Seattle IT department cuts 14 jobs in major reorganization to ‘foster innovation’

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City Clerk Monica Martinez Simmons, Mayor Durkan, and new Chief Technology Officer Saad Bashir at his swearing in ceremony. (City of Seattle Photo / Tim Durkan)

Seattle Information Technology, a new department that oversees the city’s entire technology infrastructure, is undergoing a major reorganization.

Fourteen employees were laid off this week in an effort to “encourage collaboration, foster innovation, and increase transparency” according to Seattle IT communications manager Megan Erb.

The layoffs come just a month after Saad Bashir took over as chief technology officer for the city. When he took the job, Bashir inherited a department providing IT support for more than 12,000 city employees and running all of the municipal government’s technology services.

Seattle IT handles a wide range of initiatives for the city, including an open data portal and the Seattle Channel television station. More than 750 employees worked at Seattle IT at the time of Bashir’s swearing-in.

The 14 employees let go are eligible to apply for new positions that have opened up in the department, including in leadership roles, Erb said.

Bashir provided this statement to GeekWire regarding the reorg:

Like all technology, the Seattle IT department is evolving. The changes that are occurring within Seattle IT are designed to position Seattle IT into a best-in-class service delivery team. All changes reflect the feedback of IT colleagues and our client departments to pivot the department into an agile, outcome-driven, and client-centric organization. More than ever, the City of Seattle is looking towards technology to drive operational improvements and to deliver services for the residents of Seattle and we will make it our mission to be there as a true partner.

Before Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan appointed Bashir, he was serving as the City of Ottawa’s chief information officer.

Seattle’s CTO position had been vacant for a year following the departure of Bashir’s predecessor, Michael Mattmiller. In 2015, former Mayor Ed Murray created the Seattle IT department to centralize tech teams that were dispersed across city government. The transition was rocky at times.

“The consolidation brought people from different areas of the city together and that is not an overnight change,” Bashir told GeekWire in an interview in March.

The employees laid off in the reorganization were in management, according to Crosscut, which first reported the news.

Bashir detailed the organizational changes in a memo to employees obtained by GeekWire.

“With your feedback firmly planted in my approach, I owe all of you my honest assessment of what it will take for us to be a ‘Best‐in‐Class Digital Service Delivery Team’ – more on this in the coming days but a heads up that the organizational changes today may be the easiest aspect of our journey,” Bashir wrote in the memo.

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