Meet the Pinnacle Awards Finalists: 5 Questions for Raytheon’s Dave Wajsgras

Dave Wajsgras, Raytheon IIS

Dave Wajsgras, Raytheon IIS

Dave Wajsgras, Raytheon Co. vice president and president of the Intelligence, Information and Services business, is a Pinnacle Awards finalist in the Intelligence Industry Executive of the Year category. Below, he shares his most notable achievements in the past year, professional risks he has taken, proud moments at Raytheon, advice for aspiring leaders and more.

What key achievements did you have in 2018?

Raytheon IIS is a defense and security business, headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, with revenue of more than $7 billion and 16,000 employees around the globe with 4,000 in the D.C. area. We provide state-of-the-art command and control systems for intelligence community and other government satellite constellations.

We also provide offensive and defensive cybersecurity solutions that range from components and services to nation-scale systems. A key focus of our business is to turn complex data into valuable, secure, intelligence solutions for our national security customers.

This year, we refocused the business to deliver innovation faster for customers while delivering strong financial performance. Some of our key milestones over the past 12 months include:

  • Won a $110 million cyber contract to secure military and infrastructure in the Middle East
  • Signed an memorandum of understanding to enhance the U.K.’s sovereign space capability
  • Began cyber resiliency for U.S. Air Force F-15 avionics systems
  • Tested artificial intelligence for predictive maintenance on V-22 Ospreys
  • Signed a partnership with Black Sage to co-develop and market counter-UAS solutions
  • Guided the second modernized GPS satellite from initial to final orbit and completed next-gen GPS ground control system development
  • Secured a $300 million contract to develop new space systems and flight software, and provide engineering, training and operations support for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Won a $663 million contract to deliver a secure, wireless communications system enabling our soldiers to communicate anywhere, anytime around the globe.

What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken?

My decision to switch gears from being Raytheon’s chief financial officer to leading a large, complex business like IIS was not an easy one. Continuing to focus on my expertise in finance would have been the safer route, but I knew I had something more to offer. The circumstances at that time in 2015 were challenging in that I was stepping into this role while Raytheon was in the early stages of consolidating two major businesses that today comprise the IIS portfolio.

The business faced a number of significant hurdles, and a significant course correction was necessary to create a new foundation for sustainable, long-term growth. In other words, this wasn’t a slam dunk career move. Today, we are a high-performing business and have the confidence of our global customers. We are well-respected and I have no doubt that I made the right decision.

What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?

Leading the transformation of IIS from where we were in 2015 to where we are today has been an incredible experience. It was truly a total team effort. First, we had to stabilize the business and build a solid foundation. This meant a lot of blocking and tackling, developing a strong, executable growth strategy and addressing challenges. From there, we could then work on building a winning culture by setting clear business objectives, enhancing our competitive position, and reorganizing around core capabilities.

Last year was a banner year for IIS, where the growth trajectory began to take off. This year, we broadened our objectives to create long-term sustainable value by investing to shape the future of intelligence, C2, space, cyber, air traffic management and technology-based training markets. Today, we incorporate commercial technology as part of a more agile business model, and take new approaches to attract and retain the best talent.

An example of the advanced capabilities we provide to the intelligence community, Defense Department, civil and commercial organizations is in the area of large-scale data processing. For example, one of our locations manages the processing and analysis of hundreds of terabytes of data, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To put that into perspective, 100 TB is about 2.5 times the amount of data in all of Amazon’s ecommerce databases.

We’re enabling users to answer complex questions of these data systems that allows them to focus on more mission critical work. Our newest solutions can reduce the data to decision timeline from months to hours and, in some cases, from months to minutes.

We are now a stronger, more agile business with a strategy aligned to meet customer needs and be a leader in the technological revolution that is disrupting our industry. I’m grateful for the hard work and support of our entire team that brought us to this point.

What specifically makes you stand out from your industry counterparts?

A key discriminator for us is the significant growth in our space and cyber business areas with the use of commercial partnerships as part of our efforts to deliver the latest commercial innovation (cyber resiliency, AI/machine learning, automation, data analytics, DevOps, agile, cloud computing) at speed and scale.

In alignment with the National Defense Strategy, this transition reflects our customers’ “need for speed” — both in terms of end-use capability and the pace of acquisition and deployment of technology to make decisions faster than the adversary.

In this way, we have reorganized to operate more like a commercial entity than a traditional defense company. Our ability to anticipate this shift in our addressable markets and adapt accordingly puts us in a great position.

There is also a war on talent, and we’re winning it. Our innovative educational partnerships with universities and other organizations help attract, train and deploy the future workforce. Not everyone in our industry has made the same shift in response to these trends. So, there will be winners and losers, but I’m confident this company will stay on the winning side of the equation.

What’s your best advice for aspiring leaders who want to follow in your footsteps?

Anyone who wants to succeed in this industry needs to embrace speed and change. Our customers are facing new and complex challenges as the pace of technology and innovation moves faster than at any time in our history. It’s an environment that holds tremendous potential for those who can stay ahead of the curve. That means taking risks, being nontraditional and not being afraid to fail.

As I remind our team, failure really is a part of success . . . make sure that people genuinely buy into this philosophy . . . when we fail, redirect and learn from the mistakes. Those who are paralyzed by the rapid changes going on in our industry will be the ones left behind. I’m fond of the quote attributed to Yogi Berra, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” It may be humorous, but there is wisdom in it as well.

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