24/7/365 looking for suspicious cyber activity? We do and it’s a job that never ends. Think about it. A cyber-attacker only has to be successful one time to breach a network and compromise sensitive data. The cybersecurity office at DIS has to be successful every time to prevent it. It is a colossal task critical to the state of Arkansas and its citizens.

Probably the most eye opening aspect I learned about cybersecurity is that only a small percentage of data breaches are the result of outside hackers. The vast majority is caused by employee errors. In most cases, the error is a seemingly harmless act such as falling victim to a phishing email, clicking on a malicious link, using weak passwords and simple noncompliance with organizational security policies and practices. It could also be from leaving a mobile device or laptop in a vulnerable place, improperly disposing of paper records containing sensitive information or password sharing.

Employees are often the first line of defense for breach attempts. The burden of protecting organizations from compromise is shifting from cybersecurity experts to employees at every level. Educating and training employees to be security-minded from the second they’re hired should be of utmost importance to all organizations, both public and private. Employees should know the importance of complying with security policies and practices; know what a phishing email is; how to recognize it and what action to take if they are targeted. Employees also need to know the possible danger and potential consequences of clicking on suspicious links or files.

Cyberattacks caused by employee errors have resulted in major data breaches in several states. Educating employees with an eye toward preventing data breaches is certainly an ounce of prevention far less costly than expending possibly tens of millions of public money to remediate the damage after a breach has occurred.

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Public Service Recognition Week

Janet Wilson

By: Janet Wilson

Public Information Manager

I received an E-card today thanking me for my service. What service, I thought? When I opened the E-card, it was from a social media site for government employees. The card was letting me know that May 3-9, 2015, was Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW).

Honestly, I didn’t know there was such a thing. It didn’t surprise me. There are recognition weeks for just about anything and everything you can think of. With my newfound knowledge, I decided that, if I was going to be thanked for my service, I should know a little bit more about it. So, I did a little reading.

I learned that PSRW has been around since 1985 and is organized annually by the Public Employees Roundtable (PER) and others to honor the men and women who serve our nation as federal, state, county and local government employees. As a state employee, I definitely fall into one of those categories and so do all of my co-workers at the Department of Information Systems (DIS).

I read that public servants do and accomplish amazing things across our great nation, around the world and in hometowns and communities everywhere. I thought, “That is so true. Public employees really do some amazing things.” For example, did you know that because of the combined efforts of our governor, DIS, the Department of Education, and telecommunications providers across the state, the students, faculty and administrative staff of K-12 public schools, charter schools and education service cooperatives across the state are going to have access to high speed fiber optic broadband Internet connectivity? Did you know that, when completed, this accomplishment will put our rural state, Arkansas, so many times at the bottom of national rankings, at the top of the nation as one of the few states in which nearly 100 percent of its school districts meet or exceed the federal Internet access target of 100 kbps/user? Did you know that only 37 percent of the nation’s public school districts meet that standard? This is a BIG DEAL! This is exciting stuff! This makes me proud!

So, I say thank you to the social site that sent me the E- card thanking me for my service. It prompted me to truly reflect on my role as a government employee and think of myself, temporarily at least, as a public servant. I also accept the note of thanks on behalf of my DIS co-workers. I have the easy job of sharing good news about an accomplishment that will benefit thousands of my state’s citizens. It is my co-workers who are doing all of the heavy lifting to make the broadband project a realization for our state. They are the ones in the trenches carrying out the work with a servant’s heart and who are truly deserving of the recognition.

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Preparing for a Storm

Courtney DettlingerBy: Courtney Dettlinger

ACOOP Specialist

The time of year has come when Arkansas must prepare for tornado season. Last year in mid-April some Arkansas communities were devastated by an EF-4 tornado. This number is just shy of the most damaging of the ratings on the scale. It is important as a community and as an individual to prepare yourself and your family for something like this. It is not uncommon that people believe they will be first priority to first responders after a catastrophic event but unfortunately, this is rarely the case. A few suggestions for creating a plan for you and your family are as follows.

Prepare an Emergency Food Supply

Keep foods that:

  • Have a long storage life
  • Require little or no cooking, water, or refrigeration, in case utilities are disrupted
  • Meet the needs of babies or other family members who are on special diets
  • Meet pets’ needs
  • Are not very salty or spicy, as these foods increase the need for drinking water, which may be in short supply

Prepare an Emergency Water Supply

  • Store at least 1 gallon of water per day for each person and each pet. You should consider storing more water than this for hot climates, for pregnant women, and for persons who are sick.
  • Store at least a 3-day supply of water for each person and each pet (try to store a 2-week supply if possible).
  • Observe the expiration date for store-bought water; replace other stored water every six months.
  • Store a bottle of unscented liquid household chlorine bleach to disinfect your water and to use for general cleaning and sanitizing.

