Cybera is running a series of blog posts that will showcase Alberta's innovative technology and research community. Over the course of 11 months, we are asking 11 people 11 questions related to technology and research in Alberta.
This month's 11 Questions interview is with Chris Moore, Chief Information Officer for the City of Edmonton.
1. What brought you to Edmonton and what's kept you here?
It was the opportunity with the City of Edmonton. Shortly after I took the job, I downloaded Paul Brandt's "Alberta Bound", [album] because I literally had felt Alberta-bound for some time. I started thinking about moving to Alberta about ten years ago; I was working at Enbridge in Toronto, and I had an opportunity to come out to Calgary. I'd always thought I'd come out West, but assumed it would be Southwest, as opposed to Northwest. I, instead, chose to take this job in Edmonton, because the city has always been, at least in my mind, a creative, entrepreneurial, and leading city.
2. What three words would you use to describe Alberta's tech sector?
Feisty, passionate, and determined.
3. What would you say is the greatest challenge of working in the tech sector in Alberta?
There's a huge number of people in the tech sector in Alberta, and I think the biggest challenge is other Albertans just don't know about it. When I came here from Toronto, I didn't really have a business network, so I worked very hard at what I called "speed networking" ' meeting as many people possible. Soon, I discovered there are many small and mid-sized companies here involved in technologies, software development, and manufacturing equipment. There are also a number of people in the community who are tech-savvy, and who see an opportunity to leverage technology, to better run the city and deliver services to citizens. I was very fortunate to connect with them.
I think another challenge is that Edmonton has a lot of money ' primarily in the energy industry ' that could be invested in technology-based startups. When I speak with Ron Gilbertson with EEDC, he reminds me how much investment capital there is in Edmonton. The question is, how do we get some of that money invested in technology? Technology and energy are two very different sectors; people just need to be having conversations and looking for opportunities to connect the two.
4. Following on that, what would you say is the greatest benefit of working in the tech sector in Alberta?
I think the greatest benefit is also the greatest challenge, in that it's not really known. People don't always expect tech to come from Alberta, so it catches them off guard. We have a lot of companies here in Edmonton that do work all around the world. I've talked to some of the people who lead them, and people [from other parts of the world] say, "Oh, Edmonton. Where is that? Is that in Tennessee?," so I think that's an advantage. Another benefit is that the tech sector is feisty, passionate, and determined.
5. How do you stay connected and tapped into Edmonton's tech sector?
Mostly through technology. There are the traditional people who call me ' though I don't have a phone in my office, I only have my cell phone ' trying to meet, but I prefer other ways of connecting. I had one inquiry recently from an Edmonton-based company, and I got lost in the voicemail. Instead, I found the contact on LinkedIn and messaged him, saying, "Hey, we should connect here." I just prefer to use the technology, whether it's Twitter or LinkedIn.
It's about staying connected in technology, but also in person. There are a lot of events in the tech sector, whether it's tweetups, Pecha Kucha, or Startup Edmonton, and there always seems to be something going on. I like to be there to see what's happening and to support it, it's not just about representing the City of Edmonton, it's more about seeing all the great things we're doing.
6. Who inspires you and why?
I don't know if there's just one person. I get my inspiration from the people around me, either when encountering leaders in our organization, or people in the community. I've sent out a number of tweets in the last year about people who inspire me. It's people here who I work with. Also, there are people in the federal government in Ottawa who are doing work in Web 2.0, communications, or open government. They inspire me, because they're in a very difficult situation where they really don't have the leadership support to do what they're doing, but they still do it, because they know it needs to be done. Some of them do it at the peril of their own jobs. The people who inspire me are the people who want to make a difference, who want to be doing work they're passionate about, and are looking for fulfillment in their work.
7. What book are you currently reading and what do you think of it?
The one that I'm reading diligently is by David Plouffe called "The Audacity To Win". He was Obama's campaign manager, and it's all about the campaign. It's a book about strategy. The next one I'm going to read is called "Leading Out Loud" and the sub text is "Inspiring change through authentic communication," which, in my mind, is being real and genuine, and having real conversations with people.
8. What do you think of when you hear the word "cyberinfrastructure"?
I think of The Matrix [the movie]. I want that day when there's screens all around you and you're just navigating the internet with your hands. I think that day will come.
There's a lot of information in cyberspace, growing exponentially every day, but what are the tools that we need to navigate it, and how do we find what we're looking for? That's what I think about when I hear the word cyberinfrastructure.
9. In your opinion, what are the most exciting technologies out there right now?
3-D immersive technologies, which is having the ability to educate, simulate and collaborate in a 3-D space. It started years ago when people working with this technology were building big rooms where you could have a "virtual experience", and now it's running on your desktop, and soon, probably even your smart phone. It's not really a mainstream thing yet.
Things that are more mainstream that are exciting right now would be a combination of Google Docs and tablet technology. I have not printed in two years, and just recently, our whole IT Leadership team went paperless, which means no one brings paper to meetings. Our agenda and action log is in a shared Google Doc, which we build collaboratively. Throughout the meeting, we're adding things to the document. For 30 years prior to this, we were creating, sharing, and publishing information the same way, and I don't believe that was sustainable.
10. Are there any other fields you're not currently involved in that you would like to see yourself working with?
I would like to work in the field of humanitarian relief. It would be about taking the technology we have to emerging economies, assisting them, building partnerships.
11. What advice would you give to someone just starting out as an entrepreneur?
Have a mentor and talk to them with some frequency. A mentor doesn't have to be someone who's really old, it's just somebody who has done a bit of what you're thinking about doing. Your business is only going to be limited by who's running it. As an individual, there's so much you don't know, so why wouldn't you have a mentor you could talk to?