Tina Dolph is an accomplished executive leader with more than two decades of government industry experience. She is widely known as a collaborative leader. Prior to leading Siemens Government Technologies, Ms. Dolph was instrumental in Lockheed Martin’s integration of and subsequent divestiture of PAE, Inc., where she served in executive leadership positions culminating as Executive Vice President, Company Operations for a $2 billion enterprise.
Hear insights on the importance of mentorship, maintaining the innovation ecosystem, and developing high-tech talent.
Welcome to Building the Base, a unique discussion focused on shaping our future national security industrial base. During this pivotal time in our nation’s history for over 40 years, the nonprofit organization, business executives for national security or BENS for short has brought senior executives and best business practices from across our country together to address our nation’s most pressing security challenges. The BENS mission is more important now than ever before.
BENS is embarking on a historic project, gathering the best ideas and minds together to define the future industrial base that the United States will need to remain secure and prosperous for our future. And now you have the chance to be a part of it.
It’s a daunting task, a task the United States has not had to do at this scale since World War two. The opportunity and opportunity to leverage new technologies, new business models, new ideas, and new voices to improve our country for the decades to come you’re from top entrepreneurs and leaders from high tech, financial, industrial, and public sectors, as they share their ideas and perspectives about how we can all work better together to ensure our national security and prosperity.
We are excited to have you here with us. Here to begin. Today’s episode your house, long time BENS member and leader of the BENS technology and innovation council, Lauren, the doula and former chief weapons buyer and innovator for special operators, sailors, and Marines. And now BENS distinguished fellow Hondo Geurts.
Welcome back to building the base. I’m Lauren Bedula and I’m here with Hondo Geurts we’re so excited to be recording our second episode and you don’t have a really different perspective with Tina Dolph today. Who’s spent her career in defense industry, so excited to kind of dig into Tina’s perspectives on the future of what’s necessary for the defense industrial Base
yeah. And so, for those who don’t know, Tina, Tina has been in the industry for three plus decades. Now, I guess I should, I guess I should be cautious saying that, but you know, we go way back. Tina’s been she’s with Lockheed for over 20 years and then bounced around and, and wound up here as the CEO of the Siemens subsidiary here in the U S and got a ton of ton of experience.
And so, as we think about. What the future of the industrial base means. We sometimes think about products. We many times forget about the service industry, which actually is a larger market in the national security space and the product one. So, we’re super excited to have Tina here with us and a start date in so welcome to.
Great. Well, thank you guys. I’m really honored and appreciative that you asked me to join you today and I’m looking forward to the conversation. I think this is going to be hopefully informative and fun along the way. So, thank you.
Thanks so much, Tina. So, everyone has a story of what got them to this point in their life and career. And your journey has been really one of the more interesting ones. Can you share a little bit about yourself and the journey you’ve been on to give our listeners a sense of where you’re coming?
Sure. Of course, of course. It’s actually kind of a funny story, cause I kind of got here by accident, which I think when you talk to most people, they kind of found their way through their career.
I actually have a marketing degree from an undergraduate and I thought I was going to be the next big thing in New York on the advertising circuit. Until I found out that. You know, to live in New York. In the early nineties, they were paying like $7,000 and I knew no one, so I would be homeless. So, at the same time I got an offer from General Electric Aerospace’s division to join their financial training program.
So, you know, my grandfather served, he was a civilian supporter of the CV. My dad worked for the new Naval nuclear program, his whole career. So, I knew a little bit about the industry. But it honestly took your job thinking I’ll do this until I find something better. Right. But then I fell in love with it.
Like I really enjoyed the idea of serving although not in uniform and I am very you know, proud and honored to have done that, but no, take nothing away from our military who are much braver than I am. But it’s a way to help give back to our nation. And that kind of got me. It hooked me early on.
So, I was lucky to join a company that had a lot of important training programs. So, it gave me a lot of opportunities early on in my career to try a bunch of different things. So, I think when I look back on my career, that’s kind of been a theme as I’ve gone through is I’ve been fortunate to have good mentors and good companies.
Let me find my way. And if you know anything about the defense industry in the early nineties, I changed companies without changing desks four times because GE aerospace sold to Martin Marietta who then merged with Lockheed. And then that started my trajectory of her Lockheed for 20 plus years.
Spent most of it in finance. On the program side, really working with the programs and the customers more than like the CFO path. But I’m really enjoyed that because I got to partner with my military counterparts on really important programs. And then probably about mid-career. I was given the opportunity to do some MNA that Lockheed Martin had been pursuing.
And the cool thing about that was when you. Integrate companies is learning all about the different small companies that you’re purchasing and their best practices. And you also learn how to integrate a company and how not to do it. Right. But in that phase, I really started to branch out and enjoyed working with the customers more.
I think that’s about when I met Hondo and wanted to kind of make a turn. Finance into more of an operational role and was given that opportunity at Lockheed, which was great. And that’s how I ended up, you know, it took a little bit lateral, right?
Had to learn how to be a program manager and learn the things that were nonfinancial related. But that then set me up to be able to take on larger responsibilities and. I ended up leaving Lockheed as part of an M and a transaction. They had bought a company called PAE and they decided to sell it. So, I went with that and then as Hondo said, you know, I’ve been bopping around the industry since then, but really have always been in companies that have, was supported on the DOD and department of state and really the security of our nation, which is what drives me to get out of bed every morning.
