Position: Senior vice president and chief technology officer, intelligence group, Science Applications International Corp., a San Diego-based government contractor that has about 16,000 employees in the Washington area.

Career highlights: Palowitch served concurrently at the CIA as director of the systems engineering and analysis office, and director of the central intelligence systems engineering center. Before that, he was chief executive and co-chairman of Dynamics Technology Inc.; chief executive and co-chairman of the board, Energy Compression Research Corp.; vice president, corporate development and environmental services, Oceaneering International Inc.; senior scientist and program manager, SAIC; program and business development manager, Sachse Engineering Associates; general manager, Continental Marine Services, a subsidiary of Sachse; systems engineer, Electromagnetic Systems Laboratory division of TRW; and served as a nuclear submarine officer, U.S. Navy.

Age: 45

Education: BS, mechanical engineering, U.S. Naval Academy; MS and PhD, bio-optics, University of California at San Diego; and MA, international relations, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. Palowitch also attended the Executive MBA program at Stanford University and the Senior Executives in National and International Security program at Harvard University.

Personal: Lives in McLean. He is divorced with three children, Christine, 21, Carolyn, 18, and Michael, 16.

How did you get to where you are?

A lack of effective planning. What I found out from my past is that everything I planned out as my next step or career path for the future was based on what I knew today. And it always changes tomorrow. . . . My mom's a grade school teacher, and my dad is a nuclear physicist. And they had these classic, dedicated single-employer-for-life careers. They often questioned me about my career progression -- shifting from one position to another -- which was subject to fate as opposed to good planning.

Another way I've described how I got to where I am today is by identifying key principles that I've found to be very useful. The first of these is the unrelenting inquisitiveness into new ways to do things better. The challenge that I respond to best is described as impossible to do or has never been done before. The second aspect that I've found very valuable is continuous collaboration with very smart individuals. The third aspect is a willingness to compete hard and to take significant risks. So my current position here at SAIC gives me a great exposure to an incredible amount of technical problems that we have to solve for the security and defense of the nation and also a great group of employees that I can collaborate with.

I think each previous experience provided a new technical, a new operational aspect to my portfolio. One of the most significant challenges was at Dynamic Technology Inc. We sought out every single difficult sensor development problem that was being faced by the defense and intelligence agencies. . . . The willingness to take on those hardest problems identifies you in the community as someone who can be relied upon to deliver a creative new result. So after the events of September 11 those particular characteristics were very necessary to solve our nation's intelligence security problems, and there was a natural progression into the U.S. government, into the [Central Intelligence] Agency to bring that collaboration of knowledgeable people and innovative technical solutions.

-- Judith Mbuya