A Conversation with 2018 GovCon Award Finalist Sarbari Gupta

Sarbari Gupta

Electrosoft Services Inc. President and CEO Sarbari Gupta is among the finalists for the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Professional Services Council annual Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards in the Executive of the Year category for companies up to $75 million. The winners will be announced at an awards program Nov. 5.

WashingtonExec spoke with Gupta about the manager who inspired her early in her career, the audio series that reframed her outlook on life, and her own leadership qualities.

WashingtonExec: What are the top one or two leadership qualities necessary to be a great leader?

Gupta: Integrity is undoubtedly the top leadership quality followed by strategic vision. Integrity relates to being true to one’s word and always delivering on commitments made. Without credibility, it’s impossible to lead or expect others to follow. Strategic vision relates to having the ability to see and communicate a future to which your entire team can relate. It is this vision, rather than business objectives such as revenue, that will energize and motivate a team to higher-level accomplishments. When your vision becomes their vision, there is limitless potential for greatness.

WashingtonExec: If we were to speak directly to your leadership team, what would it say is your management style?

Gupta: Intense, hands-on and unafraid to roll up my sleeves and do whatever needs to be done. I believe a small business leader cannot be remote and simply delegate. It is important to always demonstrate a willingness to do whatever needs to be done. No task is beneath any individual, especially a leader.

WashingtonExec: How would your team describe your leadership qualities?

Gupta: Open to new ideas and suggestions, transparent and a woman of integrity.

WashingtonExec: What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?

Gupta: I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and lead a business. When I decided to follow my dream, job circumstances made the timing right, but I hadn’t done any advanced planning regarding starting a business. Nonetheless, I took a leap of faith knowing I had the passion, work ethic and persistence to make my dream a reality. Without the benefit of any business training, belief in self — and a few individuals who  provided mentorship and guidance — enabled me to build ElectroSoft into the successful small business it is today.

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

Gupta: “Lead the Field” audio program by Earl Nightingale. This audio program literally changed my viewpoint on life when I first heard it in 1995 and motivated me to take bolder steps toward my goals in life. Since then, I have listened to the program several hundred times — it always gives me the strength to get through the tough times and encourages me to seek higher goals while maintaining a balanced perspective on life.

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

Gupta: Recognize there are no shortcuts when it comes to being a successful government contractor. You must adopt a long-term vision that is based on providing value to the customer and establishing relationships with prospects and teammates that evidence our integrity and credibility. Even still, there will be setbacks. Expect them and rise above them. Throughout, focus on customer satisfaction, and always display honesty and integrity in every business transaction.

WashingtonExec: What was your first job?

Gupta: I began my career as a software developer on a contract issued by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. I did software development for a secure operating system being developed for United States intelligence agencies.

WashingtonExec: Overall, how did that experience shape your career?

Gupta: This experience shaped my career in multiple ways. First, the vice president of the firm for which I worked was a strong female leader who provided me a role model in terms of my career aspirations. It showed me that it was possible for a woman to be a business leader and do it well. Second, I learned valuable lessons about the importance of being a team player and working together to achieve the team’s goals.

WashingtonExec: What three pieces of advice would you give your kids?

Gupta: First, be a person of integrity. Do what you say and say what you do. Second, have a vision for yourself and work hard to achieve it. It’s important to always have goals to strive for. Meaningful goals are a source of both inspiration and motivation. Last, always go beyond the expected. Being attentive to details, giving 100 percent to every endeavor, and being honest in all things are qualities that underlie not just career success but also success in life.