Meet the Judges: Joan McCalla

Having worked in government for 30 years, Joan McCalla recognizes that public sector organizations across the globe have a similar direction and wrestle with identical issues. “Governments around the world share many of the same goals … in terms of priorities, improving client service, efficiency, transparency, accountability, inclusive growth,” said the McCalla, a Distinguished Fellow at Cisco Systems Inc.

Today, the Edmonton, Alta., native is part of Cisco’s internet business solutions group, a global public sector team. She works primarily with public sector organizations in Asia Pacific and India where she helps them vision their objectives by providing strategic advice, knowledge transfer and best practices.

Career Précis

Although McCalla now works for a private sector company, her role at Cisco is very in line with her government roots. “It’s a natural extension of what I was doing,” she said.

Prior to joining Cisco, McCalla held various roles including corporate chief strategist for information technology with the Province of Ontario. In that role, McCalla developed and implemented enterprise-wide IT strategies, plans and policies and ensured they aligned with the government’s business goals.

McCalla has observed the role of technology change during her three decades in government, witnessing IT become an enabler and a driver of public sector goals. “Looking back, IT has become more embedded into government processes, it’s a critical underpinning,” said McCalla.

She started out her career in government as an urban planner with the City of Mississauga, after she earned an Honours Bachelor of arts in geography from the University of Alberta, and a Masters of science in urban and regional planning from the University of Toronto.

Early Leadership Exposure

McCalla recognizes a leader in Scott Campbell, Ontario’s first chief information officer, to whom she reported as chief corporate strategist. “One of the main lessons learnt … was the importance of maintaining a focus at the same time as working on that long-term vision,” said McCalla of Campbell’s leadership style.

Leadership Philosophy

McCalla said she can’t overemphasize the importance of communication when getting stakeholders onboard with a vision. Each person will naturally perceive themselves differently en route to a common goal, so translating the plan to fit each party is essential, she said. Convey your message “in a language and in words that are meaningful to the audience you are communicating to,” said McCalla.

Stay tuned for the winners of ComputerWorld Canada’s IT Leadership Awards in October.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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