Armed with an engineering foundation and a breadth of technical industry experience, Adam Rudo runs a business unit at ManTech International — and though technology drove him to the field, it’s the excitement of the mission that has kept him in it 26 years later.
Rudo got his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 1993, but entering government contracting wasn’t something he initially sought out.
In fact, he says his first job search was about finding a challenging technical role with eventual leadership opportunities.
During his senior year, Rudo took a job with General Electric in its leadership training program, which offered program rotations with different technical disciplines and different customers. It was during this experience Rudo was exposed to agencies within the intelligence community and their missions.
And just like that, he was captivated.
After receiving his undergraduate degree, Rudo began working for what eventually became Lockheed Martin. At the same time, he was pursuing a master’s degree in computer engineering from Villanova University at night and working in several technical roles in hardware, software and systems engineering.
Rudo took assignments that helped him grow his experience in program management, such as leading a software product team, exposing himself to cost account management and taking a chief engineer assignment on a telecommunications-related program.
Rudo also had the opportunity to run his own program and serve as a capture manager for the program’s re-compete, which was his introduction to the business lifecycle of government contracting — an area he would continue to support throughout his career.
But Rudo’s next goal was to run and grow a government contracting business, so he took on assignments that prepared him to do so, including leading an engineering matrix organization supporting a business area.
And in 2005, after nearly 12 years at Lockheed Martin, he joined General Dynamics Information Technology for another long haul — nearly 14 years.
Rudo rose to his final position at GDIT as senior vice president of its intelligence and homeland security division; a nearly $2 billion portfolio in 2018 and a defining part of his career. According to Rudo, it was both challenging and very rewarding.
In October 2018, Rudo made his second company change in 26 years, joining ManTech as senior vice president and general manager of its security solutions business unit.
He was particularly attracted to ManTech’s focus on all aspects of cyber, the mission and customer-focused mindset of ManTech’s leadership and the employees who drive its success.
And at ManTech, Rudo primarily focuses on supporting intelligence community customer missions, which require expertise in a range of technology areas Rudo says ManTech excels in and provides the tech solutions and talent for.
He’s also focused on attracting and retaining talent to meet intelligence community and Defense Department needs in cyber, data collection, analytics, enterprise IT and systems and software engineering.
But there’s more to the mind and success of a government contracting executive than what’s written on a resume. Below, Rudo shares how he’s continuously motivated by the customer’s mission, how his leadership values were influenced by meaningful mentors, and life’s fulfillments outside of work.
Does your foundation in electrical and computer engineering provide you with helpful insights or perspectives as you work with clients?
For most of my career, I would have answered this question with a resounding “yes.” Certainly, having a strong technical background is very beneficial, especially when combined with a project management background. The combination of intensive training and broad experience helps me think through problems analytically, determine an approach to a solution and then plan and execute.
What I’ve come to appreciate more and more over time is the benefit of building a team with a diverse set of experiences and skillsets, especially when innovation is key to approaching a problem. Many times, the most innovative ideas come from those without engineering/technical skillsets. When you have people on a team who think differently, you can come up with alternative solutions, especially where traditional approaches aren’t keeping up with the mission.
Engineering’s contribution is important, of course, especially in turning an idea into a working solution, but truly unique ideas many times come from people with other skillsets and experiences.
How did you learn to be a team leader throughout your career? Did you have any mentors?
I’ve had several key mentors, and each one dramatically shaped who I am and the way I lead. In making the switch from the technical track to the program management track, I had a mentor whom I admired for his ability to connect with and motivate a team — valuing each of our strengths and driving us to successful outcomes. I still think of this mentor today as I lead teams to face challenges. From a career perspective, he taught me to think ahead about where I want to be, to assess the results of each key mission and to determine what skillsets and experience I need to advance to a new level.
At several points, I made lateral moves in my career to build depth and breadth in various areas so that when I took the next leap I would be fully prepared. I think such flexibility has been key to my success.
Once I became a [program manager]and then sought to run portfolios, I had another mentor who was instrumental in preparing me for this challenge. She hired me into my first [program manager]role and has provided guidance ever since.
What I learned along the way is the importance of building a strong team and valuing the team’s contributions. Regardless of the job, I make it a point to understand the vital work going on around me and to appreciate how each function contributes to the overall success of the business. Once a team is formed, everyone needs to work together to overcome the challenges.
Regardless of individual team member backgrounds or current business roles, we must work together as a team to reach new heights in serving the customer. I’ve been extremely fortunate throughout my career to work with amazing people.
What was the most important career award or recognition you received? What’s been the most rewarding part of your job?
Early on, I most valued awards that originated from my peers. Obviously, it felt good to be rewarded by my management, and of course, by customers, but somehow getting rewarded by a peer meant that those I worked closest with valued my contribution to the team’s overall successes.
But over the last 15 years or so running businesses, the most rewarding part of my job has been winning contracts with new customers and effectively standing up the new programs to make those customers successful. I probably spend more time each week related to the front end of the business than any other aspect.
Government contracting does take patience, especially with larger acquisitions — but it is worth the wait when a customer rewards your company’s hard work with the opportunity to help them solve their challenges.
What motivates you and continues to drive you, in work and in other aspects of life?
This is an easy question for me. At work, I know it is cliché, but it is our customer’s missions that motivate me every day. When I meet with my teams to discuss their programs and challenges, I’m truly motivated by the great work we do to ensure successful outcomes. When I meet with customers, I’m energized by the role they play in securing our nation. My role supporting the missions has changed over my career, but that is still the aspect of my job that drives me each day.
At home, it is my family — my wife and two children — that motivates me.
What’s something about you not many may know?
It is no secret that I’m a big sports fan — especially baseball and football. What people may not necessarily know is that I’m also passionate about music. I used to play instruments when I was younger — clarinet and piano. I even played keyboards in a rock band when I was in middle school and high school.
Today, I don’t have the time to play that much, but I do listen to all kinds of music — my tastes are quite diverse —everything from classical music, jazz, classic rock, alternative, to pop. I enjoy going to concerts, or even just listening to music in my car.