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For this CIO, protecting personally identifiable information saves kids' lives

Data privacy is important. In the case of IT Leadership finalist Pat Smith, protecting personally identifiable information means saving kids' lives.

Our SearchCIO-Midmarket 2013 IT Leadership Awards recognize the contributions and innovations of IT professionals at midmarket companies. We put out a call for nominations of individuals who have excelled in six categories: cultural innovation, technological advancement, business value, green IT, IT engagement and customer experience.

Pat SmithPat Smith

Data privacy is a critical issue for CIOs -- breaches exact a cost, in reputation and revenue. For finalist Patricia Smith protecting personally identifiable information is a calling. The CIO at Our Kids of Miami-Dade Monroe Inc., a not-for-profit serving abused, abandoned and neglected children, Smith safeguards personal and sensitive information as if lives depended upon it -- because they do. To help these at-risk children, Our Kids needs to work with -- and share sensitive personal data with -- hundreds of organizations, from psychiatric service providers to shelters to schools. The agency also needs to provide a safe way for its case workers to remotely access case files. Smith and her IT team have played a vital role in helping Our Kids fulfill its mission, implementing a sophisticated set of technologies to secure the agency's network and provide the right level of access to the right person.

These security measures have led to an increase in the utilization of the Our Kids network by 30% -- an improvement that goes right to the agency's bottom line: saving kids' lives. Get to know the lighter side of Smith in this IT Leader Q & A.

Number of years in IT: 25+

Company: Our Kids of Miami-Dade and Monroe Inc.

Judge's comment:

Ms. Smith surely presents a "can do" attitude. She has been able to provide the flexibility her organization required while still protecting sensitive data. By increasing services, users, productivity and achieving a closer relationship to their clients, she managed to achieve several of the main organizational-level goals any CIO aspires to achieve: strengthen governance, improve service availability and obtain a high level of internal and external client satisfaction.

Revenue: $1 million  

Number of employees in the company: 125

Number of employees in IT: 13

Educational background: MLS in library and information science, University of Maryland; bachelor of arts in economics, University of Missouri

First job: Consultant

LinkedIn: Pat Smith

Twitter Handle: @patsyk9909

What's the best advice you've ever received? Let go of certainty. The opposite isn't uncertainty. It's openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace change.

In the movie of your life, who would play your character? Meryl Streep

If you could have just one superpower, what would it be and why? The ability to help someone, to relieve their misery, give them a hand when they are down or resolve a bureaucratic problem with the click of my fingers!

What's your favorite app on your smartphone or tablet device? Flipboard -- it enables me to catch up quickly.

Where do you fall in the iPhone versus Android debate? iPhone

Excerpt from the nomination:

Pat not only has converted paper-based documents to secure electronic images but can control access at a granular level. For example, medical test results can be reviewed only by clinical staff. This technology protects sensitive information, helping to ensure the safety of Miami-Dade/Monroe's children, at the same time making it available anytime, improving productivity for her employees. She has also created a safe and secure, permeable network for her larger community of care providers through her investment in SSL VPN technology.

Describe the best technology decision you ever made: Stop trying to know everything.

Is there technology you view as a gimmick or overly-hyped? Cloud has a role to play but is over-hyped.

What's the biggest challenge you face in IT today? Security

Which role/internal partner do you rely upon the most? My CEO

What's your prediction for the next big technology? Location-assisted services on mobile devices. We've only scratched the surface.

What's your favorite nonmonetary benefit or perk of your job? Satisfaction at making a difference in children's lives.

What is the biggest problem you see with corporate cultures today? The goal to make money supersedes making the right decision.

What are "rookie mistakes" that you see in up-and-coming IT leaders? Controlling too much; unwilling to delegate and collaborate.

Describe your leadership style: Dynamic, consensus builder, collaborator and change agent. I am always challenging my staff, peers and colleagues to try hard, to do more, to change the status quo and to do good things.

This was last published in June 2013

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The 2013 IT Leadership Awards: Profiles in leadership and management

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Smith believes the next game-changing technology is location-assisted services. Will the benefits of location technology outweigh the potential threat to personal privacy?
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