That’s fantastic. And we’re going to pull on so many threads there too, so I’m excited. You’ve teed up our conversation, so well,
Well, I’m glad you got out of bed and joined us here. You’ve spent a lot of time in contracted services. And, and again, as I said in the intro, many people don’t recognize these. I think when I had left the department last year, 52% of the spend was on contracted services, not on buying products.
How have you seen that industry change over the years? And do you have a sense where it’s going. And how you see that as part of our future industrial.
Tina Dolph: Yeah, I think it’s interesting. I actually, even though I was with Lockheed for all those years, I was always on the services side. I never was really in the product part of the business.
So, when I think about changes over time, like in the beginning of my career, and this is the early nineties, right? I think not only the primes, but also government look at services as. You know, like, you know, hired hands, right? Like hourly people that we would just give the stuff that we didn’t want to do too.
Right. But what I’ve seen over time, especially as you went, you know, 10, 15 years into my career services started to take on a more prominent role in things that are really important around it services, right? Cyber security things that weren’t just, hey, cutting the grass. And Mowing, you know, taking care of facilities, we started to become.
More integral and then I think it started to change. How you interacted with your clients because now we started to be partners, right? And that’s I think been a really good thing in the services industry, because we all went through that phase of LPGA, right. Where just pay this least amount. You can to get bodies on the ground.
And we all learned a hard lesson, right? For companies, it was bad because. Bid to the bottom and, you know, ran ourselves into the ground from a profitability standpoint, the government didn’t get the best services. So, I think we all learned that lesson.
And now I feel that as a service provider, you really are a partner to the, your, your company and, and our, to your, your customer.
And I think if you do it well, you almost forget, like, I, I’m very proud of some of the sites we have. Now, if you go there, if you don’t look at the bad, you don’t know if you’re dealing with Siemens. Or government person or one of our subcontractors. And that’s where I think the magic starts to happen, right.
Is when you’re really partnered around the mission. And if you can, all can keep the mission as your foremost objective, everybody does better. Right. You know, companies will make the money. People will have good careers. The customers will get their service. But I think that idea of. Partnership and higher, skilled, and really being somebody who your client relies on as part of their team has been a very welcome change. I think I; I think I expect to see that continue, but I think we’re all seeing that’s a better way to work.
You know, certainly our time together when I was at SOCOM was we learn when you had it right. And when you had it wrong and when it was transactional and it was about filling seats. On either side that was wrong when it was about a partnership and how do we bring the best of both together?
And one integrated team, different badge colors, same team was, was really powerful. And I think, again, I think a lot of folks, under-appreciate the degree with which we’ve integrated contract services, everything from running operations, to being in our Intel centers to all that.
Also, I think it allows us to open up.
And bring in different talent than we can necessarily get in uniform as long as we have the boundaries and the conditions.
So right. As long as we all play by the rules. Yeah, no, I think that’s right. And I think that is as a, as somebody who’s been in this industry a long time, that’s been really refreshing and rewarding.
And I think, you know, I see that across government now, as it used to be at some point, you know, dirty rotten contractors, right. Where, you know, that has changed over time. And I think it, you know, we’re seen as valued partners, which is what we really want to be. And I think as well, the ecosystem that defense ecosystem really needs
You see that changing as we bring in a broader set of partners, whether it’s from high-tech or folks who aren’t and more commercial based, or do you think that be fairly seamless? Like if you’re a commercial only company and you’re getting into. How would you see that?
Yeah, I think it’s hard for commercial companies, right? Because even if you study for those of our listeners who may not know, like the history of defense industry, right. Coming out of World War two, you know, we kind of created this industry, right. And with this industry comes all these rules and regulations and it was all. With good intentions. Right. But now working in industry is one of the, you know, it’s a matter of fact, like when GE hired me, you know, they hired me into a program.
They had established like they had, they had this fantastic FMP program, which, you know, people used to ask me about my FMP degree more than they ask me what my MBA. Right. The government piece of GE wasn’t getting out of that program, what they needed. So, they established a whole set of courses that we had to take around government contracting, right? So, it gets complicated so that, you know, the commercial companies aren’t that familiar with it.
So, I think what we’ve got to figure out is how do we help the acquisition process be more favorable to some of these commercial companies because you need them, right?
You need. And I think sitting where I sit now in this current job as at, in a commercial company, which is, this is my first experience. I’m in a company who the federal us federal government is not their only or primary mission. So, it’s been very interesting to watch that, but I think these commercial companies have so much to offer.
We’ve got to figure out how to help them navigate far part 12, you know, all the fun that comes with that. So, but I think that’s going to be key as we move forward to figure that out because you do need these high tech, commercial companies to help the governments.
And that’s so much of why Hondo and I wanted to start this podcast and talk about this topic.
Exactly. Because as we sit here, really the future of the industrial base is evolving to look towards more demands around commercial technology company. Venture back non-traditional and those that aren’t built really to primarily serve the department of defense as a customer. And I imagine nothing beats being a CEO of a company and being able to set the vision and tone for the whole organization.
And as an organization, that’s really primarily supporting the U S government and the department of defense. How do you think your role as CEO compares or contrasts to those? And, and the purely commercial space too. Just curious.
Yeah. Yeah. I think, you know, and I’ve never really worked in the purely commercial space, so this’ll be kind of obviously a one-sided opinion.
But those? I think, you know, one thing that makes it easy for me to recruit people easy for me to motivate people is the mission we serve. Right. And if you spend, especially in the services industry, one of the things we’re blessed with is we often get to serve side by side. So, we’re next to. Our soldiers and airmen and sailors and everything, as they execute these missions, you quickly Hondo knows from what he’s done for his whole career.
