Washington, D.C., Chief Technology Officer Archana Vemulapalli is resigning, her office’s Twitter account announced Tuesday.
Appointed by Mayor Muriel Bowser in January, 2016, Vemulapalli is credited with having led a wide array of technology projects in the District, including improving the local government’s cybersecurity posture, drafting and advocating for equitable and effective smart cities policy, and serving as a vocal leader in the national discussion around diversity and inclusion in technology.
Vemulapalli’s final day within the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) will be Jan. 5, 2018. A replacement has not yet been named.
Vemulapalli told StateScoop she is leaving to pursue opportunities in the private sector and that staying in government long-term was never part of the plan.
“When I came in, I was a long-term D.C. resident and this was my way of giving back to the city,” Vemulapalli said. “We had a great ride, it’s a great team, and I’m just transitioning back to the private sector.”
D.C. government isn’t in the middle of any major technology projects right now, so the timing was good for a move, she said, adding that she doesn’t have a job lined up yet.
Before joining OCTO, Vemulapalli was chief technology officer for Pristine Environments, a facility management and building intelligence company.
“I’ve been in technology all of my life and that’s been the one constant, so I intend to stay in technology,” Vemulapalli said. “And the beauty of technology is that so much is going on in so many different avenues now that there’s plenty to do. I’m just trying to figure out what I want to do next.”
Key among Vemulapalli’s projects the past two years is Smarter DC, an initiative designed to encourage resiliency, sustainability, equality, and transparency across the city and across all city operations. Led by D.C.’s “tiger team,” Vemulapalli described the initiative as the “technologies, capabilities and toolsets … to help achieve the vision of the next generation D.C., whether it be technical or even non-technical.”
Creativity played a central role in many of Vemulapalli’s projects, as she placed a priority on how effective and far-reaching projects could be.
“The reason we focus on innovation and being creative is also to drive impact. You cannot say your solution is creative if it’s not delivering impact,” Vemulapalli told StateScoop last year.
Vemulapalli oversaw the technology office during the District’s creation of an “open by default” standard for open data that she said “empowered” officials to focus on security, improving transparency and lowering the cost of operations.
Last year, Vemulapalli helped manage a pilot project with Cisco designed to bring public gigabit Wi-Fi and smart street lights to the city as part of a broader initiative called PA 2040. In addition to Wi-Fi and smart lighting, the Internet of Things project also aims to provide local government with real-time data to reduce operational costs and eventually expand into other applications, like parking and public safety.
Under the CTO, the city also launched a new initiative in June that pits predictive analytics against a growing rat infestation problem. Smart trash bins and subsidies for businesses are encouraging a data-driven solution to a persistent public health risk in the District.
Among Vemulapalli’s broad array of public-facing projects, day-to-day management of IT systems and policy in D.C., she also encouraged the city to take the charge as a regional leader in the national expansion of the Startup in Residence program, a network of 12 government entities that connects technology entrepreneurs and startups with public problems.
When she started with OCTO, it was without any prejudice of what was possible in government, Vemulapalli told StateScoop Tuesday.
“And so for us, nothing was impossible,” she said. “And when I had that mentality, and I came into a group of people that were willing to embrace that, we really pushed the boundaries of what we could do and we really turned a lot of things around and got things delivered.”