Important Measures To Take

  • Take a few minutes with your family to develop a tornado emergency plan. Sketch a floor plan of where you live, or walk through each room and discuss where and how to seek shelter.
  • Show a second way to exit from each room or area. If you need special equipment, such as a rope ladder, mark where it is located.
  • Make sure everyone understands the siren warning system, if there’s such a system in your area.
  • Mark where your first-aid kit and fire extinguishers are located.
  • Mark where the utility switches or valves are located so they can be turned off–if time permits–in an emergency.
  • Teach your family how to administer basic first aid, how to use a fire extinguisher, and how and when to turn off water, gas, and electricity in your home.
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DIS Employees Speak at the ARKSTE Conference

Janet WilsonBy: Janet Wilson

Public Information Officer

I recently accompanied my agency director to the 2015 Arkansas Society for Technology in Education (ARKSTE) Spring Conference at the Arch Ford Education Co-op in Plumerville, Arkansas.  It was a full house with K-12 technology coordinators across the state in attendance.

DIS director Mark  Myers

DIS director Mark Myers opens the conference.

We were there to share big news about the state’s plans to improve the Arkansas Public School Computer Network (APSCN) so that every school district in Arkansas will be provided access to high speed broadband at speeds never before offered by the Department of Education. My director was giving the opening presentation. When I took a look at the agenda, I was proud to see that DIS actually had a much larger role in the event.

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ACOOP Program Manager Courtney Dettlinger

Debbie Martin, operations center manager, did a terrific job leading a session about our state data centers at the state Capitol complex and in West Little Rock and how each serves the public sector. Courtney Dettlinger, program manager for the Arkansas Continuity of Operations Program (ACOOP) presented a session about ACOOP and the services offered by DIS to help school districts prepare and maintain disaster recovery plans in case an event impacts or disrupts district operations. Two local area network (LAN) field support technicians, Carl McGinty and Josh Jeter, conducted a demonstration of tools and best practices for backing up and restoring critical school district data.

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DIS Chief Enterprise Architect Scott Utley Presenting at the 2015 AUTIS Conference

The day prior to the ARKSTE conference, DIS personnel also served as speakers at the Arkansas Users of Telecommunications and Information Systems (AUTIS) conference. Members of our staff have been invited to speak as subject matter experts in cybersecurity, disaster recovery, data center, networking, enterprise architecture, state procurement and other areas related to information technology at events and conferences across the state and nation. Their knowledge and expertise is a point of pride in representing DIS as the state’s premier provider of information technology products and services to the state agencies, boards and commissions it serves each day.

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DIS Behind the Scenes: Customer Satisfaction Every Time

Janet Wilson

By Janet Wilson

Public Information Manager

DIS employees do so many good things to assist customers on a daily basis that often times go unnoticed or unrecognized. The agency vision is customer satisfaction every time. I am fortunate and proud to witness the many ways our account representatives and IT experts go above and beyond standard job responsibilities to assist customers to fulfill the DIS vision.

I recall three recent events in which DIS rose to the occasion on behalf of three different agencies in need of special assistance. In one instance, an agency was holding a public event and wanted to capture it on video. With no video equipment of its own, it reached out to DIS. DIS was able to assist by providing the agency with the video equipment needed so it could accomplish its needs without having to expend taxpayer dollars to purchase new equipment.

On a second occasion, a different agency was holding a public event and wanted to conduct live polling of its audience, but had no tools for doing so. DIS partnered with this agency by loaning it our audience response system so it could successfully achieve its goal. DIS personnel went to the customer’s location, worked with the customer to load the needed software onto the agency’s presentation computer and provided a tutorial for how to use the response system.

A third recent example occurred when an agency contacted DIS in a panic because a staff member accidentally deleted all of the registration records for an upcoming conference. IT specialists at DIS went to work to restore the data from the agency’s backup and most of the critical information was successfully recovered. The agency conveyed how thankful it was to have been using backup services at DIS.

These gestures of goodwill from DIS employees to the agencies it serves are a common occurrence. As a communicator, it is professionally rewarding to witness and write about how DIS employees work behind the scenes every day to assist and support other state agencies and strive to achieve customer satisfaction.

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