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Tech Center’s New CTO: ‘Take Time to Innovate’

June 29, 2021

person using computer to innovateIf the words “think different” weren’t already indelibly linked with another large tech organization, they might be the new catchphrase of the California Community Colleges Technology Center’s DevOps team, under the leadership of Adrian Teo.

Teo, who joined the Tech Center as Chief Technology Officer on June 1, oversees a large, remote software development and operations group tasked with developing applications that not only meet stakeholder expectations but are as accessible and widely used as possible.

Barely three weeks into his new role, Teo in an interview said he is still “formulating the big vision.” However, he has observed that the limitations of traditional approaches are becoming apparent. To continue reaching new heights, he said, we must build creative thinking into our business culture.

“I will be pushing organization-wide for a more innovative approach, where we spend 75 percent to 80 percent of the time on daily work and set aside up to 25 percent of our time to experiment, to innovate,” Teo said.

“Companies tend to get caught up in the daily grind and lose sight of the ability to think of new and better ways to do things or to develop new ideas,” he explained. “We need to explore options that make sense for us, with a focus on delivery and customer satisfaction,” he said.

Finding Balance in Work and Life

Teo has an extensive background in technology development, largely formed in higher education settings. After moving to the U.S. in 1996 from Singapore, where he was born and raised, Teo spent many years working at Arizona State University. He later ran his own engineering business, then returned to higher education as the director of ERP systems development and architecture at Maricopa Community College District.

The opportunity to oversee development and operations at the Tech Center offered new challenges and a welcome change of scenery. Teo said that after many years in Arizona, his family — including his wife and three foster-adopted children, aged 14, 21, and 26 — are looking forward to relocating to Northern California, sometime this fall.

Asked about the challenges of managing a geographically dispersed organization, Teo said he has long been a proponent of working remotely, and the COVID pandemic proved him right. At Maricopa, he said, productivity increased after the organization was forced to go fully remote.

However, he stressed the importance of finding a balance between work and home life, and the ability to “switch off” when the work day is over. “The Technology Center has done this quite well,” he said. “I feel that’s an important factor in ensuring happiness.”