The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Chief Officer Awards were announced March 25, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place live, in-person May 11 at the The Ritz-Carlton in McLean, Virginia.
Next is Chief Technology Officer (Government) finalist Charles Worthington, who serves as CTO in the Office of Information and Technology for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Here, he talks key recent achievements, career turning points, taking professional risks and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2021/2022?
In early 2021 as the nation pivoted to the “vaccine response phase,” VA led the nation in vaccinating our patients and caregivers against COVID-19. I am particularly proud of our digital experience team, who played a leading role in this initiative, which undoubtedly saved many lives.
I am proud of how our team quickly and creatively used existing capabilities in new ways, like when we adapted our text message appointment reminder platform to offer automatic text message vaccine first and second dose appointment scheduling.
Later into 2021 and 2022, our team developed and launched VA’s first flagship mobile app for iOS and Android. To date, the app has helped over 350,000 veterans manage their VA health care and benefits quickly, easily and securely. The app also has a 4.8-star rating in the Apple Play Store, making it VA’s highest-rated digital experience.
Carrying the momentum from our successes in 2021, we hit the ground running in early 2022, by launching Login.gov as an authentication option on several VA websites. With over 1,000 users authenticating on Login.gov per day, the feature is providing veterans a single, secure, equitable and easy way to access the benefits and services they have earned.
What has made you successful in your current role?
My key to success is hiring and empowering great people. I am so lucky to work with a wonderful team of technologists and designers, each committed to delivering the best to our nation’s veterans. My job is to get this awesome team access to the important problems and get roadblocks out of their way.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
The initial failure, and subsequent rescue, of Healthcare.gov made everyone in government take notice that our status quo of digital service delivery was broken. The rescue of Healthcare.gov created a massive opportunity to change the government’s approach to technology projects and service delivery.
What are your primary focus areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
Looking ahead, our team has some really exciting work in the pipeline. With President Biden’s recent executive order around improving the customer experience, we will be working on several new efforts that will increase the accessibility, reliability and security of veteran digital services.
Additionally, we are going to be delivering new tools, which will reduce the time it takes for veterans to find, use and receive VA services.
How do you help shape the next generation of government leaders/industry leaders?
Compared to fields like medicine, science and law, the technology industry does not yet have a strong tradition of public service. I think it is imperative that our industry “grow up” in this regard. Programs like Code for America, the U.S. Digital Service and the U.S. Digital Corps are starting to change the narrative, but we need to get the rest of the industry more focused on fixing the nation’s most important problems.
What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken?
Leaving a well-paying strategy consulting job in order to strike out on my own, giving me the chance to spend my time building software products instead of PowerPoint slides. Without taking that leap, I would never have wound up doing the job I have now, working on important problems with the best digital delivery team in government.