Stephanie Mango, CGI Federal‘s senior vice president of Security, Administrative, Judicial and Enforcement Programs, is a Pinnacle Awards finalist in the National Security Executive of the Year category. Here, Mango shares some of her achievements, advice for emerging leaders, what she’s learned from failure and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2017?
Mango: I think the biggest accomplishment, from the standpoint of my team, isn’t a project success or a contract win but more so the creation of a vibrant, agile culture. The whole environment surrounding the government continues to change as citizen expectations rise and our ecosystem evolves, and I’m proud of our ability to adapt to these changes. We’re continuously learning new technologies and new approaches and we’re also constantly adding new tools to our toolbox to provide the value to our customers.
That being said, my team also had a number of successes with our clients. We helped secure the nation’s assets through a number of cybersecurity engagements — including the governmentwide Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program — and digital transformation initiatives to support agency mission, streamline back-office functions leveraging process automation and utilize data sciences to solve numerous mission IT and business process challenges. I’m very proud to work with so many dedicated CGI members serving the national security mission.
Who are your role models/mentors in the GovCon space?
Mango: I have so many role models in the GovCon space that it’s a challenge to make a list. I am a student of people and believe that everyone brings something valuable to the table. Because of that, I find mentors wherever I go, whether they be my customers, my industry colleagues, my CGI colleagues and even my kids!
It helps, too, that CGI members are dedicated lifelong learners and innovators. I thrive in this type of environment, where we question assumptions, learn depth and breadth in our markets and enjoy collaborating to solve interesting challenges.
How do you help shape the next-generation GovCon leaders?
Mango: I participate. I believe in the importance of showing up and engaging, and I’m lucky that CGI supports me in doing this. I participate in a number of different industry organizations and non-profit boards, and I volunteer to serve as a mentor — and a mentee — in different programs.
As a GovCon community, we really are lucky that there are so many organizations — such as yours — that create the forum for government and industry to collaborate, exchange ideas and try to tackle our challenges so that we can improve government and ourselves as leaders.
What’s your best advice for aspiring leaders who want to follow in your footsteps?
Mango: As I mentioned before, there are so many leaders that have inspired me and modelled strong leadership to me. Here is the one thing that they all have in common: they’re authentic and approachable.
I’m quirky — we are all quirky — and when you are authentically you, people will be more likely to trust and follow you. And when you are leading, make sure to set a bold vision for where the team is going and cultivate a deliberate culture for what the team will look like and how team members are going to interact with each other when they get there. Then get out of the way and coach from the side as your team accomplishes more than you imagined.
What’s one key thing you learned from a failure you had?
Mango: I take risks every day, from small personal risks — like voicing an unpopular viewpoint— to larger business risks, such as making investments to grow the business that may or may not pay off. To grow and be successful, you need to take regular, calculated risks and be comfortable with the potential outcomes. All of them.
I think the biggest thing I have learned from my failures is the importance of quickly recognizing when to change course. I equate it to a personal agile methodology, where you fail, fail fast, recognize it, own it and move in a different direction. If you do this consistently, you will not only minimize the impact of your mistakes, you’ll learn from them.