Executive Spotlight - Clay Leek

Clay Leek, who joined the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) in 2014, is the new Deputy Chief of the Smog Check Engineering and Information Services Division. Drawing on his extensive background in technology innovation in the private sector, Clay brings his passion for envisioning and implementing technology solutions to BAR. We recently caught up with Clay to learn more about his work and his vision for BAR’s technology projects.

What work did you do prior to your employment with BAR?

Before joining BAR, I worked in the private sector as the vice president of a small information technology (IT) consulting firm. I provided project management consulting services to a wide variety of clients including State of California entities such as the Secretary of State, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Technology, and the California Correctional Health Care Services.

What inspired you to work for BAR?

I spent three years working at BAR as a consultant to help develop and deploy the BAR On-Board Diagnostic Inspection System (BAR-OIS). I found that BAR was different than other clients that I had worked with. I really enjoyed the people and the work culture at BAR, and I felt there was an opportunity to improve the contractual framework and IT systems used to support the Smog Check Program.

What are some of the projects you have worked on that have advanced BAR’s mission?

I guided the California Vehicle Inspection System (Cal-VIS) project through the software development life cycle from inception and planning to execution, controlling/monitoring, and conclusion. Implementing this complex software solution was a critical step for deploying the BAR-OIS across California.

I was also responsible for developing a comprehensive strategy to transition Cal-VIS to a new maintenance and operating (M&O) contract. As such, I negotiated a two-year non-competitive contract with the existing vendor. I was also responsible for the development of a solicitation to procure continued M&O services for supporting Cal-VIS, which resulted in savings of over $50 million dollars over 10 years.

I’ve worked to develop and enhance numerous internal applications including electronic data triggers which is used for Smog Check fraud detection. I also championed the development and deployment of certificate blocking and Referee direction functionality, development and deployment of the BAR Auto Shop Locator, significant improvements to BAR’s IT security posture, and implementation of biometric authentication into the Smog Check Program.

One of the major, long-running projects I have been spearheading is the Enforcement and Licensing Modernization project. While there have been numerous challenges guiding this project, I am extremely confident that BAR will be successful in modernizing the licensing and enforcement programs and moving mission critical business processes away from legacy applications like the Consumer Affairs System and the Applicant Tracking System.

How does BAR collaborate with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to ensure a seamless Smog Check and vehicle registration process for consumers? Any recent changes or improvements to the process?

A lot of work has happened over the past few years with DMV to ensure a seamless renewal process for consumers. Interfaces with DMV that support the real-time transmission of Smog Check certificates to DMV are carefully monitored and a real-time application programming interface (API) was recently developed for DMV and DMV business partners to help curb registration-based fraud. We are planning to expand the API to include vehicle safety systems inspection data as well. In fact, we have already began working with DMV to support the transition from the current brake and lamp programs to the Vehicle Safety Systems Inspection Program.

What is your vision for BAR’s technology advancement and what steps do you want to take to achieve that vision?

The technology advancement vision is largely driven by the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). Because BAR is part of this larger technology ecosystem, it is important that we work within the larger DCA strategy. That said, I think that it is critical that we first focus on public-facing licensing functionality and then work toward eliminating our dependence on legacy systems. The challenge of migrating away from these legacy systems is significant but ultimately, I believe BAR is in a unique position to lead the DCA community.

What are some of the things that have motivated you during your tenure at BAR?

The people. There are so many incredibly smart and dedicated people at BAR and I love the culture that has been fostered here. I continue to be challenged, motivated, and inspired by the people at BAR and their commitment to consumer protection and improving air quality.

What was your first car?

My first car was a 1964 Ford Falcon. It cost me $600 and had rusted out floorboards and bullet holes in the doors.

Do you have a favorite quote or motto?

“Is the juice worth the squeeze?” What I mean by that is, will the effort that we put into a project be worth the benefit? Any time I'm approached with a new project idea, this is always my first question. As an organization, we do not have the resources to do everything, so it is critical that we focus our resources on improvements that have real quantitative benefits.

Another motto I frequently use is, “Shoot for the stars, hit the lamp post. Shoot for the lamp post, hit the curb.” In other words, if you aim high, even if you fall short of your lofty goals, you will still achieve far more than if you do nothing at all.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work at BAR and be a part of such a dynamic environment.

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