You quickly realize how important it is, what you’re doing, even if I’m just plugging in light bulbs. Right? Like without that light bulb, the mission can’t get done. Right. So, I think from setting a vision for a defense contractor, Yeah, having that really important purpose is easier for maybe us than some others.
Now, you know, I’m a big Simon Sinek fan and find your why and all that. I think commercial companies have that same sense of mission, but it’s not as easy for them to be able to focus on, you know, why is there so important? Like I don’t ever question. You know, and even like what I talk to my Siemens counterparts, you know, it’s, you know, it’s, it’s all about taking care of our people so they can take care of the mission.
So, we’ve always tried to keep it focused because I firmly believe if you focus on your mission and your people, everything else takes care of itself. Right? Because people have good careers, people are motivated, they take care of your customers. Growth comms, profit comms, all the things that CEOs get measured on, which are extremely important, they come, if you have that sense of vision and focus.
So, I don’t know if my commercial counterparts would agree and I’m sure they have all their missions too, but I think ours is ours is unique and special, which. Easier, I think in my opinion, to set the vision and the course for a group and people
and so important to accomplish that goal, you talked about really getting talent and workforce as a resource and into the U S government to support mission.
And so very exciting and important. And I think just going forward too, as we think about talent, particularly around high tech that support of mission or passion is, is so.
Yeah. I even remember when I was interviewing for my very, I was going into the training program as a college graduate, you know, some of my friends were like, well, are you?
And they even asked me in the scenario, you know, I think about it. Well, wow. Are you, are you okay doing that work? I’m like, what do you mean doing that work? They’re like, well, you know, you know, it’s big military and it’s big. I’m like, yeah. Like, heck yeah, like there’s no greater mission. Like I didn’t even understand the question, you know?
So, it’s. It’s interesting that people think about it that way. But I think if you step back and just think and think about world events that’s happening right now, how important it is to defend, you know, democracy and what we believe to be important. And if you can play. You know, I think who doesn’t want to be a part of that.
And on our last show, we, we spoke to Shaun Modi out of Silicon Valley, you know, got his start as an early leader at Airbnb and talked about some of those cultural dynamics. Really Silicon Valley, I think was uncomfortable support. National security mission sets. But now we see with everything going on in Ukraine too, just that I think better appreciation for the environment here in which businesses can operate and an appreciation for prosperity in that sense.
So, I think it’s, it’s exciting to see better kind of commitment or understanding around why DOD is doing what we do to protect American and allied interests. But yeah, to your point, just, I think important.
Yeah, I know. I think we’ve all, you know, you know, people who are my age near or early fifties.
And so like, we, we grew up in a very, you know, kind of secure, safe environment. You sometimes forget that you take that for granted. Right. And we, the reason we have that is because our military has never taken that for granted. Right. So, we have to, we have to remember that and that I think helps us all.
Unfortunately, we’re all going through a big wake-up call right now.
Many sense that even before the events of the last couple of weeks, but I think that’s put an exclamation point on this. We know we have to pivot. We know we’re kind of living off the old way of thinking of the industrial base. There’s kind of some early signs of hope that we can bring folks together now with some motivation.
What’s your sense of having been in this business for a long, long time can either can the DOD and all the industry counterparts change? And maybe look to the future and in a different way or some sort of a modified Wayne. And if so, what do you think that looks like and where should we be focusing our attention?
Think we’ve admired the problem for the last decade. Many would say, I would say that early signs, but not anything at scale, but I have the sense it’s. I mean, it’s kind of why we’re here trying to think through how do we do this together?
Yeah. Yeah, no, I think you’re right. I mean, I think we, like I said, that we admired the problem because even inside industry, we all complain about the problem, but how do you actually try to fix it?
But I think there’s been some, you know, good positive progress. Right? I think first of all, it’s a mindset change, right? I think things like OTA is not that that solves everything, but there’s some innovative acquisition thinking going on. And if we can think about those types of acquisition tools and maybe not just tools, but I think we got to move.
That’s how we do business, you know? I think, I think that allows, will allow some to break that. Barrier that we think because you really do need the high tech. And do you think about just like, I just know from Siemens, like the amount of money that companies like that spend on research and development and all the dollars there that largely don’t get tapped by the government, unless you can get to them somehow.
I think necessity just calls that we’re going to have to figure this out. Right. So, I think we’ve got to, and I think because we’ve admired the problem for so long, there’s a lot of good smart people who want to change it, which I always think is the first step. Right. If something’s not right and. Put our minds to it.
We’ll figure it out. But I think, I think there’s been some real good positive progress in some of the acquisition reform that we’ve started and we’re just starting. But I think more of that to de-mystify, you know, the, the, the, how you do business with the government, for the Silicon Valley companies and, you know, in these small businesses, I always think, like I try as big companies, we often partner with smalls, right.
In the past we used to do it because we had to, honestly, because that was the rule, right. Where that rule actually started to us to understand. That partnering with those companies really makes you more competitive, right? Because they bring that cutting edge and unique talent that you may not have, or not even know that you need sometimes.
And that can be a differentiator when you’re competing. Right. But those companies, you start trying to like, here’s my, here’s my RFP. They’re like, what the heck is that thing? You know,
I’ve had lots of fun is a is my one-man person here. Integrating in all the supplier business systems for, you know, to come and do a 10-minute talk.
