He hails from a Steel Mill town called Aliquippa in Pennsylvania, and has sports in his blood with a grandfather who was a professional baseball player for 13 years and a father who led the Maryland Terrapins in scoring for one year.
But you won’t be seeing him on the field, unless he’s out there coaching his kids (or your own) in the Ashburn/Leesburg area.
Tom Suder is founder and President of Mobilegov, a relatively recent venture that began in July 2011 to “blend academic innovation and research with experienced business practices and management techniques.”
He is also a winner of the 2013 Federal 100 Award, which honors and recognizes government and industry leaders who have played prominent roles in the federal government IT-sphere.
“It was unexpected,” Tom said. “I feel great about it because I was one of seven Fed100 winners this year from the ACT-IAC Advanced Mobility Working Group including my co-Chair Rick Holgate. It almost felt like a team award in a way.”
But Tom’s ascension from a little boy in Aliquippa to company president and award recipient doesn’t come as a shock to those who know him.
Dr. David Metcalf, Director of METIL, said Mobilegov “is poised to make a significant contribution to the state-of-the-art in mobile technology.”
Bill Suder, Tom’s brother and VP of Mobilegov, characterized his older brother as not just a hard worker, but visionary.
“Tom moves at 100 mph at all times and always has a purpose,” Bill said. “He can handle many things at a time and almost never forgets a face. If you met him at a restaurant 20 years ago he will most likely remember your name and where you worked.
And he has vision. As a business person, Tom is able to visualize a concept and make them reality. Being at the forefront of the mobility movement is a perfect place for Tom because he thrives on its inherently innovative nature. The face-paced speed of technology aligns perfectly with his character.”
David Yang, Vice President of DMI, not only agreed that Tom has a vision, but also says his interest in mobility is established.
“Tom has the uncanny ability to see the big picture and make connections out of seemingly random people and events to help foster and collaboration,” Yang said. “I doubt the federal mobility space would be as far along as it is now without his involvement.”
Kathleen Cowles, Principal at Deep Water Point, echoed Yang’s sentiments on mobility.
“I want to congratulate Tom for doing what needs to be done in mobility, and that is: creating a better understanding of all the various dimensions of mobility and creating a government/industry mobility buzz that generates a new emerging government partner ecosystem,” she said.
“Tom and I talked early on in 2010 and we both felt there was no company really focused on mobility in government. He jumped on this working with ACT/IAC to create the Advanced Mobility Working Group. Now, you would not turn a page without hearing about various dimensions of mobility. I am really excited to see the growing energy and focus, and 100 percent, Tom has been instrumental to that happening.”
According to Tom, his “passion for mobility is all about the mission. It extends from the fact that it can drastically improve the mission while drastically decreasing the cost of doing the mission. Most technologies have incremental benefits, but mobility holds the promise of changing the way you do business. With budget cuts looming for the foreseeable future, [you have to]think of reconstructing the way [you]do government and mobility is probably the technology right now that holds the most promise.”
And this passion for mobility sprung from the launch of a certain mobile technology.
“April 3rd, 2010,” Tom said. “The day the iPad came out. That form factor changed it all. I realized that it opened up the door to changing the way the game is in so many areas.”
When Tom isn’t busy running Mobilegov and coaching football and basketball to his two kids, Matt and Caroline, he focuses on a couple of other pet projects, like the two non-profits he has founded: the Advanced Mobility Academic Research Center (AMARC) and the Digital Government Foundation.
The former pulls “mobile technologies out of the University Labs and presents that to the Federal Government, possibly commercializing it with a definite focus in security.” The latter, Digital Government Foundation, looks at non-IT uses of mobility in digital publishing and training.
Though it might seem like Tom Suder is unstoppable, hard work is a value Tom has cherished since childhood.
“Aliquippa instilled me with a passion for sports and a competitive nature,” Tom recounted. “That was where my father’s side of the family was from. When the town mill closed, our family moved to Northern Virginia, where I got to spend time with my mother’s side of the family. I learned the value of hard work from them. They were the quintessential “Greatest Generation” types.
My grandfather Ross Rogers was a pilot in WWII. He was a man of incredible Christian faith. He never lifted a weight in his life but had a chiseled physique from working his land. My grandmother Jane Rogers was a terrific teacher. She taught me to read when I was five and owned a local private school.”
Perseverance can also be added to the list, especially if you ask Tim Harvey, Capture and Business Development Executive at Vision Technologies.
His story, based off the 1989-90 school year when Tom was the Sports Editor of the Virginia Tech student newspaper, The Collegiate Times, follows the Mobilegov President’s trip to Hawaii for a school basketball tournament over Christmas break.
“With no place to stay and very little money, Tom not only made the trip, but he wound up spending 17 days on the island,” Harvey recalled. “Then, the baseball team played in a tournament in New Orleans during Spring Break. Tom borrowed the newspaper delivery van for the trip, but a detour to South Padre Island turned the 1,600 mile-trip into to 3,000 miles.”
Vana Zellers, Tom’s friend and former colleague, praised him on his energy and positivity for getting the job done.
“I could write a book about our experiences traveling nationwide,” Vana said. “Working with Tom was a great adventure and probably the most memorable time in my career, and I would not have traded those years for anything else. If there is one valuable thing that I have learned from Tom Suder, it was always to ‘say yes, stay positive and we will find a solution.’ The glass was always half full and this positive attitude has followed me into my new adventure.”
Don (DJ) Kachman, Mobile Director and Client Security at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, similarly agreed.
“One of the things I like about Tom is he has such high energy,” Kachman said. “No matter when you meet with him, you can tell he is focused on talking with you, but he also has a lot of other items he is already planning on. His ability to generate that type of focus and combine with the communication skills have really helped moved a lot of our momentum forward.
The other thing of note is, he looks to learn from any issues along the way. So many people will never admit an error, but Tom identifies it and is already looking at a way to resolve it the next time around.”
And if anything else, as Mary Davie, Assistant Commissioner, Integrated Technology Services at the General Services Administration says, “another great reason to love Tom is that he is a Hokie!”
Tom is passionate about Virginia Tech and stays involved within the Athletic Department, and attends many sporting events with his family. He is also a member of a group called VT Idea, a group of Industry Virginia Tech Alumni and associates in the Cyber arena that link back to the Electrical Engineering Department at Virginia Tech to foster the development of Cyber technology and professional development. Tom is also looking to make Virginia Tech the home of the Advanced Mobility Academic Research Center.
But it’s not all work, no play for this company president. Tom says he’s a big movie and music buff and calls author, journalist Malcom Gladwell (“The New Yorker”) and author, blogger Seth Godin two of his influences. He’s also a big sports fan, as evident from his familial background, and on-site coaching today.
“If you need to get something accomplished, give it to Tom and he will find a way over the hurdles and get it completed,” brother Bill said. “One little known fact about Tom is that he used to be the fastest kid in our high school. I know this for a fact because I was one of the ones he beat.”
Tom’s sister, Becky, added, “I can only say this. There is nothing he can’t do and he thinks anything is possible. Tom makes things happen. He went from being a waiter to owning his own business based on his hard work, intelligence, and charisma, and his soon to be partner saw all that in the time it took to bring him his lunch.”
And we all know the adage well. Family knows best.