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Premier 100 IT Leader profile: Kristin D. Russell

Every job involves taking risks. Sometimes, the greatest risk is taking the job.

Kristin D. Russell, 41, had a successful career in the private sector, holding top IT jobs at both Sun and Oracle; she was comfortable and well rewarded. When the Colorado governor's office came calling, she resisted the invitation to apply for the position of state CIO and secretary of technology. Then the governor read her the poem "To Be of Use," by Marge Piercy, which ends: "The pitcher cries for water to carry / and a person for work that is real." Russell knew the job offered an unprecedented opportunity for meaningful work. "Technology is how we as a country are going to innovate and transform who we want to be," she says.

Within 90 days of coming on board, Russell remapped the IT organization with the goal of getting more citizens engaged in civil services.

For Russell, "relationship-building is key," says Monica Coughlin, who worked with Russell at both Sun and Oracle and is now business planning and IT economic development director in the governor's office. "That's why she's able to adapt in different environments." And by drawing on her private-sector experience, Russell "is transforming the way the state does business," Coughlin adds.

Russell says she doesn't regret taking a chance on something new. "Some people say life is too short," she says, "but I say life is too long to not be doing things that you're passionate about."

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