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New at the top: Shannon Brown’s career took flight, but not the way she expected

By Interview with Vanessa Small,

In college I wanted to become a pilot.

At the time, I was interning at a small IT company, working with retired military pilots. They got me interested in flying. I got my private pilot license out of Quantico. I flew planes, did ground duty and cleaned the aircraft.

But I began to realize that because I didn’t go into military service, it was going to take a long time to get the thousands and thousands of hours needed to be a commercial pilot. It would’ve taken 10 years.

But another career opportunity opened up.

I was doing some regression analysis work and software development as part of my internship. It was a very small company, so they asked me to help out as an assistant to the chief financial officer. Then they asked me to step into the chief financial officer position.

I was only 24.

It was a great opportunity. I learned how to run the monthly reports and how to manage the company’s finances.

Not too long afterward, I moved to PRC, which ended up becoming part of Northrop Grumman. I moved there because I wanted to be in a larger company. I wanted to have more opportunities in the IT arena, and I knew they were top-notch in terms of training people to be good program managers.

I had a number of jobs there. I started in the financial area and then ran some contract programs. I was able to travel to different offices to teach people how to access the programs. I felt really fortunate. I learned a lot running the General Services Administration contracts.

I also worked on Y2K. We helped companies look at their software and make sure it was compliant so it wouldn’t crash in the year 2000. Then I went into data warehousing and software development. To take masses of information and be able to sort it for the customer so it could be sliced and diced was an exciting experience.

We started out with a $5 million business and grew to $25 million.

I brought to the table a strong ability to build relationships with customers and subcontractors. My ability to listen to what people need really helped tremendously.

Then it was time to take a risk.

I had an opportunity to become a vice president, but it was at a smaller company that had between 500 and 1,000 people. One of the things I was challenged to do was grow the business beyond its work with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. We brought on a number of new customers.

Eventually, I ran a group at a company called Primescape and then took over as chief operating officer.

Now, as chief executive, I want to do many things, including branch out into new areas, focus on smaller agencies and optimize certifications so people can be providing the best service.

Though I never became a pilot, I realize that when you’re in charge of an organization, it’s like you’re in charge of the plane. You have customers and employees to take care of and a responsibility to get them to the proper destination.

— Interview with Vanessa Small

Shannon Brown Position: President and chief executive of Primescape Solutions, a systems integrator in Herndon. Career highlights: Chief operating officer, Primescape; corporate IT director, Economic Systems; senior vice president, ATS; senior director, Northrop Grumman/Litton PRC; director of finance, Syllogistics. Age: 47 Education: BA, mathematics, George Mason University. Personal: Lives in Fairfax Station with her husband, Bill. They have three children, Alexis, Chase and Tierney.

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