Thomas Gardner serves as chief technology officer at HP Federal and is a Pinnacle Awards finalist in the Cybersecurity Industry Executive of the Year category. Here, he shares a turning point that led him to becoming a CTO, what he’s most proud of at HP, learning from his failures, taking professional risks and more.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
The turning point in my career path to becoming a CTO was during my Management of Technology Master of Science program at the MIT Sloan School of Management. I learned how to navigate the business environment applied to IT management and technology.
Up until this point, my background had been in more technical roles since my time in the Navy. I learned how to evaluate risk and create change successfully, which I have taken to every job I have held since.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
At HP, I am most proud of the culture of continuous learning and shared expertise across disciplines. There is constant information sharing within the company and dedicated working groups. I have personally learned from my peers across cybersecurity and privacy, data science and program management.
I am also grateful to be able to share my 27 years of government experience and my own expertise on blockchain, supply chain risk management and quantum information science. In my role as CTO of HP Federal and as an industry thought leader, I publish articles on artificial intelligence, government team building, and technology trends impacting the public sector.
I also speak at many industry conferences and panels, where I meet key stakeholders across the private and public sector.
What’s one key thing you learned from a failure you had?
The most important lesson I have learned from a failure is to know when to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to bring in valuable teammates that can support and accomplish the task. You can learn more from failures than success, but ultimately, your colleagues are able — and willing — to lend a hand. At HP, I have always felt supported by my team and it is wonderful to work for a company where people want to help each other.
What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken?
The biggest professional risk I’ve ever taken was when I accepted my first CTO role at ManTech International. This was the biggest career challenge I’d taken on to date. I moved from an operations-focused role at Raytheon into a leadership position with more responsibility.
As CTO, I quickly took on technical, operational and managerial responsibilities, drilling down into IT and service needs, execution of contracts and staff education.
This experience led to three subsequent CTO positions, which I feel ultimately prepared me for my current role at HP. In each new role, I’ve brought the foundational experiences I gained at ManTech, which continue to contribute to the growth of my professional career.
Looking back at your career, what are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the colleagues I’ve mentored along the way. I currently work with several mentees at HP, but I have been surprised that I learn just as much from them as they do from me. There is always opportunity to grow and learn, no matter your title or stage of your career.
I constantly learn from my HP colleague David George, whose background in electrical engineering complements mine in mechanical engineering, and I look forward to our discussions of quantum information science.
I am also honored to participate in a number of organizations, task forces and councils and bring my unique perspective as a Ph.D. in energy economics and a Navy engineer. I currently advise the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the American National Standards Institute and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers on advanced manufacturing standards, and was nominated as a 2018 ASME fellow.
I also chair the ASME Industry Advisory Board, and have represented ASME at the White House to help inform IT policies. With the Information Technology Industry Foundation, I led an industry study on “Future Trends in Technology,” leveraging results to advise the federal government on IT investments and inform security in the context of AI, blockchain and 5G.