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Sarah Hsi, MBA - GB 2015, assistant general manager of information technology and CIO at MARTA.
Sarah Hsi, MBA - GB 2015, assistant general manager of information technology and CIO at MARTA.

Scheller College Prepares Sarah Hsi to Lead at MARTA

As the assistant general manager of information technology and chief information officer for the ninth largest rapid transit system in the U.S., you could say that all of Sarah Hsi’s, MBA - GB 2015, initiatives are mission-critical.

On any given weekday, with over 231,000 passengers covering 50 miles of streets, highways and rails, if something goes wrong on one of her systems, this is the Scheller College alumna that gets to hear about it—over and over again.

Hsi is responsible for planning, developing, and implementing short and long-range strategies and programs for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) Department of Technology. She manages technology programs, technology acquisition, and quality assurance.

By the numbers, Hsi ensures three data centers, 150 employees, a service desk, two external websites, and two mobile apps all run smoothly – and that’s not even counting the technology on the buses and trains.  

Everything is very dynamic. Everything is mobile because everything in our business moves,” Hsi said. “There is always someone working in the MARTA.

The Six Sigma Green Belt spoke to her alma mater about her experience as MARTA’s CIO and how she was empowered by her Scheller College experience. Here is what she had to say:

On Friends "helping" to troubleshoot
Hsi was instrumental in building the MARTA’s two most visible websites – and – and her team developed the first version of the iPhone app for MARTA.

She chuckled as she talked about how her friends like to “help” her troubleshoot.

"Oh I get plenty of emails from friends always telling me things like 'I can't use my cell phone here,’ or 'You know, your sign here is not working,’” Hsi said, adding she appreciates her troubleshooting friends.

“I thank them and always let them know that we're fixing it,” she said.

On the sales tax referendum

The Atlanta City Council voted June 20 to ask residents whether they want to pay an additional half-penny sales tax starting in 2017 to fund transit expansion in the city. City of Atlanta voters will decide on the tax in November. If passed, it would be the largest expansion of the city’s transit agency, MARTA, in decades.

The proposed sales tax is expected to raise $2.5 billion over 40 years to pay for light rail, more bus routes and bus rapid transit, new transit stations, and expanded heavy-rail train service — altogether 200 miles of new transit options.

“It will enhance MARTA's growth. Some changes include increasing bus services and frequencies. Weekend service, for example, is not frequent enough,” Hsi said.

Growth could also mean a partnership with Uber.
Still in the pilot phase, they are testing using Uber from the MARTA app. The program includes having Uber take you to the closest MARTA stop.

“Essentially, we are working on filling the gaps from the first mile to the last mile within the MARTA system,” Hsi said.

On riding MARTA
When asked if she uses MARTA, Hsi responded very quickly.

"Yes! I make all of management ride MARTA. For a long time, our work was very internal. But for the last few years there has been a shift in our department to work with external customers,” she said. “I wanted our team to be connected to the user and see how first-hand technology impacts them on a daily basis. The only way to truly do that is to take the bus (or other service) and see how things work."

On her Scheller success
Before joining the authority in 2002, Hsi held various IT-related positions at AT&T, BP, Whessoe, Coggins Systems, Bass Hotels & Resorts, and Hitachi Data Systems. She also worked as a consultant for the Department of Defense and Fulton County Justice Systems.

Sarah started Scheller College at the same time she was promoted from MARTA’s director of technology program management to CIO.

She had worked for 20+ years in her field, and as a self-proclaimed "techie," learning more about technology wasn't a need of hers.
"I didn’t have any exposure or any knowledge of the financial aspect of business. I am so glad I went to Scheller. I can justiefy my projects now," she said.

Sarah also recognized that there were two other areas she needed to grow in: workforce and organizational management.
"Scheller College showed me a different way of leading. When you become a CIO, you need to manage more people and you can never manage by yourself. Teamwork and building teams helped me with my job. Attending Scheller College happened at the perfect time in my career. My education prepared me for dealing with finances and also managing people.
"I really value the time I spent at Scheller College and how it has successfully prepared me for my role at MARTA. The network you build at Scheller is invaluable. My former classmates and I always get together and support each other. The bond and the pride that we share is long-lasting. Attending Scheller College was one of the best experiences in my life. "


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