Ted Davies was halfway through a collegiate engineering program when he realized he preferred the business side of technology. What followed was a career brimming with new, big opportunities — but what never changed was his passion to use technology to advance mission and drive transformation.
Davies helms Altamira Technologies Corp., an engineering and analytics company serving defense and intelligence communities. He also chairs ACT-IAC, an organization that couples well with his drive in industry and passion for people.
Originally from the suburbs outside of New York City, Davies always knew he wanted to work with technology and mission. But when he attended Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania to study engineering, he became more drawn to the business side.
“I got halfway through the program and realized that I liked the business side of technology better than the technology side of technology,” Davies said.
He transferred and got his Bachelor of Business Administration degree, later continuing to receive his MBA in finance and investments at The George Washington University School of Business in Washington, D.C., when he moved to the District in the 1980s.
“I really enjoyed the visits I had in D.C. when I was in college; it was a young, exciting town,” Davies said.
This was also during former President Ronald Reagan’s big defense buildup. Davies joined a small consulting firm doing work with the Navy.
“That was my entree into GovCon,” he added.
And after having worked on the F/A-18 aircraft program for the Navy as a consultant, “every new job opportunity that I’ve had has been through my network,” Davies said — opportunities spanning more than 35 years.
Growing Up in GovCon
“It wasn’t necessarily that I was looking for a job,” Davies explained. “It was more somebody who I knew talked to me about an opportunity that existed where they were.”
And with the help of a friend in his network, Davies landed at Booz Allen Hamilton in 1985 after his consulting job.
“[I] grew up there,” Davies said. “I was there for 17 years.”
Davies’ job changed every year in Booz Allen. He worked with various programs within the Defense Department, like the Navy satellite communication programs, and eventually became a partner.
“I built a practice there that worked across government,” he said. “We took the work we did for DOD and started working for all the civilian agencies. By the time we had built the business, we were about half civilian, half DOD.”
Davies’ experience in the civilian sector paid off.
In 2003, he joined Unisys. The company had just acquired Andersen Consulting, and needed somebody with a consulting background to lead its civilian business.
“It worked out as a great opportunity for me to come over there and continue to work with brilliant technologists,” Davies said.
Five years later, the company was retrenching, and Davies was tasked with running the entire federal business.
“We were redoing the entire company,” he said. “We were shedding businesses that really were not part of the core and trying to fix the bottom line and pay off debt.”
He served as president of Unisys’ Federal Systems until he left in 2014 after a headhunter he knew came with a new opportunity — to talk to the investors who had created Altamira in 2014.
Those conversations convinced Davies to get more involved with private equity and a different business model in a dynamic and growing market: the national security community.
He figured it would be “a really fun adventure,” and joined in 2014.
The company went through some changes in 2019 when the initial investors decided to cash out and invest their money elsewhere — a normal occurrence in private equity practice. Davies led the company through that ownership transition to new private equity investors and leadership team changes.
And while each opportunity in his career has been new, building on his current experiences while providing entrees into new business models, markets or roles, each has led him to where he is today.
“It was just a gradual evolution and sometimes big steps, and they’ve all been fun,” Davies said.
He admits that at the start of his career, he didn’t chart a direct path to one day becoming CEO, though generally speaking, it was the goal one day.
“I knew I always wanted to work with technology and mission, which is really what I’ve done the whole way,” he said.
Davies values working with diverse groups of people to solve problems he can’t solve on his own, and building a business does just that.
“I envisioned that by growing a business, I’d take on more responsibility,” he said. “Through that, I became a partner at Booz and then a sector president at Unisys and now a CEO. It wasn’t necessarily that I said, ‘One day, I want to be A, B or C,’ I just wanted to keep growing businesses and doing cool things with great people.”
Technology, mission and diversity of thought are also what drove Davies to get involved with organizations outside of his workplace.
“Utilizing technology to advance mission and drive transformation and change and improvement in organizations and performance, I love it. It’s fascinating,” Davies said.
That’s what he feels with ACT-IAC. He’s been chair of IAC twice, but was first exposed to ACT-IAC 20 years ago. Even before he was involved, Davies appreciated it was a collaborative initiative, bringing together government and industry with the goal of advancing the mission of government.