And I have, you know, 19 different documents and it’s, it’s been somewhat, somewhat interesting. Do you think the big companies now are motivated or incentivized to start making the changes as opposed to just I’m doing it because they have to, are you sensing us?
Yes, I am sensing a change in that because I think they start to realize.
You know, first of all, the government, I think the government did do something smart by making us do it right. Like sometimes we’re like your kids, right? You guys tell us what to do. Right. So, but once you’ve done that, now you start to create these cool partnerships with companies that have access and often, you know, the smaller companies have is agility and cost structures that us large company, I don’t care if you’re a defense contractor or a big commercial company with scale and complexity comes cost and bureaucracy, right?
It just, the nature of the beast. These companies can help you navigate that and show you and provide a more competitive answers some to these problems. And I think we’re all now start we being the largest are starting to see that as a competitive advantage. So, it’s good business to.
I guess I want to pull the thread there a little bit too, because prime contractors really often get the reputation that they’re not efficient and that innovation can only come from these. Businesses. And at the same time, we talk about this issue of the valley of death for this small new entrance, leveraging agile acquisition options like OTAs and sabers, but can’t really scale.
And a lot of that is because they’re not built to be ready for. Needs around compliance or scale when it comes to hiring folks with clearances and the like. And so, could you, are there any specific examples of those partnerships or how would a small business approach Siemens? Because I think the service component is so important. Ultimately for implementation and adoption of
absolutely. Absolutely. Have a great one. Like we were at a very kind of real or recent one. Like we were at the PSC conference. We Siemens were at the PSC conference at six months ago and we got approached by a small company. Who’s interested in trying to do work down in Guantanamo Bay.
And we happen to be there right now because we’re doing, we’re redoing their whole energy infrastructure through our large ESP. See there, we’re very familiar with the island. Right. We, the contract they’re looking at, we weren’t even paying attention to, because we’re so consumed with it about power went right now.
But they brought that to us and they’re like, but we don’t even know how to start to go about doing that. So, we were able to start to explain them like, hey, well, if you decide to prime, you could do this and here’s, we’ll help you with the compliance piece of it. So, I think Helping those smaller businesses.
Again, this is a business opportunity for us because you know, there will be some Siemens equipment that they will need in this contract. So, we will get some work out of it, but we’re going to help them, you know, prime the contract where I don’t think they were thinking they could do that prior to the conversation with us.
So. That idea of partnership. It’s a win-win right. Because I do feel for these smalls, like I worked for SSRC federal for a little bit, and they’re an Alaska native, right. So, they get small business treatment via the rules. So, I got to spend some time in that small business environment, and it’s really hard for a true small because you know what happens is you, you start are small, you win one big contract.
Right. And you’re, you’re competing with like the Tina dolphin corporates, right? Like, so what life is. Then you win a big contract and now you’re competing with Leckie like overnight, you know, and that’s a whole different, you know, just ball of wax, you know? And how do I, and I went, I was in my garage with three of my friends, six months ago, and now I’ve got to take on the behemoths.
How do I do. I think that’s part two question Hondo about how do we help them. I think we got to figure that out because it becomes, there’s some small business owners. I know, he’ll say no, I just want to say small, because if I get to a certain size, then it becomes harder and you don’t want that. Like, you don’t want a small business to feel that way.
Right? You want to help them figure out that. The largest need to play a piece in that because we can help train, mentor, teach, and it’s good for us to, you know, because we’ll get into spots that we weren’t in either. And it also teaches us a little bit how to be more entrepreneurial because you see these entrepreneurs and how they run their business.
It kind of reminds you sometimes how, hey, we have gotten. Stodgy and slow and complacent. And you know, it’s like, it’s like when you’re you know, you have college. Cause we were talking about that prior to the show, you have college kids and you see their energy and their excitement, you remember, oh, hey, I used to be like that too.
You know, I want to do that again. So, you know, I think that same kind of dynamic fits here with the smalls and the excitement they can bring to the market.
Yeah. I think one structural issue. We’re still trying to figure out how to deal with this. Lack of companies in the middle, right. You’re too big to be small and you’re too small to be big.
And if you’re in the middle, you’re just going to, you know, get bought by somebody else. And so, I think, you know, over time, we’ve got to figure out in our future base, how you’ve got balance across smalls, mediums, and larges.
And yeah, it’d be nice if there was almost a step somehow that, you know, when, when you graduate small, you don’t necessarily have to now be considered.
Full and open prime, large, like maybe there’s an interim step there. That work to go there. I think, yeah,
I think, I think, I mean this ultimately, we’ve talked policy and everything, but it gets to talent and, and ultimately, we’ve lost a little of that, even in the talent perspective of how the learn to be a midsize company where you’ve got to start operating at scale, but also.
Not just get completely crushed by scale as a public company. So how do you think about talent? And do you think we’re attracting talent? I mean, think you and I both came in at a time we’re serving a country, you know, there was a large interest, cold war was still going on that kind of wane a little bit.
I’m sensing it’s coming back and both from, you know, folks want to figure out how to contribute and they’re maybe getting a greater appreciation for the need. And actually, the coolness of working in national security. How do you see that happening? Are you seeing? I mean the talent challenges. How are you taking that on? Yeah,
I think I’m sure like everybody, you know, the job market right now is really, really good for employees and hard for employers, right. Because of a whole bunch of economic reasons, we can get into on some other podcasts. But so, we’re definitely seeing that, but I think I do think you just touched on something that’s important is like, especially this new generation that’s coming up.
