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A conversation with Ben Berry

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Woman:  Energy Pulse Northwest.

Justis Beauregard:  Welcome to Energy Pulse Northwest, the podcast about all things electric in the Northwest Region.  I'm Justis Beauregard.  And on today's podcast Julie Paynter interviewed BPA's new CIO, Ben Berry.  So Julie, you had a good interview with Ben.

Julie Paynter:  Yes.  Yes, I did.  It was great to speak with him. And he brings, wow, a lot of experience to BPA.  And let me tell you, he is not wasting any time to bring improvement here.

Justis Beauregard:  Yeah, I'm really interested in seeing what he has to say.  Let's check out that interview.

Interview with Ben Berry, CIO of BPA

Julie Paynter:  Good morning. 

Ben Berry:  Good morning.  It's good to see you.

Julie Paynter:  Why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself.

Ben Berry:  I'm Ben Berry.  I'm the Executive Vice President for Information Technology and CIO, Chief Information Officer for Bonneville Power Administration.

Julie Paynter:  And what is your role as the Chief Information Officer?

Ben Berry:  Well, I marshal IT resources to provide services to all of our customers; corporate or power transmission, all our business lines and all the information services that go with.

Julie Paynter:  What are some of your career highlights before joining BPA?

Ben Berry:  Well, I've actually been in IT for over thirty years.  And I now say thirty-plus years.  It's kind of a larger number.  But I've been in private sector, public sector, not for profit.  My last assignment in public sector was the City of Portland where I was the Chief Technology Officer, which is their CIO role.

Prior to that I was ODOT.  I was their Chief Information Officer for about six years.  And before that I was in healthcare, with Providence Health Systems.  All the eight hospitals here in Oregon and thirty-two clinics.  And then, of course, I was overseas for about six years in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, on three different assignments out.

Julie Paynter:  And what kind of assignments were those?

Ben Berry:  Well, the first one was the King Fahad National Guard Hospital.  And I was actually the applications development manager for clinical and business applications, for two years on a contract.  And then I was at the Royal Saudi Air Force and the US Air Force on the automated logistics program with Litton Computer Services.  Then they had their first Gulf War.  I wasn't there for that.  I went to Los Angeles where I was the computer services manager for corporate at Hughes Aircraft Company.  And then went back to Saudi to manage their international airport.  So Riyadh, Jeddaa and Dhahran.

Julie Paynter:  And how does that previous experience help you today at BPA?

Ben Berry:  Well, I think BPA being a large customer and having so much applications and infrastructure, really plays well to my sweet spot, in terms of what I've been able to manage over the decades.  So I've always looked at applications and infrastructure as one set of tools in which to deliver services to our customers.  And we have plenty of that here. 

BPA being in the utility business, especially with power and transmission has a direct operational responsibility.  And we help enable that for our customer.  And, of course, we have our corporate systems here dealing with the Chief Administrative Offices, Finance, HR, things of that nature.

Julie Paynter:  Since coming aboard in June, what have you learned about BPA?

Ben Berry:  I think I've learned more about the business of  BPA, and the fact that we're in the utility business.  I pride myself in being in seven different industries.  This is my eighth, the utilities.  So I've gotten...I've got now to meet with my customers to learn their business, power and transmission.  Just last week I was with the fleet management crew over in Vancouver.  And actually went to the warehouse, a large warehouse in Vancouver, Dittmer.  So, I think executives need to really get out more to really understand the business of what's going on now.  So that we can contribute to what their needs are.  And when we make decisions, IT decisions, that way we can be reflective of what the needs really are.

Julie Paynter:  What are your hobbies or passion outside of work?

Ben Berry:  Well, my hobby has always been related to technology.  Some people know that I founded a company called Airship Technologies.  Basically the drone technology.  And, my father was an aeronautical engineer.  So we developed that aircraft together.  I had the vision, he had the aeronautics background and we were able to make a pretty competitive solution for long flight endurance.  So that's bee my hobby, since 1991 actually.

Julie Paynter:  What are some of your goals as CIO?

Ben Berry:  As CIO, I'm really looking at how to make IT services more cost effective for our customers.  More seamless for our customers.  And to provide a much better  service delivery program and platform for our customers. 

We have a lot of work that we're doing here at BPA.  And so my goal through an enterprise technology assessment is really to first assess, discover, analyze and then make recommendations on how to reduce cost, how to streamline and how to improve our processes.  That being said, it all has to do with programming and infrastructure and service delivery.  So that all gets done through people.  So understanding my teams, my managers and my staffs.  Making sure they know what my vision is and me listening to the inputs that they can give me as well.  And our customers.  What their desires are in terms of wants and needs.  That can make for a much better set of outcomes for BPA going forward.

Julie Paynter:  What is the best part of being CIO?

Ben Berry:  Well, the best part is, I always tell my team, it's never a dull day in IS.  There's always something that has to be solved, something that has to be innovated or something that has to be changed.  And I often remember my youngest daughter, Danica, she's in Thailand today.  But, she'll be there five months on an Oregon State work abroad study.  But when she was ten...She's twenty-one now.  But when she was ten, we used to share a home office.  And one day she turned to me and said, Dad, what is it that you do?  And I thought to myself, you know, I'm a CIO, CTO.  Well, I make decisions.  And she paused for a moment and she said, well, do they pay you for that?  [Chuckles]  I said, yeah...Well, yeah, they actually do pay you for that.  They pay you for making the right decisions.  If you make the right decisions you actually get to keep your job.  [Both chuckles] If you make the wrong decision, then you hope you don't repeat those so you get to keep your job.  [Laughs]

So, I think of a CIO role as a decision maker who is working in tandem with its customers, his or her customers and management and staff so we make the right decision on technology and services for the betterment of BPA.

Julie Paynter:  Anything else that you'd like to add?

Ben Berry:  No, I think that's...I think that was it.

Julie Paynter:  Are you sure you don't want to keep talking? 

Ben Berry:  No.  [Both laugh]  I can't wait to hear this.  [Both laugh]

Julie Paynter:  Me too.

Ben Berry:  See how it comes out.

Justis Beauregard:  Thanks for coming out and speaking to us Ben.  And so Julie, Ben works mostly internally in BPA.  But what he does affects a lot of people in the Northwest.

Julie Paynter:  That's right.  Because the work that he does internally to create efficiencies and improve our information technology services benefits the region and our rate payers.

Justis Beauregard:  Thanks for tuning into Energy Pulse Northwest.  You can find us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at Bonneville Power.

[End of podcast]