Tim Hurlebaus, president of CGI, 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 greater than $300 million. The winners will be announced at an awards program Nov. 5.
WashingtonExec spoke with Hurlebaus about CGI’s work as well as his personal values and characteristics as a leader.
WashingtonExec: What was your organization’s largest accomplishment in the last 12 to 18 months?
Hurlebaus: We realize that our ability to help our customers prepare for future is a key reason why we’ve been so successful. This new era of government-to-citizen service is one where citizens expect their interactions with government to be no different than with any other commercial service. Our new innovation center, which opened in July of this year in Ballston, is a product of this vision and we’re incredibly proud of it.
The center provides space and tools specifically created to foster team collaboration, where both our customers and our employees can be removed from daily distractions. We use it to host design thinking workshops, innovation talks and other related activities to allow clients to benefit from our citizen-centric approach. It’s a place to explore the art of the possible, where we can help our clients along their path to digital transformation. The goal is to help them think outside the box, identifying new approaches to help them meet an evolving culture.
And the space itself is great. It’s connected to the Marymount University Conference Center and has huge video walls, touch tables and interactive kiosks so our clients can let the technology lead them at their own pace. We’ve had great feedback from our clients already and are excited to see how it evolves.
WashingtonExec: Given today’s government contracting marketplace, how has your organization’s approach to customers, employees and future customers changed?
Hurlebaus: Going back to the innovation center, we believe that designing solutions from a user perspective has taken on new urgency, especially since the President’s Management Agenda specifically identified improving customer experience as a major cross-agency priority. The administration also announced that they plan to establish a customer experience Center of Excellence. These two events show just how important it is for us to create solutions from a citizen perspective.
Our top priority is to help our clients deliver positive, effective solutions to their customers so they can be successful. People these days get frustrated quickly when they can’t access government benefits and services quickly. They’ve come to expect easy-to-navigate information, whether that’s on their laptop, tablet or phone. They want it to be intuitive. So we’ve put a premium on putting user needs first. As a matter of fact, we’ve actually started to think about the customer experience all the way down at the account level.
We see a lot of advantages to this. It allows us to streamline not only the agile process for user research and the design of interactive prototypes but also usability testing throughout the entire software development lifecycle. We’re able to pull our experts into our agile methodology, service design, data analytics and intelligent automation processes to quickly develop proofs of concept that we can test. This lets our clients start small and develop solutions in an iterative fashion and allows us to focus on improvements that will have the most positive impact on citizens.
WashingtonExec: How’s CGI involved in the community? Are you involved in cultivating our local pipeline of young STEM professionals?
Hurlebaus: CGI has always placed a strong emphasis on giving back to our local communities, and we have a variety of programs that demonstrate this commitment.
We launched a nationwide STEM@CGI program in 2018. The program held 15 camps across the U.S., engaged with over 3,000 students in sessions led by hundreds of CGI employees. STEM@CGI is specifically focused on students in demographics that are underrepresented in STEM fields, including women, minorities and the economically disadvantaged.
Our digital service and onshore delivery program is designed to address three major issues that are at the intersection of our industry and society. The program addresses the U.S. STEM workforce shortage and diversity in the government IT space, helps curb the technical and economic disruption that creates job displacement in smaller cities and rural areas, and improves trust in government by increasing the efficiency and transparency of government services. The program has already created more than 1,800 jobs across the U.S. this year in communities such as Lebanon, Virginia, which has a population of just 3,500 and where technology jobs did not previously exist.
We’re also very proud of a unique university partnership that includes capstone and internship engagement in Virginia, Texas and Louisiana. This program provides students with real-world challenges to help transform the way government delivers services to its citizens. As part of this program, we mentor and teach students on agile software development while they learn about things like environmental protection and healthcare market inefficiencies. As a testament to its success, these interns recently created a first-of-its-kind mobile app to manage supplies during disaster recovery events for the United Way in Louisiana.
WashingtonExec: What are the top one or two leadership qualities necessary to be a great leader?
Hurlebaus: I think the top two qualities — to me — are empathy and clarity of purpose.
Empathy should not be confused with sympathy because sympathy implies sorrow and forgiveness — or, better said, relief from expectations. Empathy is about putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, understanding what they are up against and encouraging them to dig in to meet goals and objectives in a way that not only resonates with them but also helps them see a way forward to success.
Clarity of purpose is essential to bringing any team into alignment to achieve a goal. Why are we here? What are we trying to accomplish? What simple measures will we use to understand when we have accomplished our goal and — in the interim — how we are progressing toward our goal? Once these questions are answered and well understood, a great leader makes the measures available and transparent so everyone on the team is dealing with the same facts and can hold each other accountable.
WashingtonExec: If we were to speak directly to your leadership team, what would they say is your management style? How would your team describe your leadership qualities?
Hurlebaus: Straightforward. Practical. Transparent. Committed. Balanced. Consistent. Empathetic.