My career began when I enlisted in the Army. Twenty-eight years later, I retired as a colonel working at the Pentagon, responsible for two major Army appropriations.
When I retired, I had five job offers. I took the one that paid the least amount of money. I was sold when they offered me an invitation to grow with the company. That’s what I knew I wanted to do: grow a company.
I have been with that company, Calibre Systems, for 20 years.
I joined when the company was fewer than 100 people. Today, we’re close to 800.
I came on as senior analyst and moved to principal, then director, then to operating my own business unit that I developed from scratch. I eventually became chief financial officer and stayed in that position for 12 years until I became chief operating officer. Now I’m gearing up for retirement because I’m 67.
Growing up, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be professionally. When I was in college, I had a full course load while working 48 hours each week. I thought there would be promise of a GI Bill if I went to the military, so I enlisted in the Army and eventually became an officer. The Army did, in fact, send me to get my undergraduate and graduate degrees.
I decided to study business because I loved numbers and management.
During the rest of my time in the Army, I was doing comptroller work doing management resources, finance, accounting and budgeting. I found I was very analytical. I could determine quickly all the multiple courses of action, the risks, advantages and disadvantages, and then choose a path.
I knew it was time to retire from the military because I wanted to stop moving so much. So I settled in the Washington region. I entered government contracting because I knew the defense industry was where I could best sell my talents.
At Calibre Systems, I wore many hats. I was responsible for the IT group, contracting, corporate administration as well as finance and accounting. I was also the corporate treasurer and corporate secretary. But one thing that was consistent was that I was always customer-facing. No matter what job I held in corporate, I still wanted to be involved with the customer, because it was familiar. I am still at the Pentagon one or two days a week.
During the time I’ve been at Calibre Systems, the share value went from $28 per share to $800 per share. Even while I was chief financial officer, we grew sales from $30 million to $150 million, and we grew our employees from 200 employees to 650.
We also completed an employee stock ownership plan and became 100 percent employee owned. That contributed to our success, because with an ESOP, there’s one team, one shared value and one goal.
That’s what I hope to continue here at Calibre Systems.
— Interview with Vanessa Small
Position: Senior executive vice president and CFO of Calibre Systems, an Alexandria employee-owned management consulting and technology services firm supporting government and industry.
Career highlights: Vice president and chief operating officer, Calibre Systems; analyst, principal, director, Calibre.
Education: BS, business administration, King’s College; MBA, comptrollership, Syracuse.
Personal: Resides with wife Maggie in Lake Ridge, Va. They have three adult children and seven grandchildren.