Position: President and chief executive of Quest Software’s public sector, an information technology company based in Rockville.

Career highlights: Vice president of state and local government and higher education, Quest Software; vice president of sales, public sector, Quest Software; sales manager, Veritas Software; district manager, Metiom; enterprise sales manager, Microsoft; North America sales manager, Lotus/IBM.

Age: 48

Education: BA, psychology, Hamilton College.

Personal: Lives in Friendship Heights with wife and two children.

My first jobs were not the most glamorous in the world. While in high school and college, I learned I did not want to work on a farm picking vegetables, in a lumberyard loading trucks with a forklift or at a restaurant waiting tables.

I remember a conversation I had with one of the truck drivers at the lumberyard. I asked him why the regular staff treated us college kids so bad. (They would always give us the worst jobs.) He looked at all the college kids and said, “I’ll be here for 30 years. We only have you for three months.”

That was one of those “aha” moments.

When I graduated from college, I wanted to go into human resources. My first job I was working as a headhunter.

I would make 50 calls a day to prospective employers to place candidates, take a 30-minute dinner break and make three hours of phone calls at night.

I realized it wasn’t human resources at all. It was sales.

What most recruiters do when they’re not happy in the recruiting world is place themselves out to one of their clients. That’s what I did. It was a computer software company in Boston that needed an inside telesales person. They knew me and asked me to join.

The company was acquired three months later by Lotus Development, which at that time made one of the most popular computer software products in the market. That’s how I got into computer software.

I stayed at Lotus for 13 years. There I discovered I wanted to be a manager. I understood that this was a company where you could actually lead people instead of being an individual contributor.

I moved back to Washington in 1990 and have lived here ever since.

But it became obvious that if I was going to stay here, I had to work with the government somehow.

Shortly thereafter, a defining moment occurred. A guy running our D.C. office at Lotus told me that he had an opening for a really [crummy] job that no one else wanted. Part of it included working with government integrators. Everybody thought working with state and local governments was a chore. I took the good with the bad and tried it out. It was fun, and we grew the department from two to 35 people.

With government, it takes forever to get anything through the big bureaucracy but you’re much more tied to the outcome. I can actually see a county’s or city’s operations move much more quickly because of the technology we provided for them.

Since then I have been working almost exclusively with state and local governments selling technology.

I used to joke with my boss at Quest Software that I would have his job one day. He would respond, “I wouldn’t have hired you if I didn’t think you could do my job.”

Now as chief executive, I’ll focus on identifying new opportunities while continuing to run this operation well as we help institutions operate more efficiently and effectively.

—Interview with Vanessa Small