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 is Intelligence Industry Exec of the Year finalist Tracy Iseler, who’s managing director of national security and intelligence at Accenture Federal Services. Here, she talks future focus areas, successes in her current role, shaping the next generation of industry leaders and career advice.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
I started my career working for Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. I had just graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and thought I had landed the best job ever. Little did I understand the late nights and never-ending list of issues and challenges the government faces every day.
I was overwhelmed by the spectrum of expertise required to govern. I also realized very quickly just how much I did not know, and that was when I left government to seek new experiences with industry. I was determined to come back to government and make a material difference on behalf of the American people. I then joined Accenture.
I turned to consulting to find a segment of the market where I could become an “expert” so I could understand and develop expertise in solutions that were relevant to the challenges the government faces. It took me 20 years and multiple industries, but in the mid 2000s, I realized it was the digitization of the supply and demand chains also known as e-commerce, and what would eventually be known as “digital,” that would change the way government, and more importantly, national security would manage and exploit information.
What are your primary focus areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
Bringing the best of commercial capabilities, tailored to national security, continues to be my focus. Modernizing infrastructures to build secure mission capabilities is my goal. The commercial infrastructure provides the scalability and standardization required to customize the application and presentation layers of the digital platforms. This type of architecture allows national security information to serve cross organizational missions without having to replicate everything every time information is needed by a different organization.
It is the realization of the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise and moving our clients to develop “disposable” or “liquid” applications is finally becoming a reality in the government. This really means developing capabilities as they are needed and dictated by the mission.
Development is done with sufficient speed that cannibalizing the applications becomes commonplace. The DevSecOps environments are protecting and preserving our code for reuse, which means our efficiencies are doubling and tripling as we enhance the solutions.
How do you help shape the next generation of government leaders/industry leaders?
I consistently guide the next generation of leaders to look beyond today and to focus on the art of the possible. The greatest contribution I can make to the next generation of leaders in this market is to reduce their learning curve and increase adoption of commercial capabilities like cloud and platforms so that they expect commercial speed, usability and security in their national security environments.
In our personal lives, we expect immediate services that work the first time — think about your smartphone and automated banking services. This immediacy and speed of change in commercial products is now influencing the expectations from our government clients. These expectations are immediately reinterpreted as requirements that are baked into the next generation of digital programs.
Having been part of the digital revolution, meeting the customer’s expectations consistently is the key to trust and exploration. I work every day to gain the trust of my clients with new and innovative technologies so that they become more curious and confident to explore ways to bring the advantage to us versus our adversaries.
What has made you successful in your current role?
What has made me successful is the ability to learn from clients and their unique needs. Supporting government agencies and commercial clients present very different cultures, needs and requirements.
For example, I always strive to understand where a client is in their journey to accepting and absorbing new technologies and capabilities. This is a multidimensional spectrum to consider. Skills, incentives, outcomes and expectations all play a part in understanding where in the client’s processes we can introduce transformative change. I work very hard to gain client trust, which comes from providing transparency, establishing credibility and meeting or exceeding expectations consistently.
I learned early on that no two clients are exactly alike. The best approach is to meet clients where they are, and then work to establish credibility and trust.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
On my first day as a new analyst with Accenture, I was told to tell my boss something he didn’t know every day. This was the best advice I have ever received, and it’s what I pass on to everyone on my Accenture Federal Services teams.
This challenge reinforced my already-curious self to go beyond self-interest and do the extra work to become knowledgeable about areas of our business that specifically helped our clients. Back then, it was the evolving integration promised by packaged software and early automation and compliance that brought manufacturing A&D platforms.
Understanding the confluence of the technology and process and political climate helped me be more accurate and complete in my work. Sharing this knowledge helped make the team deliver better for clients. Encouraging people to feel responsible for contributing to the improvement of the team and group is the most gratifying and frankly purposeful guidance I can give.