A Conversation with 2018 GovCon Award Finalist John Wood

John Wood

John Wood, president and CEO of Telos Corp., is among the finalists for the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Professional Services Council’s annual Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards in the Executive of the Year category for companies between $75 million and $300 million. The winners will be announced at an awards program Nov. 5.

WashingtonExec spoke with Wood about the book that shaped his management style, ways Telos is involved in the community, and how the company is cultivating the workforce pipeline.

WashingtonExec: What was your organization’s largest accomplishment in the last 12 to 18 months?

Wood: The last 18 months have been transformational for Telos. Our cyber risk management platform, Xacta 360, has been instrumental in the launch of the intelligence community’s C2S cloud environment. C2S, AWS and ISVs now rely on Xacta 360 and its advanced inheritance model to accelerate compliance processes like RMF and FedRAMP. They are now able to complete in minutes or hours what previously required months or years — realizing CIA CIO John Edward’s dream of the agency operating “at the speed of innovation.” Telos is making a significant impact in what is arguably the most security-conscious organization in the world.

WashingtonExec: Given today’s government contracting marketplace, how has your organization’s approach to customers, employees and future customers changed?

Wood: Even as the contracting marketplace has changed, Telos’ approach to our customers and employees hasn’t. Our core values remain our guiding principles.

Always with integrity, at Telos we:

  • Build trusted relationships
  • Work hard together
  • Design and deliver superior solutions, and
  • Have fun doing it.

We are committed to creatively, aggressively and efficiently addressing our customers’ needs, delivering firm-fixed-price solutions whenever possible. And the loyalty of our employees speaks for itself. We can say, “If you work one year at Telos, you’ll stay for 10,” with testimonies that prove it.

WashingtonExec: How is your business involved in the community?

Wood: Our community involvement focuses in two areas — veterans and military families and STEM education for workforce development. Our commitment to Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a national organization providing care for the families of America’s fallen military heroes, is woven deeply into our culture. We provide funding for Trout Unlimited’s Veterans Service Partnership, which helps veterans wounded in combat — physically or emotionally — find hope and healing. Telos also supports workforce development initiatives by sponsoring and volunteering for various STEM activities, such as Girls in Technology, the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot Challenge and FIRST Tech Challenge.

WashingtonExec: Is your business involved in cultivating our local pipeline of young STEM professionals?

Wood: Telos supports the ADVANCE program, designed by George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College, which eases the transition from community college to university, increasing graduation rates and generating interest in STEM fields. We are actively involved in Virginia’s Commonwealth Cyber Initiative which serves “as an engine for research, innovation and commercialization of cybersecurity technologies.” Telos has recently partnered with Georgetown University to expand its cybersecurity curriculum through apprenticeships. And Telos’ own aggressive internship program offers practical experience for high school and college students, many of whom have become full-time employees in product development and cybersecurity services.

WashingtonExec: What is the No. 1 business book that had the largest impact on your life or professional development?

Wood: While not a traditional business book, you can learn a lot about what it takes to be successful in business from “The Amateurs” by David Halberstam, a book about four amateur rowers who sought to row in the 1984 Olympics. You see, I rowed crew when I was at Georgetown University, and can attest to the fact that the elements that make a crew team successful are the same elements that will make a business team successful — commitment, anonymous teamwork, communication and doing what it takes to get the job done.

WashingtonExec: What advice do you have for aspiring leaders in the government contracting industry?

Wood: My advice for aspiring leaders in government contracting is simple: innovate, take risks and provide the best value for your customer. Innovation is the key to government success, so embracing innovation means becoming a more valuable asset to the customer you serve. Directly linked to your ability to innovate is your willingness to take calculated risks. Taking an unconventional path can set you ahead of your competition and, ultimately, bring innovative solutions to government. At the end of the day, providing the best value for your customer will create relationships of trust and dependability that will bring future opportunities.

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