New at the top: William M. Senich
By Vanessa Small,
Throughout my career, I’ve worked on the technical side or in business development and operations. I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences, because I think it’s really important to understand how all the functions operate.
Starting out as an engineer, I was really about getting things done. At Hughes it was said that if you performed well, responsibilities would flow naturally to you.
That happened to me.
And I was promoted soon after I began.
I learned that it’s all about thinking of yourself as a member of a firm and not an employee. You should feel a sense of responsibility — a proprietary state of mind — toward the goal that is greater than your assignment.
(After 20 plus years in the intelligence community, where the sense of commitment to a mission was very strong, you can’t help but embrace that attitude.)
I was curious about working on big systems so I transitioned to Aerospace Corp., where I got a broader exposure.
I quickly became known for matching people with the need to get things done. After working off site with customers, I realized the job was often bigger than me, so I would rally others around it.
That’s how I got my first real managerial responsibility.
Because I was so new and had some experienced people under me, I worked to recognize the talent in the organization and let them give free and full expression to their capabilities.
I listened a lot.
I used to meet a very tenured guy every morning at 6 and he would teach me all about the business. I picked up a lot of the folklore of how our industry came to be the way it is and how things work.
I think I was very fortunate to have him as a mentor. Mentors are such a great blessing to one’s career.
I eventually shifted my emphasis from technical management to resource management.
When I transitioned to Harris Corp., that’s where I really learned about building teams, both inside and outside, to go after big procurements.
I notice that the strongest performers were the ones who reached out for help. In fact, some of the people that I’ve come to respect, who are running big companies, it’s almost like their first instinct is to ask, “Who can I ask?” Doing that was key to my success there.
I also learned a very important key to procurement: Only by going where the customer is can you take them to where they need to be.
I remember I had spent the better part of every week for an entire year going to a customer’s space, breathing in their air and drinking their water.
Only after really understanding their goals and constraints were we able to come up with a solution to really embrace their needs.
I remember when they saw the front cover of my proposal, they said, “We knew that’s what we wanted when we saw the front cover and we couldn’t wait to open it.”
It’s because we spent so much time really understanding them.
What eventually attracted me to Catapult was that I saw a strong match between what the company wanted and what I felt I was able to provide.
I really liked the one-team concept and the culture of excellence.
I’ve always believed that job fit is critically important. I have found it here.
—Interview with Vanessa Small
William M. Senich Position: Chief executive of Catapult Consultants, a professional services and federal financial management firm in Arlington. Career highlights: Founder, president and chief executive, LVI; partner, Global Business Services group, IBM; vice president, L-3 Communications (formerly Titan Corp.); operations, marketing and engineering positions, Harris Corp., Hughes Aircraft Co., and Aerospace Corp. Age: 52 Education: BS, electrical engineering, University of Michigan; MS, electrical engineering, University of Southern California. Personal: Lives in McLean, with wife Nancy Rose Senich. They have four daughters.