Michelle Barclay: Congratulations, Ben, on your new job! Please tell our readers why you applied for the CTO position at the Judicial Council/AOC.
Ben Luke: I really enjoy what I do. I have a passion for technology and I’ve enjoyed serving and working alongside my customers at the Council of Superior Court Judges for the past seven years. When this opportunity became available at the Judicial Council/AOC, I saw it as a way to take my passion and skill set to the next level, and to meet new challenges. In my new position, I will solve new problems while continuing to work with a lot of the same customers and also getting to know a lot of new customers. It seemed like a natural progression to me.
MB: Tell us what day 1 on the job–Monday, November 2, 2020–will look like for you.
Ben Luke: Day 1 and many days after day 1 are going to be an assessment period. I plan to take stock of what’s working and what’s not working. I plan to take an inventory of what services we offer, how they’re being offered, and how they’re being received by our customers. I’m going to get a solid understanding of what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, why we’re doing it, where we need to focus on improving, and which areas may need more resources behind them. We can’t really make good decisions for the future without understanding the implications of those decisions. And to be able to do that, I think you have to have a solid understanding of the business and the products you offer your customers. So that is where I will focus my energy in the very beginning.
Well before his first day on the job, Ben Luke has already earned good graces by repairing JC/AOC Director Cynthia Clanton’s laptop.
MB: What will day 365 look like for you?
Ben Luke: I hope to build off of what we learned at the beginning. I envision us having a better relationship with our customers. I envision us being more secure, and I envision us as a more agile and flexible IT department. I want to be a service provider people are eager to reach out to. So, if you have an IT or a business need that applies to technology, I don’t want you to feel like you have to reach out to IT. Rather, I want you to be excited to reach out to IT because we’ll be partners, and we’ll be problem solvers and innovators together. In short, I see us being much more customer service oriented, and as a true business partner.
MB: You have a master’s degree in cybersecurity. What made you pursue that expertise?
Ben Luke: It is interesting to me. Personally, I just had an interest in what makes technology vulnerable, how it can be exploited, and what the bad guys are going to try to do to exploit our vulnerabilities. From a more practical standpoint, security is a component of everything we do in technology. It is not enough to understand how to write code, or build servers, or deploy applications. If you can’t do that reliably and securely, you’re missing a huge component of what you should be bringing to the table. Security is an integral part of what we do. My study of cybersecurity helps me to have a more comprehensive understanding of what it means to deliver services that are secure, reliable, and highly available.
MB: Let’s talk about COVID-19. Do you think it presents some information technology opportunities for the courts?
Ben Luke: Absolutely–not just in the courts, but for business in general. COVID-19 has forced us to take a step back and look at the things we’ve been doing. Remote work is obviously one element, but we have had to come up with solutions to problems we didn’t even know could exist. It has helped us be more concise and to evaluate how we work. It has also presented us with an opportunity to examine our business processes. We are now asking questions like, “how can we still meet our customers’ needs and how can we still solve problems in spite of this challenge?” I think the biggest takeaway is that we all have had to step back and get out of the mindset of, “this is how we’ve always done it” and to look at WHY we do things the way we do them. That examination will help us be more innovative and more creative, and maybe more efficient, at solving problems in the future.
MB: What do you like to do in your free time?
Ben Luke: My answer might be somewhat uninteresting to a lot of people, certainly to a lot of my friends and family, but I’m really passionate about technology. I’m fortunate because that’s also what I do for a career. So, I’m often at home tinkering in my home lab, researching security vulnerabilities, and trying to better understand how those vulnerabilities are exploited. I’m really interested in integrated circuits, general electronics, programming, and automation technology. In general, I am interested in almost all areas of technology and that certainly carries forward when I’m not on the clock. Outside of technology, I enjoy spending time with my wife and two dogs, kayaking, camping, being outdoors in general, and spending time with friends and family.