Education: BA, French and political science, University of Vermont; certificat des hautes etudes Européen, Institut Européen des Hautes Etudes Internationales, Nice, France; executive education program, global strategic management, Harvard Business School.
Personal: Resides in Oakton with his wife, Sabayna. They have five children, Ryan, Andy, David, Ansley and Catherine.
I never aspired to be a chief executive. It kind of just happened. A junior year and graduate school spent in France played a key role in jump-starting my career.
I knew I wanted to do something international, so an employment agency suggested a secretarial position at the Academy for Educational Development. I did really well in the interview but didn’t get the job because I couldn’t type fast enough.
It recommended me for a program assistant position instead. I was overqualified, but it was great experience because I got to learn how the business worked. I worked really hard — staying late, working weekends — and kept the attitude that nothing was below me.
Then an opening came up: a social marketing adviser in Mali.
My wife, to whom I was engaged at the time, also worked at the company, and we both wanted to go overseas.
I told my boss that I could do the job. He said I was too young (I was 25).
Management kept looking and couldn’t find anyone who had the appropriate French skills. Then a couple mentors went to bat for me. After some hesitation, managers took a shot on me.
My studies in France played a big role in securing that opportunity.
In Mali, there was dust, heat and bad smells, and lepers and paraplegics dragging themselves to your car to beg. It was overwhelming, but we did it for three years. We worked through tough situations; we got sick often, and there was political strife. But I succeeded in managing a country program, so I was asked whether I wanted to be a regional manager over North and West Africa and then, eventually, Asia.
We were in Indonesia for a year and a half when things started to unravel politically. My wife was pregnant with our third son, and it was almost impossible to get to the hospital because of the demonstrations. That’s when we decided to return to the United States.
My original employer offered me a job that focused on how to make malaria-prevention products available in low-income settings.
Then the U.S. Agency for International Development wanted to do a similar project. I suggested that we bid on it because I knew how to do it in a way that USAID would like. There was another organization doing this work, and no one thought it could be beat. After a lot of back and forth, we decided to take a shot at it. We won.
It was very successful. We developed partnerships with 40 international and African businesses, which led to the distribution and sale of 70 million mosquito bed nets throughout Africa.
An opportunity opened at Abt Associates to head its international health projects. I had always wanted to see what working at a for-profit organization was like. I took that job and in three years doubled the portfolio.
We had just won a $200 million malaria project when I got a call from QED about this chief executive position. I felt like this was a rare opportunity to lead a company with a great culture that I could help mold. I jumped on it. I’m excited to give development agencies a better bang for their buck.
— Compiled by Vanessa Small