Letter from the CIO

Published: April 5, 2024
Category: Essays | News
Rob Groome, Chief Information Officer, ICT

Rob Groome is the Chief Information Officer (CIO) at USC Institute for Creative Technologies, overseeing both the Information Technology and Facilities teams. Previously, Groome was the Head of IT and Information Security Officer at BlueOcean, the brandtech AI-powered decision intelligence company, headquartered in San Francisco. Here he talks about joining ICT in 2000, staying for 16 years – and then returning in 2023, after working on main campus, and taking a detour into entrepreneurship – as our first ever CIO. 

ICT has seen major changes since its inception in 1999.  Originally housed in 2 ½ floors in a building in Marina del Rey, it eventually occupied the entire space. The original “annex” on Redwood Drive which moved to McConnell Ave. Then to our current HQ in Playa Vista.  

By 2009, ICT was bulging at the seams and needed to look for a new home.  Enter Waterfront Drive, ICT’s current home and one of the greatest achievements of my career.  

When the idea of a new “campus” came about, we set out to build something incredible that would help change the course of the research, support the growth, and showcase what a truly amazing place ICT is. My involvement with making ICT’s new space a reality was all encompassing.  From architecting the network, identifying the requirements for power, or designing a place to showcase the work that our incredible researchers do, we all tried to get it right.  

How I Came to ICT

I came to ICT in a very different manner than most. In 2001. After a layoff, and caring for my infant daughter, a friend (who had just interviewed at ICT), suggested I apply for the role of the IT Manager (because I was a better fit than they). 

Intrigued, I delved into ICT’s groundbreaking work and was determined to join. Fast forward to the interview – and I was captivated. 

In Nov 2001, I joined ICT and stayed for 16+ remarkable years. From the groundbreaking VR Theater that housed the Mission Rehearsal Exercise and those famous words: “What happened here?” “There was an accident Sir,” to the amazing work with The Shoah Foundation to preserve the stories of holocaust survivors – there has never been a dull moment.  

Projects and Research

Over 25 years, ICT has achieved remarkable milestones and done groundbreaking research. 

Two projects particularly resonate to me: witnessing firsthand the life-saving impact of our training systems at Camp Pendleton, and contributing to the New Dimensions in Testimony project. 

The incident at Camp Pendleton served as a powerful reminder of my purpose, my “why”. While observing a squad undergoing training with the Mobile Counter IED Trainer (MCIT), I witnessed some soldiers not taking the exercise seriously. Their commanding officer intervened sternly, declaring, “You think this is (deleted expletive) funny?! This training system has saved my life and is why I am still here today! Pay attention to this, do you understand me?”

Immediately, the soldiers adjusted their demeanor, responding with a crisp “Yes, Sir,” and resumed training. Later, the officer approached me, inquiring about my presence. I explained that I was from ICT, installing another training system. He then expressed gratitude, remarking: 

“I hope you realize how impactful this really is. Thank you for your help in keeping us safe.” 

This encounter left a profound impression on me, highlighting the importance of our work even for those of us less directly engaged with our customer base.

The second project that I was very involved with was the New Dimensions in Testimony project, a collaboration with ICT and the Shoah Foundation to capture the stories of holocaust survivors before they were lost forever.  While working with one of the survivors, the Shoah Foundation team asked me if I would like my kids to come interview one of the survivors. I asked my kids, 12 and 9 at the time, if they would like to do it and they said yes, absolutely, but can we read about who we are going to interview?  

They took the time to really understand who the subject of the interview that day, what he went through, and how he made it through.  When the time came to do the interview, I couldn’t have been more impressed with my kids, and everyone involved.

It’s a memory I will never forget.  

Leaving ICT – and Returning

In 2018, I left ICT to take on new challenges and gain different experiences. I moved over to the Office of the CISO at USC before venturing into the realm of entrepreneurship, where I played a pivotal role in building a company from the ground up. 

However, in August 2023, as I found myself contemplating my next steps, ICT reached out to me. Over a memorable lunch with Cheryl Birch and Bill Swartout, they proposed the idea of my return. Instantly intrigued, I eagerly sought more details about the opportunity and the institute’s needs. By the time I left the meeting and returned home, I was already envisioning my comeback and planning my role. 

When I shared the opportunity with my family, their unanimous response was, “This just feels right.” Indeed, it resonated with me too. I’m immensely proud to be back at ICT, now leading the Information Technology and Facilities teams, and eager to contribute to its continued success.

Returning to ICT fills me with pride, having been part of its journey for much of its initial 25 years – especially when I think about the challenges we are now addressing, in terms of cybersecurity, upgrading the built environment, and celebrating our 25th anniversary this August. 

ICT has always been at the forefront of the evolution in the way that technology, security, research, and academia have had to learn to interact and work together. In the early 2000s, a culture of transparency, collaboration, and openness prevailed.  As cybercrime became more prevalent and the DoD was more and more of a target, more stringent security requirements began to surface for any government contractors.  The balance of sharing and collaboration became more difficult with the requirements to control, identify, and protect and ICT was at the heart of it because of our contracts.  

Now, as we embark on the next 25, our focus remains on staying ahead of trends, breaking new ground, and empowering our research teams to push boundaries and lead in the ever-expanding technological landscape. Technology is evolving rapidly, and our interactions with it are changing. As we embrace concepts like cloud computing and artificial intelligence, ICT stands out as a place where uniqueness is not just embraced but celebrated—an environment poised to change the world once again.



Rob Groome is the Chief Information Officer (CIO) at USC Institute for Creative Technologies, overseeing both the Information Technology and Facilities teams. Previously, Groome was the Head of IT and Information Security Officer at BlueOcean, the brandtech AI-powered decision intelligence company, headquartered in San Francisco. Groome has spent much of his career at University of Southern California (USC), joining ICT initially in 2001, as IT Manager, before being promoted to Director, IT. After almost 17 years with ICT, Groome took a promotion on the main campus, heading up the Security Operations Team within USC’s Information Technology Services (ITS) division for several years, before leaving academia for the world of Silicon Valley start-ups (BlueOcean). He re-joined ICT in 2023 as our first-ever CIO.