The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Chief Officer Awards were announced April 15, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place virtually May 27.
Next is Chief Executive Officer Award finalist Jason Providakes, who’s president and CEO of The MITRE Corp. Here, he talks professional achievements, primary focus areas, career advice and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2019/2020?
With all that occurred in 2020, it’s interesting to reflect back on our work in 2019 and how it became a force multiplier for impact the following year.
At the time, we created the MITRE Accelerator and Engenuity as a trusted tech foundation for public good, to address the many challenges to our nation’s position as a global innovation leader. These entities bridge our work at MITRE to incubate technology with the private sector and accelerate key innovations. Things like safeguarding intellectual property from cyber threats and protecting critical infrastructure.
That momentum carried into 2020, with Engenuity’s Center for Threat-Informed Defense launching with 20 organizations, including Bank of America, Microsoft and AttackIQ, to promote robust cybersecurity strategies. Engenuity’s ATT&CK Evaluations team also worked with 30 companies to help them tailor their cyber defenses against adversaries that have stolen more than $1 billion over the past 5 years.
In the 5G realm, MITRE Engenuity and the Accelerator created the Open Generation Consortium, to bring together government, industry and academia to make democratic societies more competitive in next-generation wireless communications.
Of course, this past year we fully mobilized as a trusted partner and force multiplier for local, state and national efforts to secure public health. In partnership with the Mayo Clinic, we convened and co-led the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition, a private-sector collaboration of over 1,000 entities, to maximize the success of our health care system against the pandemic. This coalition worked to anticipate disease spread, generate real-time treatment guidance and secure resources for case surges.
We also partnered with some 300 organizations on the Vaccination Credential Initiative, or VCI. The VCI bridges MITRE’s existing work in open, interoperable data standards, to enable people to access and share their COVID-19 vaccination records in a secure, verifiable and privacy-preserving way.
These types of collaborations will help move the nation forward and help us to address some of the biggest challenges facing our society.
What are your primary focus areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
As we operate six federal R&D centers in the public interest, we’re looking to strengthen our impact as a national resource — bringing together the “whole of nation” and partnering with the private sector and industry to solve complex problems, like advancing national security and modernizing health care. These problems bring rapidly evolving technical challenges, and we need to find new ways to engage the world for our country’s security, prosperity and resilience.
Moving forward, we’ll continue applying strong systems thinking to expand our work in experimentation, solution design and adoption, and system deployment. We’ll also continue leveraging the Accelerator and Engenuity, along with MITRE Labs, to drive disruptive solutions and accelerate leading-edge capabilities. And our Center for Data Driven Policy will be discovering new ways to use science, technology and data to inform policy.
We’re also focused on striving for social justice, with intentionality. We established a vice president for inclusion and diversity to lead our internal efforts in this area. And we created a social justice platform to advance understanding of social inequalities across government and within our communities.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
Be willing to take on various jobs and explore different problems. Career growth isn’t always immediately vertical. The more you learn about other disciplines and the nuances of different fields, the more you’ll understand how to make sense of the big picture.
There’s real strength in being able to look at complex problems with many factors interacting in seemingly unpredictable ways — and discovering innovative solutions. Seek out opportunities that will cultivate that kind of growth. Be open to taking risks — and be OK with failing. Then invest the time and energy to learn from those experiences.
How do you help shape the next generation of government leaders/industry leaders?
This starts from the minute new employees walk in the door — how we welcome them, how we guide them, how we empower them. I’ve made it a leadership priority to develop and reward our cultural attributes of speed, risk-taking, adaptability, collaboration and grace and respect.
We’re also diversifying and expanding our workforce and partnerships across the country, using physical and virtual Innovation Hubs, or iHubs, to achieve productive and inclusive collaboration. And we’re strengthening our intern program, expanding our access to smart, capable students nationwide who share our passion for service. We welcomed nearly 500 interns last summer — in the midst of the pandemic — all working remotely, and we’re continuing our internship program for high school, college and graduate students in 2021.
We’re also engaging Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Minority Serving Institutions and other academic organizations to provide learning and growth opportunities, from elementary school through college and beyond.
The next generation of leaders needs to be more diverse, more collaborative and more agile than ever. We can influence this not just within our own organizations but across those we partner with.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
In a year of monumental change and loss, our employees responded to each new reality with care for each other, with commitment to their work and with courage to face unprecedented personal and professional challenges. I’m extremely proud of the dedication and creativity all our employees bring to fulfill our mission of solving problems for a safer world — and how they’ve added technical value to our sponsors’ missions, during the most trying times.
Our employees transcended the virtual work environment to rethink collaboration and find ways to support one another — rejecting geographic distance as an obstacle. Rather than seeking relief from the overwhelming needs, our employees did even more — from volunteering in our communities, to expanding our work program, to addressing social and economic challenges.
Each of us has embraced the concept of modernizing and transforming the way we do business — continuing to deliver on our primary federal R&D missions, while planning for resiliency and continuity of operations in a more fluid work environment.
Our employees continually demonstrate our values of inclusivity, grace, and respect as they inspire trust, build relationships, and create spaces for collaboration and impactful change. I’m grateful for the many accomplishments of our team, working through the current crisis — and helping our nation transition to the next normal.