As David Zolet sees it, inspiration — and the accompanying innovation needed to guide customer missions — comes from unlikely places.
“I believe every experience is an opportunity to learn,” says Zolet, a 30-year veteran of the government contracting and technology space, most recently with DXC Technology, who took the helm as president and CEO of LMI this past September. While you may catch a glimpse of the management consulting firm along 1-495 — it occupies a high-rise building near USA Today’s former headquarters — don’t think LMI employees are content staying on company grounds, 9 to 5. That’s where Zolet’s motto on learning comes into play.
“We are very focused, as a leadership team, on learning and development through experiential learning,” Zolet says. “When we have a special project, we put people on that project who may not have had experience with a particular client but have background in the area that we are looking at; or, they may know the client but not have the background of the technology we are working with — it’s all part of the development process we promote.”
And while LMI’s employee base spans roughly 1,300 personnel — about 80 percent of them located throughout the National Capital Region, with additional major areas of presence in St. Louis, San Antonio, Huntsville, Alabama; and Fort Lee, Virginia, vicinities — most of the work is performed on client sites and facilities.
Service to 11 Presidential Administrations
Thinking beyond usual routine is one reason why LMI has maintained its standing within the industry for 55 years — and counting. Along the way, the company has served 11 presidential administrations, each with vastly different challenges and opportunities.
As Zolet sees it, the current administration’s needs require his firm to step up and provide one central solution: “Melding technology and people to impact outcomes for clients,” as Zolet himself puts it. Supporting the war fighter is central to that vision, he adds. And all of it, meanwhile, guided by current administration needs.
“Even though the current administration is looking to increase spending in the defense world, the big challenges really are around doing more with less,” Zolet says. That’s where he sees technology come into play. LMI’s core capabilities — spanning data analytics, machine learning, and, in turn, the critical ability to reduce client man hours, are, Zolet says, a “force multiplier.”
Answering ‘What-If’ Questions
“There is this whole notion around digital government,” Zolet says, citing, as one of many examples, data analytics tied to machine learning. “We saw opportunities with some of the databases that we have access to through our work in the logistics space … and put together a team to start to ask the ‘what-if’ questions that enable us to help our clients look at reducing the cost of containment.”
Asking the “what-if” questions plays out in any number of critical scenarios. Understanding, for example, if and when operational systems will fail in the life cycle is essential to customer efficiencies.
“Helping our clients improve that [ratio]reduces time and expenses,” Zolet explains. That’s where LMI’s data analytics’ expertise comes into play.
“Our analytics experts will say, ‘Let’s put some algorithms around that [scenario]with some machine learning capabilities and see if we can reduce the man hours’ — that guidance saves our clients a lot of time and money.”
Underpinning that expertise is a deep understanding of the client’s mission — something Zolet works assiduously to cultivate. Since coming onboard, Zolet has held an unwavering belief in the “power of teams and culture,” as he puts it, to do “amazing things.” Zolet began his own journey in understanding company mission and culture through an in-depth 90-day tour of LMI sites, with accompanying conversations with employees, as well as customers and partners.
Focus on ‘Experiential Learning’
That focus, most immediately, goes back to Zolet’s belief in everything, and every place, being an opportunity to learn. Under Zolet’s leadership, that philosophy plays out in a number of critical ways.
LMI, for instance, offers employees a generous tuition reimbursement program, with approximately $15,000 a year available for individual use for advanced degrees. And beyond the company’s ongoing, daily focus on “experiential learning” — with employees working directly on company or government sites — LMI also is a vocal proponent of volunteer work, with each employee given five-and-a-half hours of community service time to use each year. How does that latter perk help technology? For Zolet, the answer is simple.
“I think getting involved in your community makes you a better leader in an organization — I have found, throughout my career, that volunteering for special projects — both inside and outside the workplace — affords an opportunity to learn a critical new skill,” says Zolet, citing his own past experience as an adjunct professor in finance. Such experiences, he adds, can, in turn, allow LMI employees to “stretch and engage.”
Industry Partner Collaboration
That focus also extends to industry partners. In pursuit of the best solutions for customers, LMI is home to an organization called the LMI Research Institute. The internal organization’s focus is on engagement with universities, as well as government and academic partners. That collaboration spans any number of fronts.
For instance, LRI is working with the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Logistics Systems, as well as University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, to propose logistical pathways to diversify organizational leadership. Similar work is afoot in partnership with George Washington University, promoting safer supply chains in countries such as Nigeria. LRI is also active on the STEM front, fostering programs for both women and minorities in the field.
In short, work, innovation — and the essential collaboration needed to make it all happen — occurs in a variety of 360-ways, well beyond company headquarters. That expansive focus keeps Zolet grounded as he looks beyond, to what lies ahead.
“As I think about LMI, going forward, everything we do has to be client-focused — we’re very focused on the mission,” Zolet says. “We, as a company, invest in our people — we feel we have a lot to offer our clients, and focus on problems of greatest impact to them — that’s really where we are.”
And will be, Zolet adds, as LMI maintains its focus on client missions, through on-site, on-the-ground involvement — well beyond company headquarters.