March 11, 2013, 10:31 AM — As any CIO knows, an executive position is enough to fill up one's time. But Greg Taffet, CIO at U.S. Gas & Electric, felt a need to contribute his time and skills to another important IT endeavor: expanding access to technology in his Florida community. Taffet volunteers with the South Florida Digital Alliance, a group of area businesses and charitable organizations working to provide technology and Internet access to people who can't afford them. Here he talks about the digital divide, his work to bridge it, and what he has learned about leadership.
Biggest achievement to date: Married for 30 years, with two adult children.
What's the next step you'd like to take in your career? Take on community-oriented projects full time.
Hobbies: Scuba diving and skiing.
What's the best career advice you've ever received? Do everything to the best of your ability, whether it's a project you like or one that's not your favorite.
Have you found an effective time-management technique? I'm still looking for a time machine. I run out of time all the time.
Tell me about your work with the alliance. I am now taking on a leadership role to bring Internet access to the county parks in Miami-Dade County, and hopefully we'll expand to other counties in Florida. It is definitely a team-building exercise to bring the parks commission, the Internet providers, the universities together so we can provide this service to all the people in the county.
What would the service look like? In some parks we have buildings, so we'd put in equipment that's been donated. We're dealing with the universities to get interns to help provide support to the people who come to the parks, and we're [working] with Comcast to bring in high-speed access at cost. We're getting great support from the parks commissioners, who are encouraging us. The businesses are looking at this as a way to get a better workforce.
Do your efforts extend beyond technical work into political or advocacy roles? I am learning that when you pick a good project, everybody is in favor of helping you, but very few people will actually do anything. So I'm doing more of a team-building, implementation, fundraising and advocacy role. It's not very political because everybody is in favor of this, but getting everybody to work together, getting all the interns set up, to coordinate schedules, to raise the money -- that's the main thing I'll be doing at a very high level. We have everybody in the town and parks commission and the businesses all saying yes, but it takes somebody to actually do it. And that's me. I see this as very similar to when I brought high-speed Internet into the classrooms when my kids were in school. In that case, I did drill holes and pull wires. But in this case, I don't see me doing as much of that. [I'll be] coordinating all the people needed to get this done.