Karen Trowbridge is her own boss, something she has wanted since childhood. As CEO and founder of Trowbridge & Trowbridge, a federal IT solutions provider, Trowbridge spoke to WashingtonExec about the role of women-owned small business in the federal government, as well as how she is expanding her company while maintaining agility. Former Federal CIO Vivek Kundra’s impact on data virtualization and green technology were also discussed.
Trowbridge and Trowbridge is a proud supporter of the local non-profit organizations US FIRST and D.C. Central Kitchen through company-wide volunteer events and also has a match employee donation program.
WashingtonExec: Please tell us a little bit about your background, what lead you to start your own business?
Karen Trowbridge: My father instilled in me a strong entrepreneurial spirit, so I knew from a young age that I wanted to “be my own boss.” It was only natural that, after graduating from college, I followed his footsteps into the information technology and Federal contracting industry. I joined RSIS, Inc. and had an extraordinary chance to participate in a new leadership development program and to learn the ins and outs of the business. A lot of credit for my future opportunities goes to the remarkable mentors I had during that time.
I then became a project manager on a National Institutes of Health (NIH) contract, working hand-in-hand with Federal employees and contractors devoted to a mission of improving human health. It was truly a powerful and rewarding experience! I wanted to apply the values and lessons learned from that job on a broader scale for other government missions, which led me to start T&T several years later.
I’ve found that starting my own business at a relatively young age has given me an opportunity to surround myself with gifted, experienced people who offer creative ideas and thought leadership. It’s motivating and energizing to work with such a talented group of folks, and a key factor in T&T’s success.
WashingtonExec: Your website emphasizes the need for “corporate citizenship,” why do you think nonprofit or outside committee work is important? Are there any in particular that you are involved in?
Karen Trowbridge: Community consciousness is very important to me personally and a core value of T&T. I believe it is the responsibility of both individuals and companies to improve the areas where we work and live around the country. As part of our commitment to this value, we have established a T&T Corporate Citizenship Council, with representatives from each of our corporate offices, to promote and encourage community outreach for all our employees.
T&T supports a number of organizations, including US FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and DC Central Kitchen. FIRST inspires young people to be science and technology leaders, designing accessible, innovative programs that motivate them to pursue education and career opportunities in technology while building self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills. The DC Central Kitchen empowers and trains underprivileged workers in the food industry while preparing and distributing meals to various shelters and facilities in the Washington area. We make regular corporate donations to FIRST and our Headquarters team volunteers at the Central Kitchen.
I’m very proud of the programs we’ve implemented, such as matching employee donations (both monetary and volunteer time) and sponsoring volunteer events. Our staff is incredibly devoted to this mission and it’s exciting to see their commitment to community service.
WashingtonExec: Where do you see the role of women-owned small business in the government contracting space?
Karen Trowbridge: There is immense potential for woman-owned small businesses in federal contracting. The new WOSB 8(m) program that took effect earlier this year is just one indication that we are gaining attention and momentum, and I believe it will open doors for many women-owned companies. There are a few elements of the program that can be strengthened, in my opinion, but it is a great first step toward enhancing the success of WOSBs and decreasing the barriers to entry in a highly competitive industry.
I grew up when Take our Daughters to Work Day was just getting started and my mother was a big supporter of the women’s rights movement, so I’m looking forward to making T&T a model for WOSB achievement in federal contracting. As a company with women in multiple leadership roles – including my COO, Christine Brandell, who has over 20 years of experience in Federal contracting on both the government and industry sides – we bring a collaborative vision of shared success to both our customers and employees.
WashingtonExec: I saw that your company does a lot with data center operation, what do you think about the former federal CIO Vivek Kundra’s elimination of hundreds of data centers? What do you hope to see from the new federal CIO, Steve VanRoekel?
Karen Trowbridge: I definitely appreciate the need for the government to become more efficient and cost-effective, and I think Vivek Kundra’s emphasis on data center consolidation was designed to make progress toward that goal. Data center consolidation is also an integral part of OMB’s sustainability and “Green” initiatives. T&T has helped customers realize the benefits of consolidation on multiple efforts – including infrastructure virtualization to reduce server farm sizes, centralizing communications functions, and consolidating distributed help desks into Enterprise Service Centers. All of these efforts helped our customers save energy, reduce maintenance costs, and eliminate redundant services.
In a time when we are all trying to do more with less, it’s hard to ignore a plan that has the potential to save on cost, energy and resources, while promoting efficiency and integration. It’s also a massive undertaking, and comes with a price and significant complexities. We are looking for the new CIO to provide the necessary “top down” leadership and evolutionary strategy to implement the vision and objectives established by Mr. Kundra. We recognize that initiatives like this have the potential to impact all of our customers, so our strategy is to stay ahead of the changes and proactively support their unique requirements.
WashingtonExec: Where do you see your company headed in the next five years?
Karen Trowbridge: T&T will remain a systems integrator with diverse capabilities in information technology, cyber security, and unified communications. The Federal government is currently implementing major technological initiatives to support the country’s security, citizens, and infrastructure. Our strategy is to continue being a valuable, trusted, and innovative partner to our customers – both DoD and Civilian – so that they can meet their critical missions in these important areas.
T&T recently made the 2010 Inc. 500 list as one of the fastest-growing companies in the country and we will continue that aggressive growth strategy over the next 5 years. We have invested heavily in a robust, scalable infrastructure to accommodate rapid growth, positioning us for future success and offering our clients a level of quality and capability normally associated with much larger companies. Regardless of our size, however, T&T will always remain a flexible and agile organization capable of responding to the changing needs of our clients, leveraging emerging technologies, and empowering our workforce for personal and professional success. It’s a recipe for ensuring the best results for our customers, our staff, and our communities.
*Featured in the 10/12 edition of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority online magazine “E-Bird”