The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Pinnacle Awards were announced Oct. 8, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place virtually Nov. 12.
Next up is Intelligence Industry Executive of the Year finalist Laine Klein, who’s senior vice president of Global Mission Solutions at Amentum. Here, she talks key achievements, career struggles and other advice.
What key achievements did you have in 2019/2020?
One of the achievements I’m most proud of are the improvements we made to critical programs that had not always received positive customer feedback and the associated appreciation/recognition from the customer. We looked inward and made dramatic changes in program leadership and communication with the customer. The change in morale, relationships and delivery has been dramatic.
The programs are now some of Amentum’s premier contracts with very high customer satisfaction ratings. The customer acknowledged the impact by recognizing key team members and releasing an internal article highlighting the critical working accomplished daily. The recognition went further though with 100% award fee scores on both programs!
This is an exceptional achievement that my entire team should be credited for and we are grateful for the customer’s appreciation.
What has made you successful in your current role?
I am successful in my role today because I have a laser-focused approach to customer engagement and operational excellence. I am proactive in terms of regularly meeting with customers and listening to their needs and expectations. I then work closely with my team at all levels to ensure we have the right people in place to meet these requirements and that employees have the tools they need to be successful.
I will always work to bring out the best in my team while balancing the needs of the customer with the continued professional growth of our employees.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
As a service organization, we have people on the frontlines ensuring the support to our customers, so my proudest moment is the performance of my team throughout the past eight months. While many people had the opportunity to stay home, most of my team was required to work at customer sites throughout the pandemic. At the peril of their safety, the team never faltered in their support of the customer’s mission.
We all worked together to ensure the appropriate protocols were in place and the appropriate PPE was handed out to these workers well in advance of the customer requiring it. Due to travel restrictions, many have not been able to go home to visit family or take a vacation at all this year.
This stellar team continues to focus on operational excellence causing many of our customers to give 100% award fee scores. I am exceptionally proud of the Amentum team!
Looking back at your career, what are you most proud of?
I started in this business more than 20 years ago with a small company that provided me with many opportunities to learn. I had no military background, no government experience, but knew I wanted to make a difference. I never shied away from a difficult task and always took the role that challenged me most.
I was also lucky enough to have the right mentors and a support base of peers where I learned the fundamentals of good program management. I carried this PM mentality of delivery and accountability throughout my career.
Even as I move up into more executive leadership roles, I do not lose track of the employees, execution or customer relationships. I continue to enjoy interacting with my program teams onsite and all over the world as I know they make me shine and I would not be successful without them!
What was your biggest career struggle and how did you overcome it?
My biggest career struggle has been public speaking. It may sound silly since I am usually very outgoing. Nevertheless, it has always terrified me to have people I do not know looking at me as if I know what I am talking about.
Once I even I walked away from a job opportunity because it included a 15-minute oral briefing. I would get angry at myself for the sheer panic I felt, which did not help my confidence. I knew if I was to grow into an executive leadership role I could not shy away from oral briefings, videos, interviews or speaking events.
To overcome this terror, I did what I usually do and forced myself into situations where I was most uncomfortable. I met with customers to build confidence in my ability to hold a professional conversation. I attended more conferences and industry meetings so I could get to know people in the community. I supported oral presentations for proposals. I took every opportunity to be the “speaker” during a briefing. I even volunteered to lead a training class every year at the office.
I learned that people will not laugh you out of the room and are more patient than you expect. I learned I would get better as I did more public speaking. I also learned I will never get over the terror, but I will get better at managing it.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
I learn things every day, but would say my advice to others is to lead by example. How do you do this? Listen to your team and to your customers. Be respectful of others’ ideas, knowledge and experience. Be proactive in demanding the best from staff, peers and most importantly, yourself. Be supportive of your team members’ career goals, ambitions and life challenges.
Always act in a safe and ethical manner. If you lead by example and act how you want your team to, you will excel in your career and have a very successful team.