In 2012, he was asked to co-chair the organization’s annual flagship Executive Leadership Conference. It was taking place in Williamsburg, Virginia, that year, and was scheduled to take place when Hurricane Sandy hit. It was ultimately canceled, but that was when Davies got deeply involved with the organization. He was asked to be the industry chair of the organization in 2015, had another opportunity to chair ELC in 2017 and returned to the organization’s chair in 2020.
For Davies, ACT-IAC has been a great way to stay in touch with the big trends happening across the government while collaboratively meeting with people in public sector and industry.
“Whether it’s through conferences or forums or being involved with communities of interest or creating white papers and being involved in studies and analyses, professional development programs, you get access to information on important things that are happening and people that you wouldn’t otherwise get access to,” he said.
From a company perspective, engaging with ACT-IAC also allows GovCons to build their brand and get their name out there. There are over 400 corporate members and thousands of government members, meaning collaboration and integration is key.
A Sense of Direction for 2021
Davies spent much of 2020 during the pandemic gaining a greater appreciation for the outdoors, physical activity and reflecting on how he can make a positive impact on the community.
Being involved with several charities and his church has been two ways, and getting involved with ACT-IAC has been another.
Davies said he’s proud of how ACT-IAC pivoted as COVID-19 hit, as it typically relies on networking and in-person contact. During a largely virtual society, he said ACT-IAC plans to continue its online conferences to continue connecting industry with government. When it’s safe to do so, the organization will explore how to make that environment hybrid: part virtual, part in person.
“We want to take advantage of the fact that the virtual world has opened up avenues to attract new people and new parts of the country,” he said. “Government isn’t just focused in Washington, D.C. We want to build an environment that allows us to continue to access folks in other parts of the country that are interested and that can contribute to the mission of advancing government.”
ACT-IAC held 15 virtual events and conferences in 2020, and engaged over 5,000 people across multiple forums.
As CEO, Davies set three priorities for Altamira during the pandemic that will continue into 2021: to take care of its people (and their varying virtual workplace needs) and customers; take care of the company and business; and continue to win new work and grow.
“Fortunately, we succeeded in all three,” Davies said. “We won $75 million of new task order work over the last few months that drove growth at the end of 2020 and which are driving growth into 2021.
Going forward, Altamira plans to continue building an environment for people to be successful, investing in R&D, adding talent to the organization and doing great work for customers.
And while Davies admits he and others he knows in industry and government are a “little bit tired,” he remains excited about the future — knowing it won’t all be smooth — and will require perseverance and resilience.
Reflecting on the Past Means Looking Toward the Future
Davies has learned a few valuable lessons throughout his career that remain relevant today. The first is understanding people’s viewpoints and how to work with them matters in order to get things done.
“It’s treating everybody in your organization at every single level like they’re the most important person in the organization,” he said. ”Being able to build a culture that really values the inputs and the energy of everybody, but recognizes that everybody’s got a different perspective and a different need, different aspirations, and they’re at different points in their lives.”
Part of that means looking for partners outside of the company, because their perspective matters, too.
“Absolutely critical is a strong focus on customers,” he said. “Putting yourself in their shoes and understanding the pressures that they’re facing every single day pays huge dividends. Everything in this industry starts with people — our employees, our partners, our customers.”
Davies also learned — especially as his career evolved with the evolution of technology — that agility and adaptability is key. The world is changing, he said, and changing exponentially faster than it did 10 years ago. Business leaders must have a fresh perspective, learn new skills and welcome creative thinkers.
“If you get set in your ways and the way you used to do business and the way you used to operate, and you’re not learning anything new, and all you’re doing is continue to try to turn the crank, the world’s going to leave you behind,” he said.
And finally, Davies has learned to lean into organizational growth.
“You have to move forward,” he said. “You have to grow. You can’t stand still. Otherwise, you stagnate, and you fall off.”
Plus, the industry he’s in is not a static environment, and that’s one of the things that keeps him going.
“It’s the people and the mission that keep me excited, and it changes,” Davies said. “Every week and every month and every year, there’s something new. That’s exciting.”