Like when I look at attrition rates and why we’re losing some of the younger. Employees it’s because they didn’t feel they had that sense of like doing valuable work. Right. So that’s really important to them. So, I think that plays really great for us, right? Because to our earlier conversation around mission, I think I can have a conversation all day long with a new CA recruit around why, what we do is important.
So that gives me hope that there’s more people who will want to enjoy. You know this industry like you and I did way back when Hondo. But it isn’t is a challenge because I think now for us commercial companies, you know, we can provide the same kind of compensation, similar packages where I worry about is on the military side, because you need those skill sets inside government.
Just as much as you need them in industry. And how do you attract, you know, with the. You know, the, the, all the, again, the rules, the regulations, the salary bands, how do you attract that talent into government? Again, that were services I think can help is where you’re not able to, you can contract it through, you know, companies, high-tech companies who can provide that for you.
But I do think that’s something that, you know, if we’re going to maintain. You know, global, competitive strength of our, our country and our, our military. Think it is something we’ve got to figure out how to bring in those high-tech, you know, employees in. And again, I think, you know, you can lean on industry to help you with that because they. Yeah, we can provide them good, long careers. I think the other thing is I think about talent. The other thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older, I kind of took it for granted as I was coming up, but you really have to focus on what that employee wants as their career path. Right?
Like what’s a development. Cause when I look back at my career, you know, General Electric had really good entry-level training programs. And then I got to grow up in Lockheed Martin where they, at the time, you know, norm Augustine said it. And then Bob Stevens carried it on where we’re going to have, you know, we’re going to embrace diversity.
We’re going to train our people. We’re going to push them. You know, you got to do that because that’s why I stayed at Lockheed for 25 years.
Right. It was, I always had that next challenge. So, if you do that for your people, they don’t want to go anyplace else. Right. Because you’re giving them that, that growth and that, that challenge which sometimes when you’re running a company is hard to remember because it’s like you got all the pressures of the balance sheet and the profit statement and your shareholder.
And you forget your people along the way. And if you do that, then that starts that’s death, right?
Yeah. Yeah. One thing we’ll always have in national securities challenges, I think a lot of things, but then certainly
And really that’s something that we’ve seen as a theme in a lot of these discussions so far, is these different communities while maybe culturally aren’t always aligned. I think a constant is the enjoying to solve hard problems. So, it’s definitely something that we. Talked about in these discussions, but I want to go back to the talent discussion and particularly as we talk about your career path and growth, and as future leaders are thinking through charting their own stories, you’re really inspiring example of a successful CEO Who’s risen through the ranks from entry level to C-suite and particularly in a field that is so male dominant, dominated. And so, as a woman, you’ve paid, paved the way for myself and others who are thinking. Now what their future looks like. And so, I was curious if you have recommendations or examples of what have, what has helped you get to this position for aspiring leaders coming up through the ranks?
of course, of course. Oh, there’s like so many things, right. And you always. Your younger self, what could you tell yourself? Right. But I think, you know, there’s a few kinds of fundamental things are, you know, I always think about first, you’ve got to be good at whatever it is you’re going to do. Right. And I kept coming out of college.
Like I was your typical, you know, a student honors program, blah, blah, blah. So, I just believed if you worked hard, you know things would come your way cause that’s how school works. Right. But then you start to realize when you get out, you’ve got to be good at what you do. That’s like the entry ticket.
Right. But then once you’re in, you’ve got to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. You’ve got to have people who are going to push you. Your network is so important, which when I look back, I really wish I had figured that out a little earlier. Because it could have been easier if I figured that out earlier.
But I think who you surround yourself with is really, really important. And. Having a broad, diverse kind of group of people around you. So that’s something I would tell everybody, like really focused on who you surround yourself with and who you, who challenges you and find people who think differently than you.
Some of my best moments were screaming at people, not, you know, debating issues. It would be. You know, forcefully because we didn’t agree. But then coming out of this conversation is you’re so much better off. Right. So, I think that’s networking is very important. I also think I have always thought of my career as like, I never intended to be a CEO.
Right. If you’ve been told my 22-year-old self, I probably would have laughed at you. Like, you know and then I saw, I saw examples of things as I went along that I was like, Ooh, I don’t think I ever could do that. Cause I don’t manage that way. So, the second piece I always think about is whatever you’re going to do.
You’ve got to do it your way. Right. And so, I, for a while, went through in the middle of my career phase where like, I’m not, if you, hopefully, if you asked my employees, I would tell I’m not a yeller and screamer. I don’t believe in validity people. It makes me very conflict generally makes me uncomfortable.
So those are all things that, as I was coming up like, oh, you got to have all those things. I don’t have that. So, I’m not going to be able to. Do this. But then I started to realize if you’re just true to your leadership style, you can figure it out. Right. And then if there’s something that you’re not good at, you put it around you in somebody else.
Right. So, I always have people on my team who kind of enjoy conflict because they push it at the table when I won’t, you know? So, you need that kind of, that kind of, but you got to be true to who you are. Cause you can start. I tried, like, I tried to be like a real, you know, direct heart, you know what, but that’s not who I am and it looks ridiculous on me.
Right. So, so you have to figure that out. And then the third thing I think about is you just build your toolbox and your resume, right. And don’t ever be afraid to take a step back cause that’s how you’re going to have to go forward. So, I think we talked about it earlier when I wanted to make that change out of just purely finance into operations.
