Damian DiPippa is the senior vice president and general manager of ManTech’s Mission and Intelligence Solutions Business Unit and a Pinnacle Awards finalist in the Intelligence Industry Executive of the Year category. Here, he shares what made him successful, an inflection point in his career, how to shape the next generation of GovCon leaders and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2018-2019?
My business unit — Mission and Intelligence Solutions — achieved industry-leading growth of 20% this year versus last. Most of that growth was organic, a strong testament to ManTech’s high-quality work for the world’s most important customers — agencies charged with safeguarding national and homeland security.
High on our list of strategic achievements, ManTech acquired H2M, a market leader in geospatial analysis, imagery and full motion video analysis, GEOINT operations and cartography, enabling to expand our range of services for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and other members of the intelligence community.
Another key achievement is our new high school internship program called DFEND. We’re working with the Academies of Loudoun, bringing in talented high school students and training them in technically-challenging fields such as reverse-engineering and offensive cyber.
Our customers love how we’re training next generation talent through DFEND. They’re enthusiastic about working with our interns as soon as they receive clearances.
We’ve submitted more than 20 interns for clearances, and several are moving through the process so quickly that we’re anticipating putting a few on contract next summer — have them start doing real work — even as high schoolers or beginning college students.
This is a great program and we’re proud to be developing the next generation workforce, not only for us, but for the community.
What has made you successful in your current role?
In any role like mine, you owe success to the team you put in place. You can’t succeed the way we are on individual achievement alone. My team that is tight and loyal, with everyone driven to succeed.
Having a diverse professional background and way of looking at things really helps. Mastery of business and financial management is ground zero for any leader. Great ones build on that platform through hands-on experience: the insights gained from running programs, leading organizations, and putting your systems engineering skills to work on-site for customers. A lot of my mentors shared a similar path.
Some of the best leaders share that full-spectrum perspective and understand what it takes to run an organization like ManTech and move it forward.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
I’ve actually had three, and they were all risky moves for my career.
The first came when I left a technical role three years into a 10-year, $1 billion contract. The opportunity that convinced me to make this move: working as a systems engineer in a different part of the company. Believe me, that felt like a real stretch, but in the end, the decision to take on this challenge led me to an important program management role.
I then left that program management job to run a P&L that I thought was healthy, but in fact needed a 180-degree turnaround. Success there led me to becoming a vice president.
In that first vice president role, I was asked to move out of intelligence and apply my outlook and skillsets to a totally new market space. Again, it was a professional stretch.
In each of those cases I gained different perspectives. So when I came back to Intel, I had a far broader perspective of the industry and our government customers. The risks I took proved to be defining moments in my career.
Had I said no to any one of those opportunities, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
I am most proud to work with 2,500 people who wake up every single day and in some way, shape or form are responsible for the security and protection of our nation, our warfighters and our allied countries. They do that — day in and day out — then they go home, and can’t talk about it. Yet they have a meaningful impact every single day.
I am proud to be a part of that. I can’t share details about what most of our folks do, I can’t talk about their precise accomplishments, but I know that every single one of them is working hard every day to further our customers’ missions in securing this nation.
How do you help shape the next-generation GovCon leaders?
I think it’s twofold. One is what I already discussed with our DFEND program. We’re starting them young and building the next generation of talent. And we’re not just teaching the technical side — we’re teaching them how to collaborate, work together and solve problems as a team.
We’re pairing these students with our foremost leaders. DFEND inspires strong relationships not just between the students, but with their mentors. That’s one area where I am helping shape the next generation of govcon leaders.
The other area is by serving as an example on a day-to-day basis. I recognize that I’m basically on-stage every day with my folks. I had a mentor once tell me, “Hey, never forget the fact that the people who follow you will do 50% of what you do right, but they will do 100% of what you do wrong.” So always remember to keep everything moral and ethical; make the right decisions; demonstrate the example. Don’t lead from behind.
I think, fundamentally, we all need to shape the next generation by serving as examples for them, and by pushing them beyond their comfort zones so they learn to grow.
I think this also applies on the government side. We focus on building trust with our government customers so they know we are 100% reliable, dependable and all-in on their mission.