The finalists for this year’s Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards were announced in September and WashingtonExec is bringing you its annual series with the nominees.
The winners will be unveiled on November 7th at The Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce (FCCC), the Professional Services Council (PSC) and Washington Technology magazine. With over 900 business and public sector leaders attending the event, our series will keep you up-to-date about all the finalists for this year–who they are, what they do, and why they are worthy of winning.
Tony Smeraglinolo, President and CEO of Engility Corporation, is nominated for “Executive of the Year” in the greater than $300 million category. Read our interview with Smeraglinolo below.
WashingtonExec:As a leader in the community, how have you approached the government shutdown?
Tony Smeraglinolo: The government shutdown was a difficult and unwelcome occurrence and was yet another indication of the market uncertainty that companies in the government services sector face. At Engility, we had about 200 “direct” employees furloughed during the shutdown. We provided flexibility to those employees, allowing them to either take PTO or to use their floating holidays. We also permitted them to borrow against future PTO, which I believe Federal employees were not able to do. Additionally, unlike some of our competitors, we did not furlough any indirect staff. Engility was not around as a company during the last government shutdown, but many of us in the company’s leadership were in DC at the time. We know that these unfortunate instances are going to occur and that they will be temporary. You plan accordingly for disruptions and stay focused on the longer term mission and what we can do to support our customers.
“The government shutdown was a difficult and unwelcome occurrence and was yet another indication of the market uncertainty that companies in the government services sector face.”
WashingtonExec: What is your 2014 market outlook for the federal contracting community? Where are you seeing areas for growth?
Tony Smeraglinolo: When you see people like the Secretary of Defense asking for greater certainty or predictability in the budget process, you understand that this market of constrained Federal budgets and uncertainty is going to be with us next year. Perhaps more than ever before our government customers will be looking for the highest quality services at the lowest possible price. Cost is certainly going to be a key driver for the government contracting industry.
WashingtonExec: How does your company identify and then cultivate high-potential employees to become leaders in your organization?
Tony Smeraglinolo: As a recently created public company we continue to identify our high potential employees through succession planning and mentoring. We have also just recently begun a three-day leadership training program that is Engility wide. I believe very firmly that the future of Engility is in the hands of the up-and-coming leaders who today doing everything from leading business development or working on corporate captures to leading a key function or managing an important government program. Servant leadership, the idea that we all help each other grow, is one of Engility’s core values.
WashingtonExec: How does your organization engage effectively with all levels of employees, on and off site?
Tony Smeraglinolo: We have several media that we utilize for employee engagement. Each month I email column from me to everyone in the company. Members of the Engility Leadership Team hold Town Hall meetings with employees when we travel to various locations. We also publish a quarterly newsletter that provides news about employees and highlights things like some of the programs we support with our Federal customers. We featured part of President Obama’s trip to Africa in our last newsletter because when he stopped in Senegal he spoke with some farmers that Engility people had trained under a USAID program to expand production and sales of local crops.
“I believe very firmly that the future of Engility is in the hands of the up-and-coming leaders who today doing everything from leading business development or working on corporate captures to leading a key function or managing an important government program.”
WashingtonExec: What trends are you seeing that are important to your customers?
Tony Smeraglinolo: I would refer back to the question about what our government customers are looking for in 2014. We will see a continuation of the trend for hiring companies that can offer government customers the very best people and services at the most competitive price.
WashingtonExec: What is your company’s biggest accomplishment in the last 12-18 months?
Tony Smeraglinolo: Coming out of our spinoff in July 2012, we stood up a public company with more than 7,000 employees in five months, combining in essence seven companies and about 10 business units. Industry analysts were predicting this kind of restructuring would take 18 to 24 months, as is typical.
WashingtonExec: How is your company involved in the community?
Tony Smeraglinolo: In our first year as a company Engility made significant donations to the National Military Family Association, the Federal Employee Education Assistance fund and Care International, and we are considering creating a charitable foundation that will help us manage and focus even more of our resources and talent on helping organizations whose missions intersect closely with our business and our customers.
WashingtonExec: What would you say was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
Tony Smeraglinolo: I have been very fortunate to have had some great mentors who gave me opportunities to grow and build organizations. I think the inflection point for me came when I was appointed to lead a multi-year effort to capture a $2 billion classified program for the Federal government, which we won.
WashingtonExec: What book did you read this summer?
Tony Smeraglinolo: Inferno by Dan Brown.
WashingtonExec: What makes a good leader? How would you describe your leadership style?
Tony Smeraglinolo: Leadership comes in many forms. Establishing the right values for an organization and then leading through those values is critically important. From Day One when we stood up Engility, our core values were presented to everyone in the company and our Leadership Team reinforces them whenever we participate in one of our many Town Hall meetings across the company. It is also important that a leaders makes and meets commitments. And, it is incumbent upon a leader to provide a clear vision and then hold yourself and your fellow leaders accountable to that vision. Delegate responsibility and then hold people accountable.
These are the elements of leadership that are important to me and I like to have fun when I’m at work. There are no signs in our offices that read, “Check your sense of humor at the door.” We work hard and we have fun doing it. I look for people who have a sense of humor and are passionate about what they do.
WashingtonExec: What three pieces of advice would you give your kids?
Tony Smeraglinolo: I just mentioned two of them.
1) Make and meet commitments. This is important at a job or in a classroom or talking with friends in the school yard.
2) When you find a job, find something you are passionate about doing. If you are passionate about work or a hobby of some kind, you will be good at it and you will enjoy it more.
3) Listen to everyone you talk to. Great ideas come from everyone in an organization, not just the folks at the top.