I had to take a lateral and a step back. Right. Cause there was stuff I didn’t know. Right. So, if you think about your career as a toolbox and your resume as, hey, if I want to go be that thing, whatever that thing is, what do I need to have in my toolbox able to do that? You know, a CEO, you have to have HR experience, you have to have program experience.
You have to have you know, good technical knowledge business experience, right? So, you start to take jobs that give you those things throughout the career. And then there’s a, there’s an element of luck, you know what I mean? I think, or maybe not luck. I think making choices that help you along the way, right.
You mentioned about this being a male dominated industry. I was very lucky. And then I chose to stay in this environment in the companies I’ve been in that diversity was not only just embraced it. Wasn’t. You know, just some poster we put on the wall, but there were programs behind it that taught me, you know, all the things that I was building, my toolbox helped me learn those things, but then gave me jobs to test it.
Right. And then once you got in those jobs either had to make your numbers or you didn’t. Right. You know what I mean? So, if you didn’t make it. Out you went, you know what I mean? So, I think not everybody gets that opportunity. So, I think the environment, if you were, if I were giving advice to younger people, starting out the environment you choose to put yourself in is really, really important because if it’s not giving you development and challenges, or it’s just lip serving, you know, employee development, you got to get out, you got to go find a place that’s going to push you and challenge you and give you that opportunity.
Otherwise, you kind of do. You know, complacent and you don’t ever get that opportunity. So. So, yeah, I think it’s, you know, it’s really about being true yourself, you know, taking opportunities that are presented and, you know, most importantly, putting a diverse group of smart people or people who are smarter than you.
You never want to be the smartest one in the room. Cause that’s never a good place to grow.
I really like. Too about choosing something you’re good at, which seems obvious, but really isn’t.
And it reminds me of one of my first mentors when I was at college working at BENS business executives for national security.
Susan May Baum-Wisniewski was a former Navy captain. And so really worked her way up the ranks as one of the first females to get, go that far as an officer in the Navy. And she got me. StrengthsFinder 2.0, because she was like, stop trying to be good at everything, focusing on your strengths and kind of align around that.
And I think it was just such helpful advice. So, I find myself giving that book as gifts to, to folks who asked for advice
as well. But yeah, so funny you bring that book up. Cause I had one of my aha moments because of that book. Like there was like a long-term Kali that I have and still a consider my mentor and a friend.
And we would get into conversations and we would be. At each other’s throats. Right. And like, you would be saying things like, well, you’re not this, and you’re not that I’m like, we get that book and we did the little test. Right. And then when you read for those of you don’t know the book, it gives you a bunch of strengths and you take a test to find out what your top five strengths are.
And then the best part about the book is it tells you how to interact with the other strengths. Right. So, we had this moment where like, we took it and I’m like, ah, well, that’s why we act that way, because you’re, this I’m a, that, and this is what we do when we’re together. It’s like, oh my God. I’m like you, I give that book to everybody because it really does.
I like the premise. It’s like, don’t worry about, don’t try to keep working on your weaknesses, get that on your team and really focus on what you’re good at. So, yeah. I’m glad you brought that book up. It’s one of my favorites and one of my favorites.
Yeah. Often as I’m working with my female teammates, there’s a little of this sense.
I am. Mentoring is so important. You mentioned. So much of it, we do informally and then there’s formerly, but there seems to be this sense. Sometimes you can only have mentors that look like you or have careers like you, or are females or males or whatnot. And I try to encourage everybody to look for mentors, yours.
As the team you’re trying to set yourself around. And if you’re a female, don’t, you know, don’t be shy about asking a male to be a mentor or vice versa. What’s your sense of that? Is that what you’ve experienced as well?
Yeah. I couldn’t agree more on a Hondo. Like I think that that diversity of the people that are around you and like early on like, you know, mentor, I always struggled with. Programs, right? Because part of me believes you have to have them right on, not, I’m not saying you don’t. I think it’s important to make mentoring part of your, your, your company’s, you know, structure, but it’s so hard because you can’t dictate it. Right. You, I think you need to. Right. Like, so I always like the way we have mentoring program is I encourage people to mentor, you know, part of the goal of all my executives.
You have mentees, I don’t care who they are. I just want you to be helping people inside the company. Right. So, cause the guy to feel it, and I think the more diverse your mentoring group can be. So, I have some really fantastic female mentors who were. Blank women that I just, you know you know, really looked up to and they helped me.
I have a bunch of male mentors who are just as important to me who helped me understand, hey, how do you navigate this world? Right. Because they were in it longer than me. Right. And then I have people from completely different industries, which is great because like, especially when you become. More senior.
I’m sure you saw this Hondo in your career at the more senior to become your circle becomes smaller because it has to, right. Like as a CEO, you can’t just vent to your employees. Right. They’re looking to you for leadership. So, who do you vent to? Right. Events, other CEOs, right. And then you start talking to each other and you start to realize that we may be.
Industries or different companies, but a lot of the problems are the same. The issues are the same. So now you get to start to pick their brains on, well, how did you solve that? And they start giving you an example and you’re like, oh, I had that yesterday. You know? So, I think having that, that diversity of that group around you is you’ve been really helpful for me. So, I, I, a hundred percent agree with your take on that.
So, speaking of. You’re a us subsidiary CEO to a very big global company that operates around the world. And, you know, some may say, you know, there’s been a lot of talk lately that globalization is dead and you’re seeing that go away. What’s your, what’s your take on that environment for those who haven’t operated and, and how do you think, do you think that trend of globalization in terms of a lot of these companies are going to continue maybe. Yeah, how do we think about that as we think about the future industrial Base?
