Kelley Irwin, CIO of Electrical Safety Authority, Best CIOs of 2021 Profile

Kelley Irwin
CIO of Electrical Safety Authority

Kelley Irwin, CIO of Electrical Safety Authority, Best CIOs of 2021

“Trailblazer for Digital Humanism ”

Positioning ESA as a modern regulator requires a first-class IT department. Kelley Irwin, Chief Information Officer of Electrical Safety Authority, introduced the goal of “digital humanism” to deliver business value at high velocity. The cornerstone of this approach is to listen to the people who use the system and what their needs are, and then to create outcomes not previously possible. People, not technology, are the focus. Her goal is for users not to spend time thinking about the system because it just works. She cites strong partnerships with peer executives across ESA as instrumental in moving quickly, from idea to decision and then implementing new services.

Kelley managed teams in Canada, the US, India, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and China and felt fortunate for each of these experiences. “I recognized as I managed people across multiple countries the need to spend time to understand each other. We can learn so much from other people and other cultures if we listen – and take chances,” she says. “You never know when you will have a life-changing conversation, or hear a nugget of the next exceptional idea to pursue. It can only happen if we continue to interact, to learn, and to give back to others.” Kelley participates in international CIO forums, speaks at events for university students, and often forms ideas for great innovation by connecting the dots from these seemingly disparate conversations. “My parents taught me the importance of having personal convictions and how to time the pitch of my ideas, as well as the importance of collaborating well, and to pause just long enough to be certain before making a commitment.” With these principles, Kelley is leading the company to great heights.

The Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) is a regulator and advocate for electrical safety mandated by the Government of Ontario. ESA strives to protect the people of Ontario and reduce the amount of electrical-related harm across the province by engaging in primary activities, including identifying and targeting leading causes of electrical safety risk; ensuring compliance with regulations; promoting awareness, education, and training; and working with stakeholders to gain insight and continuously improve to ensure Ontario remains safe from electrical harm. ESA’s annual workload includes 500,000 on-site inspections, answering 600,000 calls, and interactions with 15,000 master electricians.

Their technology strategy focuses on the users, combining business value, burden reduction, and reducing red tape. The IT team includes an internal team of skilled technologists and strong vendor partnerships. “We have implemented digital capabilities to deliver our critical services, and to provide no-touch solutions for increased safety during the Pandemic,” adds Kelley. “These new services include an online portal for electrical contractors to submit electrical plan documents that are vital to sustaining construction projects, virtual exam offerings to replace in-person exams to obtain a master electrician license, and a route-planning tool for our inspectors to optimize the schedule and route for the day and communicate effectively with customers.” Kelley and her team also provided new IT services to the employees, including digital signatures, digital payments, and video and chat capabilities to enable a remote workforce virtually overnight.

“The ESA committed in 2019 to expand and invest in IT, hiring me into the first CIO role for the organization. They entrusted me with structuring the department and creating an innovative, forward-thinking, and comprehensive digital strategy,” explains Kelley. “The ESA introduced the capability for photo inspections during the Pandemic in response to keeping essential electrical work moving forward while taking into account the health and safety of our stakeholders and our workforce. This has highlighted the opportunity to assess where and how one can leverage this capability in the future, augmented by the appropriate risk-based model. We have plans to launch additional online transactions through our portal, and expand the safety information provided on our website powered by our data platform,” she adds. “We are delivering the digital strategy on a strong foundation of architectural principles including alignment to business strategy at the core, with sustainability, scalability and security as key components.”

Kelley recently co-authored a book titled “Please Stay” profiling 21 women in technology and celebrating her personal career journey in tech. IE


Electrical Safety Authority


Kelley Irwin
CIO of Electrical Safety Authority


ESA is dedicated to creating a safe Ontario, where people can live, work, and play safe from electrical harm. We have a remarkable team of over 400 safety professionals who are all driven improve electrical safety in Ontario. We bring Ontario’s electrical safety regulations to life.

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