Editor’s note: The winner of the Chief Officer Awards Public Company CTO Award announced June 17 is Charles Onstott of SAIC.
On June 17, WashingtonExec will be virtually celebrating the most impactful and innovative C-suite executives in government and industry. These chief officers work in technology, security, data, operations, finance, business and more, excelling on both sides of the government contracting sector. Our team of judges have chosen the finalists for the inaugural Chief Officer Awards, so before we announce the winners during the event, we wanted to get to know the finalists a bit better. This Q&A series highlights their careers, successes, proud professional moments and notable risks.
Tommy Gardner is chief technology officer at HP Federal and a finalist in the Public Company CTO Award category.
What key achievements did you have in 2019?
In 2019, I was one of the key architects of HP Federal’s proposal for the end-user hardware portion of the U.S. Navy’s Next Generation Enterprise Network Recompete contract, which HP was ultimately awarded after a competitive process. This contract has an initial value of $358 million and a potential cumulative value of $1.4 billion with options.
This contract win was also significant as it includes HP’s security software and tools that are built into the hardware and is a key recognition of the company’s industry-leading security solutions.
Also in 2019, I was selected to co-chair the advanced computing roundtable for the U.S. Council on Competitiveness, where I advise on the future of computing architectures, inclusive of cybersecurity architectures. For the past 18 months, I have also been involved with the Quantum Economic Development Consortium, where I advise on quantum encryption for device protections and quantum networks. Additionally, I lead HP’s efforts in strategy and policy in quantum information science and work with the Department of Energy on 3D printing of micro-reactors.
I am a voting member of the Department of Homeland Security’s Task Force on Supply Chain Risk Management, and co-chair the Threat Evaluation Working Group. I also advise the National Institute of Standards and Technology, ANSI and ASME on advanced manufacturing standards, and was named as a 2018 ASME fellow.
What has made you successful in your current role?
I have found success in my current role as CTO of HP Federal by collaborating with my peers in cybersecurity and privacy, data science and program management. At HP, there is always an opportunity to learn, via constant information sharing within the company and with many working groups.
I am also supported by an incredible team across HP Labs and the technologists at HP that are always willing to help and provide new perspectives that lead to our cumulative success.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
There are two inflection points in my career.
The first was when I earned my Management of Technology Master of Science degree at the MIT Sloan School of Management and 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 U.S. Navy.
The second was when I left the U.S. Navy after 27 years and took an industry role, where I advised on the government technology market and took the next steps in my career toward becoming a CTO.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
I am most proud of my contribution to HP Federal’s proposal and award for the end-user hardware portion of the NGEN-R contract. I was proud to leverage both my industry technology expertise and my experience as a Navy engineer and secure this unique opportunity to provide new hardware used on the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, the OCONUS Navy Enterprise Network and the Marine Corps Enterprise Network. The NGEN-R contract provides HP Federal and the Navy with the opportunity to partner on best-in-class services and security solutions, with the goal of updating more than 400,000 pieces of hardware during the 3-year base period.
In my role as CTO of HP Federal and as an industry leader in quantum information science, I am proud to provide my expertise and publish articles on remote work security, AI, government IT security and technology trends impacting the public sector. In addition, I am also proud to represent HP and speak at many industry conferences and panels, meeting key stakeholders across the private and public sectors.
What are your primary focus areas moving forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
My primary focus area is advancing HP’s presence in the quantum information science field. In partnership with HP Labs, I am involved with research in quantum information and other innovations including device architecture and 3D printing. As an expert on secure infrastructure for quantum information, I advise on security considerations for next-generation devices and products.
I also advise on supply chain risk management to help HP and public sector stakeholders navigate supply chain purchasing requirements and secure technology sourcing. Quantum computing, cybersecurity and supply chain are all critically important to building a secure national infrastructure.
Most recently, I assisted with HP’s COVID-19 response and connected academic institutions and researchers with mask, ventilator and air purification designs to HP’s 3D printing facilities to rapidly produce much-needed equipment for health care providers. I worked with academic and industry researchers to create a secure supply chain for information sharing and production of this equipment at a rapid scale. This collaboration led to quick action to bolster response efforts across the country.
What’s one key thing you learned from a failure you had?
A key lesson I have learned from several failures is to ask why they occurred. As an engineer, I look not only at the technical failure but the project design and the science behind it. It is important to evaluate the root cause of the problem and learn how to approach the scenario differently next time. Do not be afraid to try a new method and be open to new technologies that will ultimately lead to greater success in the future.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
My best career advice for those seeking a similar career path is to continuously learn in your chosen field. For me, my career started in engineering and over time I transitioned to IT management and technology. I am a mechanical engineer by training, and countless times over my career I have found value in not only my degree, but in building broad experience across related engineering fields. Learn not only what is new in your area of expertise but pursue other opportunities that will improve your industry knowledge.