Szczurek brings entrepreneurship to state CIO role

DENVER — After a long career in technology innovation working for public and private companies, Theresa Szczurek of Boulder wanted to make the switch to public service.

Szczurek, co-founder of Radish Systems Inc. in Boulder, heard a radio announcement that then Gov.-elect Jared Polis sought applicants for various positions, including chief information officer, and in her words, “opportunity knocked.”

“It’s not only a perfect match for my background, it’s an extremely important role, helping set strategy, helping the entire executive branch with its technology needs —  voice, data and information needs — helping evolve it forward, so we can have more-secure, happier citizens and ultimately make life easier for Coloradans,” Szczurek said. “I felt I could use all of my background and talents and make a difference.”

Szczurek, one of four women to hold state CIO positions, also serves as the executive director of the Governor’s Office of Information Technology. As the CIO, she oversees the operation and delivery of information and communications technology services for more than 31,000 state agency employees working in 1,300 locations. She leads 950-plus employees at the Office of Information Technology, helping keep information flowing and ensuring information systems and applications operate securely, she said.

“We are so excited to have Theresa join the OIT team,” said Brenda Berlin, deputy CIO and chief financial officer. “OIT has built a strong foundation over the past 10 years, and I think Theresa is the right person to drive innovative solutions and customer delight in the future.”  

Szczurek has a third role that currently is not a part of her title, that of increasing interest in technology by attracting more technology-based companies and IT employees to the state and increasing an interest in technology degrees at state universities and colleges.

In all three roles, Szczurek is tasked with taking Polis’s vision and translating the technology components of that vision into reality. This includes his proposals for all-day kindergarten, health care savings and tax simplification, plus statewide broadband access to improve economic growth and competitiveness, she said.

“Given the breadth and depth of Theresa’s IT experience and her entrepreneurial spirit, I am confident that she will continue to transform the technology landscape in Colorado,” Polis said.

Szczurek will help set strategy for the state, support various state agencies in their work to implement those strategies and serve on a number of cabinets.

“You get to a point in your life that it’s not just about the money a job delivers; it’s about making a difference,” Szczurek said. “Down the line in 20 to 30 years, I can see happier, healthier Coloradans. This is what ultimately makes my heart sing. This is passionate purpose for me. Passionate purpose comes in when you find a way to connect your values with your gifts.”

Living out passion and following a step-by-step formula for success is something Szczurek describes in her Amazon-bestseller, “Pursuit of Passionate Purpose: Success Strategies for a Rewarding Personal and Business Life,” published in 2004.

To give life to her book, Szczurek served as a business coaching associate for Gazelles International in Ashburn, Va., from 2006 to 2010, helping companies grow by “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” in line with her “Pursuit of Passionate Purpose” framework.

Szczurek’s passion for technology has been woven throughout her life, she said. She likes how she can apply scientific principles to make new things happen, find and deliver innovative solutions, and improve the lives of others.

“I believe technology is a means of change just like education. I’m a firm believer in education,” said Szczurek, who taught at the University of Colorado Boulder Leeds School of Business for three years in the mid-1980s, as well as served as a visiting lecturer at several colleges and universities.

Szczurek has a long list of experiences in the telecommunications, software and technology industries, working for public and private companies. She has been a CIO and CEO, engineer, programmer, financial manager, product manager, strategic planner, marketer, economic development specialist, consultant, workshop leader, public speaker and author. She also served on several boards of directors of business-oriented organizations.

But Szczurek’s main career has been as an entrepreneur. She describes herself on Linked In and in her biography as “a serial technology entrepreneur and role model for technology leaders” and as “a senior global executive and strategist.”

Szczurek worked in multiple ventures as an entrepreneur, all technology-based with some intellectual property basis, she said.

“I’m working to translate ideas into innovation, which can be brought to the market, which can serve the marketplace, and doing that can build value,” Szczurek said.

Szczurek helped co-found two companies called Radish with her husband, Richard A. Davis, using the first three letters of his name. The first was Radish Communications Systems Inc., a technology company now known as Radish 1.0. The company created VoiceView, a business-focused integrated voice and data system using advanced mobile technology to send visual data over landlines. She served on the board and as an executive from 1990 to 1994.

Szczurek’s second technology venture began in 2009 with Radish Systems LLC, a tech communications company based in Boulder, where she served as the company’s chief executive officer until January to take on the state role. The company helps businesses communicate with mobile device users, sharing visual information during smartphone conversations. She grew the company from $0 to more than $40 million in six years.

Before that, Szczurek was the president and CEO of Technology and Management Solutions LLC, a position she held from 1994 to 2018. While there, she provided strategic planning and developed marketing and customer relationship programs, among other things.

Szczurek’s career started in technology in 1997 with AT&T Bell Labs and AT&T International, where she worked until 1984. She also served as a commissioner from 1995 to 1997 on the state Information Management Commission, which reviews information technology expenditures, and as a member and certified management consultant of the Institute of Management Consultants from 2008 to 2018.

Szczurek holds a doctorate degree in business administration from the Leeds School of Business, which she earned in 1989. She has a master’s degree in information systems from the University of Colorado Denver and in operations research from Stanford University.

Szczurek has a few hobbies, too, and like many Coloradans, likes physical fitness and the outdoors. Her favorites include backpacking, hiking and biking, but her absolute favorite is being a mother to 22-year-old Annie Szczurek Davis. She also like ballroom dancing and is supportive of the Girl Scouts of Colorado, serving on the board beginning in 2018.

“We’re building courage, character and confidence among these young women, which is helping them become entrepreneurs,” Szczurek said.

DENVER — After a long career in technology innovation working for public and private companies, Theresa Szczurek of Boulder wanted to make the switch to public service.

Szczurek, co-founder of Radish Systems Inc. in Boulder, heard a radio announcement that then Gov.-elect Jared Polis sought applicants for various positions, including chief information officer, and in her words, “opportunity knocked.”

“It’s not only a perfect match for my background, it’s an extremely important role, helping set strategy, helping the entire executive branch with its technology needs —  voice, data and information needs — helping evolve it forward, so we can have more-secure, happier citizens and ultimately make life easier for Coloradans,” Szczurek said. “I felt I could use all of my background and talents and make a difference.”

Szczurek, one of four women to hold state CIO positions, also serves as the executive director of the Governor’s Office of Information Technology. As the CIO, she oversees the operation and delivery of information and communications technology services for more than 31,000 state agency employees working in 1,300 locations. She leads 950-plus employees at the Office of Information Technology, helping keep information flowing and ensuring information systems and applications operate securely, she said.

“We are so excited to have Theresa join the OIT team,” said Brenda Berlin, deputy CIO and chief financial officer. “OIT has built a strong foundation over the past 10 years, and I think Theresa is the right person to…