The City of Philadelphia’s first ever Chief Innovation Officer will be Adel Ebeid, poaching the top IT chief from the state of New Jersey, Technically Philly has learned first.
To be clarified by a coming executive order, his role will consume the traditional CTO role with a focus on innovation, Ebeid, 47, said. Among the only cabinet members who New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie kept upon coming into office, he starts formally with the Division of Technology on Monday, Aug. 22.
He takes over IT in Philadelphia two years after consolidation of those services in the city began and amidst an ongoing prioritization battle of hundreds of IT requests from nearly all city agencies.
Q&A with Adel Ebeid
Read the first incoming interview with Philadelphia’s first ever Chief Innovation Officer here.
Ebeid will likely either lead the progressive rise of a now consolidated department that is still seen internally largely as a punching bag for other agencies or he’ll remain a quiet bureaucrat in a role that typically is only high profile in cities with the most vibrant technology communities, say some city officials and those close to city IT.
That’s what we’re about to find out.
“When [the search team] first called, I flatly said I wasn’t interested because I had never thought about leaving New Jersey and wasn’t sure this was what I would want to do if I did leave,” Ebeid told Technically Philly in a phone interview. “But [city Managing Director] Rich Negrin, his staff and Mayor Nutter were very persuasive. I came to believe that I am now part of a team that is really improving Philadelphia.”
Ebeid, 47, who emigrated with his parents from Cairo, Egypt when he was 10 and grew up in Jersey City, is “a real coup that will continue to make Philadelphia a real player in innovation,” said Negrin.
“This emerging technology community here really added excitement to this role. He’s coming from Trenton, so he’s excited to become part of the tech community here,” added Negrin, noting that Ebeid is a fitting successor to outspoken CTO Allan Frank who left in February. “Allan was the visionary, and now Adel will be the implementer, taking that vision and making it more of a reality.”
Frank did not respond by e-mail in time for publication.
Ebeid ran IT in Trenton since March 2006 and had a long career with the state dating back to the late 1980s, where he worked with outgoing interim Philadelphia CTO Tommy Jones, whose status is in limbo to date.
“As for sticking around, that’s Adel’s call. There is still tons and tons of heavy lifting to do to support all the new innovation we’re pushing for, and I’m a weightlifter,” Jones said in an email to Technically Philly. “So, I suspect you’re still see me around for a while.”
Ebeid said he would evaluate his priorities and what Jones wants, with a decision coming in the next 100 days.
“Tommy has done a fantastic job, and Tommy knows Adel well from New Jersey,” said Negrin, who led the search committee. “Adel was the right fit for us now. He is a seasoned, major figure among CIOs across the country. He has a quiet confidence, a humble charisma and he builds great teams, with people who have gone on to be the CIOs at places like Goldman Sachs.”
While Jones has made progress on his 2011 priorities — (1) bolster internal city IT ‘customer service’ (2) improve and stabilize the city network (3) rebuild Phila.gov — they largely remained unfinished. Additionally, implementing the Digital Philadelphia budget and those goals set by Jones remain on DOT’s crowded to-do list.
Ebeid will use his first 100 days in the position to develop a strategy “and won’t make any promises until then,” he said, though he pointed to his work on open data initiatives in New Jersey, including yourmoney.nj.gov, and added that while IT infrastructure is important, “I’ll be focusing on the innovation.”
Finding the first ever CIO was a four-month process led by Center City company DiversifiedSearch, said Negrin, incorporating all of the standard ethics and background checks, which found no criticism of substance. In total, Negrin himself spent “at least 25 hours with Adel.”
Four years after coming to the United States in 1974 at the age of 10, Ebeid’s father died in a battle with cancer, and his mother “had a defining moment” on whether she would return to Cairo with Ebeid and his two sisters. They decided to stay, and Ebeid worked his way through the New Jersey Institute of Technology and the New Jersey state government, rising to become chief of IT.
Residency requirements do require Ebeid to live in Philadelphia. He has looked three times already at potential living space, including in Center City, said Ebeid, who will be bringing his wife and 10-month old daughter.
“Philadelphia is my next great, exciting challenge,” he said.