CACI Senior Vice President Tim Patterson is a Pinnacle Awards finalist in the Cybersecurity Executive of the Year category, Here, Patterson shares what rules he should break more, best advice for rising leaders, the biggest professional risk he’s take and more.
What has made you successful in your current role?
Patterson: It’s all about the people: finding the right individuals with the right attitude who can work together to solve clients’ needs. I have been fortunate to find smart technical and business-savvy people who bring great value and innovation to the table. My team has the ideal combination of people from different backgrounds: those who have grown from within CACI, those who have experience in large government agencies, and those who come from the commercial sector.
Which rules do you think you should break more as a leader?
Patterson: The rules I like to break are those that get in the way of putting my customer’s mission first. I believe that profit can’t come at the expense of the mission, and if you do things right, the profit will be there. I also break rules that get in the way of taking care of my people. I try to remove any impediments to their success and make sure they have access to capabilities and training that allow them to perform better both professionally and personally.
What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken?
Patterson: After leaving government, I started and ran my own firm for many years, taking on primarily commercial clients. It was a big risk, but it was very fulfilling. I learned about all aspects of running a business, and in doing so, I discovered that the commercial sector does everything the federal sector does, but it is frequently ahead by a couple of years. The two sectors use different vocabulary, but they are basically doing similar work and have similar needs. There is a lot of experience and technology that the commercial sector can offer the federal government — we just need to learn to translate the terminology and help apply the best technologies and practices.
What’s your best advice for aspiring leaders who want to follow in your footsteps?
Patterson: Find a mentor and be a mentor. You can go anywhere to find a mentor — inside your company, in the government or elsewhere — but find someone you respect who has a different experience base. It’s important to find someone who can give you a different perspective and something to learn. Don’t be afraid to ask: if you don’t, you won’t know if someone you would like to learn from wants to help you.
It is equally important that you mentor someone at exactly the same time you are being mentored. To be a leader, you need to be able to teach and to allow someone from the next generation to grow. If you don’t do both, you’re only helping yourself or only helping others — it’s important to balance and do both.
How do you help shape next-generation GovCon leaders?
Patterson: The culture I am helping to establish not only affects the organization I run, but also extends outward. In CACI, we believe in doing the right thing, and that includes the key tenets of transparency, responsibility, collaboration and teaching. Transparency means being open and not holding back information, even when things are not going as planned. Responsibility means understanding everyone’s role and carrying your load while holding not only others, but yourself, accountable. It means following through on every action. And collaboration is essential, particularly in the cyber and IT worlds. The two disciplines cross over, so it’s important to understand the big picture. Collaboration can be painful, but the outcome is ten times better than going it alone. As for teaching, in order for you and your organization to be successful, your people need information and skills. They need to understand the mission, what success looks like, and how to make it happen. I’ve learned it’s important to prep your leadership team to perform at your level, so you can be ready to move up to the next level. You can’t rise to the next position unless someone else is fully trained and ready to take over where you left off.