I thought applying to the Naval Academy was a stretch for me. It was the only military school I applied to. I got accepted and graduated.
I went to flight school and became an aviator and then flew with a naval flight officer tactical coordinator in P-3s, which are antisubmarine warfare aircraft.
As a 23-year-old officer in the Navy leading a crew of 12 during those missions, I learned a lot about small-unit leadership and the things that motivate teams.
I also learned a lot about myself. You often think of leaders as being vibrant, outspoken, strong personalities. That’s usually not my approach. I was surprised that my subtler approach had a tremendous impact on people. I found them wanting to follow my lead even though I wasn’t necessarily demanding it.
I was leading by example.
I was still on active duty when I did two years with Naval Intelligence. That was my transition from operational naval to the intelligence community.
Then my oldest was born and I was looking at being away from home six years out of the next eight. My wife and I had long conversations about it and we decided to move in a different direction. So I left the Navy and came to TASC.
You learn a lot as you come out and try to understand how business works. I immediately started going to school at night to get my master’s degree in management information systems.
So I had my infant son, was going to school, had a new job with TASC and doing Navy reserves. The key was managing my time well and being dedicated and focused.
At TASC, I became a program manager for small programs and helped win some business and larger programs. I learned the services side of the business. I learned it by leading teams that support the customer mission.
From there, I left TASC and was at ManTech for four years and eventually became president of one of the subsidiaries there. ManTech had a different business model with lots of cost centers, so I learned about how to run a different business model in the services community.
I eventually moved over to SAIC as a deputy general manager. We grew an organization from $350 million to $650 million in three years. Then I took over that organization as general manager, as it grew a bit north of $1 billion.
Then, a year ago, I came back to TASC. I had a fond place in my heart for the company, since it was where I started my career. I came over as the senior vice president for the defense and civil group. My charter there was to get part of the organization that was somewhat underperforming restructured and on a growth path. We have accomplished that.
Now I’ve been selected to take on this new role as chief operating officer. My focus now will be to reduce cycle times, help us make better decisions and have our organization execute to grow the company.
— Interview with Vanessa Small