New at the top: A utility infielder becomes an everyday player in the consulting business
By Vanessa Small,
I’m not a chief financial officer. I’m not a technologist. I’m not a pure MBA type. I do a lot of things fairly well, but I’m not an expert in anything. In fact, a superior once called me a utility infielder. And I am.
Over the course of my career, I found that in this business it comes down to relationships and judgment.
I started my journey in the federal government, working in national security.
As a child in rural Oregon, I would dream about foreign shores and international affairs, so working in the government was an opportunity that answered that wanderlust. I traveled and lived overseas for 11 years.
But at some point, after marriage and kids, we made a family decision that it was time to put down some roots. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I left the government.
I transitioned into consulting companies.
My previous experience with the government didn’t inform my new position at all. I found myself doing something totally different and new.
I learned how important the people are to your business. You’ve got to turn every employee into a salesperson and a recruiter, and you can’t do it unless they like where they work. That is what this industry hinges on.
In 2003, I decided to take a huge step.
I went from a multibillion-dollar, hundred-thousand employee company to employee No. 13 at SpecTal, a company that provided consulting services to the intelligence industry.
I really liked how nothing else mattered at this company except the client’s mission.
We grew exponentially at a time when a lot of consulting companies were growing because of the war on terror.
My greatest contribution was mission knowledge. You can never replace people who have had firsthand knowledge of the mission from a client or government perspective. I was able to provide some of that ground truth to that process.
I also started to see that I had an ability to develop relationships. Regardless of what business you’re in, it’s all about relationships and trust.
Your employees all drive out of a parking lot at 5 o’clock, and something besides a salary has to bring them back. They can do the same exact work they do for you for someone else. Building those relationships through trust and integrity is something that I learned firsthand at SpecTal.
After SpecTal was purchased, we went from a small company to being part of one with 700 people. I found myself working for another large company where I didn’t have the freedom and flexibility that I wanted.
It was time for me to return to my comfort zone.
Vaxcom had been in my client space for 25 years and had a reputation for being fair dealers. I was just impressed with their integrity. It was a group of gentlemen who made the right decisions for the right reasons, not always to their benefit.
Now, as president, I recognize that it is a tough year to grow, but I think there are many opportunities in the IT realm.
Those opportunities will be at those places where you can actually provide a differentiator. I believe this is a company that is ripe for growth.
— Interview with Vanessa Small
Scott M. Anderson Position: President and chief executive of Vaxcom Services, a Fairfax-based information technology company that specializes in threat management solutions. Career highlights: Vice president, SpecTal; senior consultant, SAIC; senior consultant, EDS. Age: 45 Education: BA, international affairs and history, Lewis & Clark College. Personal: Lives in Great Falls with wife and three children, ranging from 7 to 16.