Behind the career: Chris Sorenson

Position: The new chief operating officer of Triple Canopy, a Reston government contractor.

Growing up in Houston with a father who served in the Korean War, Chris Sorenson knew at an early age that he wanted to be in the military. After joining the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in college, he went to the Army’s Ranger school where he served in a battalion that put him on a path for service with Special Operations. He commanded a major military community in Germany, led a raid in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks and was the first commander for the Military Information Support Operations Command before retiring and arriving at Triple Canopy.

Which military experience prepared you most for the civilian business world?

That would be my time in Germany commanding the largest garrison outside the U.S. On our bases overseas, once you get behind the fence, you’ve got schools, child care centers, health clinics, roads, sewer lines to maintain. You have to provide housing, buildings and ensure office space is adequately set up and in accordance with international standards organizations. You have to meet overseas regulations. You basically run a city. I was a commander issuing disciplinary orders. I was also a city manager, where I had public works, environmental, housing and others under me. I had a workforce of close to 3,700, including foreign nationals. We closed a $1 billion modernization effort as we were collapsing the army’s footprint in Germany.

When was the first time you had people under you?

I was a commander for the junior ROTC battalion.

How have you grown most as a leader since then?

Making sure to focus on the people with the problem. In this case, at Triple Canopy, it would be the program managers. Those are the people charged to carry out the contract. If you’re not listening to the program managers and hearing their side, you won’t get your best solution. Even in Rangers, it was working with the squad leaders to figure out how to make the smartest tactical move. Your junior noncommissioned officers are given a lot of latitude. They’re close to the issue. They see the problem through a different prism.

— Interview with Vanessa Small

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