Position: Vice president, customer operations, Optimus Corp., a Silver Spring company that designs technology solutions to enhance public safety, health and national defense.
Career highlights: Vice president, strategic markets, ChoicePoint; vice president, business strategy, Northrop Grumman Information Technology; vice president, strategic communications and market development, Litton PRC; director, government market development, MCI Communications; director, corporate strategic advocacy, MCI; and, attorney, Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz.
Education: BA, political science and economics, Old Dominion University; JD, University of Virginia School of Law; executive education course work in management, Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania; and executive course work in leadership, Darden School of Business, University of Virginia.
Personal: Lives in Chevy Chase with wife, Laura, and their children, Jessica, 9 and Rebecca, 6.
How did you get to where you are today?
A long and winding road. I started out my professional training in law and worked as a practicing lawyer in a firm. I grew frustrated being only in a counseling role instead of making decisions that affect peoples' lives. After eight years of practicing law, I moved to MCI as in-house counsel, moving into a whole new range of opportunities in terms of going beyond just providing legal advice and into strategic marketing, strategic planning, communication, public affairs and contracts management. I found it more rewarding, more satisfying, more constructive. My entire career has been a progression toward moving closer to actually making business decisions. My career has been focused on building things. The MCI government market grew from $43 million a year to $1 billion a year. I went into strategic planning and market development work. I did that for five years along with public policy and grass-roots organizing along the Telecommunication Act of 1996. When WorldCom bought MCI, I went to Litton PRC in the continuing quest to build things. I joined the executive team to take a smaller organization and build it into something bigger. Then, Northrop Grumman came and bought Litton. Each of these steps provided me a different experience. The ability to look at things from all different angles, whether a viewpoint of business management, marketing, developing, strategic marketing, planning, public policy, communications and legal. If how you see things depends on where you sit, I sat in a lot of chairs. That enables me now to look at issues from many different perspectives and come up with solutions that are multi-faceted. The bottom line here is that I bring a lot of experiences to this job, which is focused on building and taking Optimus to the next level. . . .
If I had an idol in my professional career, it would be Bill McGowan, the founder of MCI. The things I drew from him are a can-do attitude in the face of tremendous challenge. An attitude that said, "We're going to work hard, play hard and we're going to succeed." That was one of the things that attracted me to Optimus because I see a lot of that in the CEO here. . . .
I've always had the challenge of occupying strategic positions where I have had to manage initiatives and get things done with ambiguous authority, without a lot of people reporting to me, so my success depended on the merit of my ideas and being able to answer the question: "What's in it for me?" That, more than anything, has shaped my management style and approach, and has made me a more effective leader and in motivating people to get things done. I'm motivated by the prospect of getting up in the morning, solving a problem and building something that's going to make the world a better place and surround myself with people, enabling them to succeed in doing that. When managing people, you've got to treat everyone working with you as a millionaire volunteer. They don't have to be there. The sense of leadership is in enabling other people to succeed. The key is in focusing on doing something worthwhile in the mission and not in the numbers. Making money is not the ultimate goal for most people. You've got to be focused in making a difference. What led me to Optimus is its focus on saving lives and protecting the public, enhancing the quality of life. If you take care of that, then you'll make the numbers and succeed.
-- Judith Mbuya