Yeah, I think, I mean, yeah, it is interesting, you know, like you said, so Siemens is obviously a German company 170 years old, billions So, of dollars. And it’s been interesting and interesting change for me because I spent a lot of my time internally now having to describe.
Why it’s good to do the work that we do here at Sgt. So, you know, we, Siemens government, we’re a wholly owned subsidiary. We’re separate. We have to be because we’re all us citizens, we hold clearances. So, we allow Siemens to do work that sensitive for our government that they wouldn’t be able to do before.
So very different. There is different opportunity, which has been, which has been good. But I think to your point about globalization, we’re in a global economy where there were like it or not. Right. And I think the we’re pandemic showed us a few weaknesses in that you know, economics and how that works you know, struggles that are going on in Ukraine right now are showing it to us again.
I think we had to figure out you’re not going to not be a global economy like that ship has sailed. Right. So, I think what we’ve got to figure out is understanding how, what are the weaknesses in the supply chain? And I do think the pandemic, especially highlighted what we all knew was that. Right. And we all knew like chips was an issue.
We all knew, you know, certain things inside your country. You should produce here yourself. And I think we, we need to kind of localized that a little bit. But not entirely because you, you want. You want to take advantage of the two global economy and you can’t undo that. So, I think we have to think about supply chains more importantly.
And where do they come from? And if a disruption was to happen, what would we do? Cause I don’t, I think we all got caught a little flat-footed whether it was, you know, master microchips, we all had, we all had issues. We all thought. But you know, it’s kind of, it’s kind of like, we all thought we could work, but until you actually had to do, it’s like, oh, we can do it.
You know? I think it’s that same, that same vein here.
Yeah. One might say right. The enduring competitive advantage of democratic societies is their ability to partner and ally as opposed to only doing it through coercion. And so, I think there isn’t a really important element of a future industrial base.
That’s not. Everything’s made in America. It can only be done in America. We need to figure out how to leverage and partner our allies, both on the battlefield and in the support network. And if you go back to World War II, you can find great examples of that. So, we interesting to see how this, you know, some of the more naturalistic tendencies impact his ability to work globally.
But as a, as I said, I don’t think you can go with. No,
no. And I think good ideas come from everywhere. Right. For those of us, who’ve been lucky enough to travel the world. Like, I mean, you could probably, if I asked you to give you me, you know, a bunch of examples of how you were someplace else on the planet and you saw something and you’re like, wow, you know so you don’t want to lose that.
Right. But how do we do it in a way that, you know, keeps us safe in it and that’s way. That’s the million-dollar question, right.
And the process you’ve taken your company through to be able to do work on the high side, but also have this global footprint, I think is a good example to others that aren’t sure is this.
Just entirely. Yes or no. If I do business in London, can I no longer do business with the us government or just showing that there is a process and structure to support this work, I think is important and also creating for smaller businesses, the awareness around. Early on so that they’re making decisions, convey, understanding the structures they need, if they’re going to operate globally, but also hope to do business with the DOD or national security.
Yeah. Yeah. It’s interesting. Especially when you think about things like I met, which I didn’t really give a ton of thought to, until I took this job, like, you know, cybersecurity and so forth, like how do you, you know, the reason. You know, even if we were never to do a classified piece of work, Siemens still needs an Sgt because we have all of the CMMC compliance and the NIST compliance and, and that from a security perspective is credibly important to the nation. Right?
So those, you know, how do you before I think we all thought about, well, we, we, we can compartmentalize it into if it’s classified work or we need to clearance, we’ll do it here. And now it’s starting to broaden is like, no, if it touches, you know, it or networks, you don’t want that or going back overseas, it has to be here.
So. How do we accommodate that? Which I think, you know, almost probably every couple months Siemens buys a company somewhere and then they realize they have a government contract and we get a panicked phone call that says, hey, we got this thing. You guys have to take it, you know? And it’s often because they’re in the type of information that’s being handled.
Right. So, it is important. To help people understand that. So, they know. And really when we
talk about partnerships too, I think another role industry can play in partnering with some of these smaller companies. They don’t just have to look to government for the answers and direction here, but to look to primes and more established defense, industrial base players, to learn how to navigate some of those policies and requirements as well, like CMMC, which I know is so overwhelming to many.
Absolutely. And I think that’s a very good point. Very good.
So, so I guess as we finish up here Tina, we’ve kind of covered a lot of ground. But one of the things I’ve always appreciated in our working together is both your enthusiasm and your curiosity with a, with a healthy, healthy dose of humility.
Right? And I think sometimes as leaders we get in this mode of you, can’t be humble. You can’t show weakness, you can’t show vulnerability. You can’t you know, tell somebody you don’t know somebody, but you you’ve seen new broken the mold in that. Is that what advice would you give to kind of leaders coming up about this?
How to balance a combination of, I, I call it bold humility, humble enough to learn, but bold enough to act. How what’s your, what’s your advice is we, because I think we’re going to have to be. And, you know, back to this, we’re going to bed humble that everything isn’t going to be invented out of the traditional ways it has been yet.
We’ve got to be bold and figuring out how. Move forward. What would, where do you yeah,
I think, yeah, I think, I mean, I think I’m probably wired that way for a couple of reasons. Right. That’s how it was brought up. Right. My parents taught me; I know you treat the janitor the same way you treat the CEO.
