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Ashley Laymon, chief experience officer, Maryland

How did your role change during the pandemic?

At the onset of the pandemic, there were a lot of technical challenges that had to be resolved. A lot of the state employees report every day to an office, and they’ve done that every day for 20 or 30 years. So when they’re forced to work at home and they’ve never done that before — that’s not really part of their world — we’re setting up things like VPN across the state and having to purchase thousands of laptops to distribute to state employees that need to work from home during the pandemic. Those types of technical challenges, my office played a critical role in communicating to agency leadership, helping to determine the best strategies to accomplish an efficient and effective remote workforce.

What do you love most about your job as a public servant?

I spent most of my previous career in the private sector and joined the state about two years ago. And the thing that I have found most rewarding is that until I came to work at the state, I didn’t realize how passionate people were at the different agencies working on their particular mission. One thing I feel that’s very important to my role is that sometimes people look at IT as a commodity and they don’t remember that the people working here at this organization are just as passionate about their mission as other agencies are. Part of my role is not only to make sure the technical solutions are being delivered to my customers, but also reminding people that technology can be transformative both in their professional and personal lives, and helping increase that excitement about IT innovation here in the state.

What lesson will you take with you from the pandemic?

I already knew that communication and relationship-building was important, but I think what this has done is remind me how important those interpersonal relationships in the workplace and the effectiveness of your communication plays a part in your day-to-day work life and in trying to meet the objectives of your agency’s mission. When you’re sequestered and have a telework mandate and aren’t able to go and meet face-to-face, you really have to rely on keeping continuous contact and being someone with whom your customers can have a pleasant interaction with. It’s not just about the technical or the mission-driven conversations, it’s also about maintaining that sense of camaraderie at the state and feeling like you have a partnership with the people that you work with.

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