Right. And you’re not better than anybody else. Right. That’s just how I was brought up. And then, you know, I also modeled it when I watched the military. Right? Like what’s those leaders eat last or whatever that, you know what I mean, where you watch good leader. They always take a back seat to the importance of their troops.
Right. And if you do that, it’s really, it’s a better way to run a business. It’s better, right. To run a company, right. Because then you get the full breadth of the ideas. Or if I sit here and I pretend like I’m, and I’ve been in those companies, I’ve been in those companies where people like you got one leader or whatever they say goes, and then what happens is we leave that door.
I go outside the conference room, we all stay in the hallway talking about how we’re still going to get the work done and make them think we did what they told them, told us to do, you know, because we all know there’s a better way to do it, but we can’t talk about it publicly. So, because I had those experiences growing up, I was like, oh, I never, and that feels awful like it when you’re in that.
I feel like your stomach doesn’t feel good. Right? I’m like, I never want to make somebody else feel that way and it’s not. So, it’s, I think it’s a kinder better way to treat people, which is what I try to do, but it’s also a better way to do business because you’ll get the ideas out when people feel comfortable.
And then, but to your point, Hondo, when the discussion has happened, then you have to be. Bold and make the decision, which is you know, if you talked to my employees at sometimes where I struggle, right? Cause I get so involved in listening to everybody’s opinion and their ideas that sometimes the decision making is slower.
And that’s, you got to combat that, right? Because you have to be able to be bold and make the decisions going forward. But I think if you’re, you know, if you just go through life thinking, hey, I’m not the smartest person in the room and I want to get smarter. How do I do that while I listen to other people?
And then I take their good ideas, you know, I think so far that’s been working
and as, as a CEO, I know you’re involved in a number of different things outside. Is that help you kind of get perspective and create connections again? Sometimes I think people get this perspective. Well, if I’m not 150% only doing exactly my one task that I’m, you know, I’m Not being efficient.
And actually, I think that’s almost a very inefficient way of doing this. Yeah. It’s funny
you say that. Yeah, because I had to get pushed a little to do that too. Cause you’re right. It’s especially when I took jobs of bigger responsibility, it’s like I could work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and still never be done.
Right. So, and then you feel this, I always feel this important responsibility to my employees. Right. So, like I got to, I got to work all the time because I got to make sure everybody’s taken care of. Blah, blah. But I had, you know, I had some mentors who stopped me and said, you know, you’ve got to broaden a bit.
So yeah, so like, you know, I, I’m involved in, you know, some charities like hope for the warriors, which a veterans-based program and the national defense university foundation I serve on which does takes time away from your day job. Right. But it makes it so much richer because the people that I have met in both of those organizations, like the veterans keep you very well.
Right. When you see what some of these people have gone through and how they’re still serving their country and, you know, the sacrifices they’ve made, you know, on my worst day, I haven’t done that. Right. I haven’t had that kind of loss that these people have has that keeps you humble and makes you want to serve.
Right. And then, you know, the NDU group, like the people that I interact with, the senior leaders of government, they are, have really taught me what the true issues are that the government’s facing. And that helps me too. So, it definitely helps me be a better. CEO here at my job because I’ve brought in my, my So, circle a little bit.
So, I think the, I think it’s hard sometimes to make the time to do those things, but they’re really important. And that’s what feeds your soul. Like, you know, if I’m ever having a bad day, I call Robin over at hope for the warriors and say, hey, do you have an event? Can I go, you know, because then you’re like, okay, this is, this is what matters.
This is what’s important.
It’s also the curiosity, right? That, that curiosity to learn more. And, and I talk a lot about that opening up connections or. Unseen opportunities that will actually make a business transform. This is in government. Any organization has a hard time transforming internally, right. It’s either because they see some new opportunity or some new threat that comes about. So
yeah, you find yet you’ll find the best ideas sometimes outside yourself and your individual company. So, if you don’t take time to do that, you know, even like, you know, early on, we were talking about, you know w you know, female in a male dominated industry.
Like, I remember even early on like, you know, the guys would go golfing or the guys, we go have a cocktail after work where I was like, no, I got to, I got to get home. And I got to do my homework and I got to do this. I could do that. And I was like, wow, like, why am I not in the club? Right. Well, it wasn’t the club because I wasn’t taking time to be in the club.
Right. You know? And the, and the club, wasn’t a bad thing. It was, those are the people we’re figuring out how we’re going to navigate this company together. So, it felt like indulgent time, you know, I don’t play golf. So that was never good, but the cocktail part maybe, but it felt a little self-indulgent, but in hindsight, it was helping my career and it was helping my company, you know?
So, I think your point is spot on, you know, just having that, that network and that, you know, broadening of your group is really important to get, to make yourself think differently. And grow
well, Tina, your path really has been so inspirational and an industry that many find intimidating. And I think something we really want to stimulate is a curious workforce, a talented workforce.
And so, you’re telling your story, I think is exciting to folks listening from that sense. And also, your approach to partnerships, I think is really key going forward. As we think through, you know, the blurred lines between industry and the us government and collaboration. Really around the future of innovation, but ultimately this idea of serving and how you’ve been able to serve from the industry side, I think is, is something that we’re excited to stimulate and this passion for mission and giving back.
So, thank you so much for taking the time to discuss your story with us today. Again, I think it’s such an inspirational one.
Okay. My pleasure. And again, thank you so much for having me. This has been fun.
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