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 Tammer Olibah, who’s president and CEO at Hexagon US Federal. Here, he talks key professional achievements, professional risks, career advice and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2019/2020?
Although I am very proud of how our company improved revenue over the past 2 years (an increase of 40% from 2018 to 2019 and up another 24% in 2020), the most rewarding achievement to me was the transformation and revitalization of our company’s culture that resulted in a more collaborative environment and infused excitement for the future.
Some additional achievements include:
- Expansion and Acquisition: I came on board early in 2018 and during my time here as CEO, our team has grown significantly to support the reselling of a wider range of Hexagon technologies, while also acquiring Thermopylae Sciences and Technology.
- March 2020 and 2021 “Great Place to Work” certifications, earning high marks in employee experience, trust in management, work flexibility and team camaraderie.
- June 2020, we were named a “Best Tech/Research Workplace in Rocket City” in the Huntsville, Alabama, area.
- May 2020: We were selected as an honoree in the Intelligence and National Security Alliance/Intelligence and National Security Foundation 2020 Innovators Showcase.
- Industry/Academia Partnerships: As a George Mason University alumnus, as well as a member of their Cyber Security Engineering Industry Advisory Board, I am thrilled that we’ve been able to develop a relationship between GMU and Hexagon US Federal over the last three academic years, which included us sponsoring five of their capstone design projects, mentoring teams of graduating seniors.
- Philanthropy/Giving Back: We already had a vibrant culture of individuals who donate their time and resources outside the office, but we have created even more opportunities for individuals to take part in giving back as a team. One example of this that I am especially proud of in 2020 is that we co-sponsored a fundraiser in honor of K9 Veterans Day, raising money to match a service dog to a veteran with PTSD.
Finally, I’d have to say how especially proud I am of how we weathered the COVID-19 pandemic and actually thrived during it. This is the result of us adapting processes, improving internal communications while expanding remote work options and prioritizing our employees’ health. We did all of this while also delivering uninterrupted and unparalleled support to our U.S. government customers.
What has made you successful in your current role?
Relationship management — as the CEO of a subsidiary of Hexagon Corp., which has a diverse and complex set of technologies, I knew that I needed to build a stronger relationship with corporate shareholders. After I took the time to fully understand their business models and goals, I worked with them to lay out a growth strategy with organic and inorganic elements that would enable them to realize improved revenues from USG organizations.
I carefully communicated critical mission requirements of our USG customers and advised Hexagon Divisions how to adapt their technologies for improved compatibility with the USG and how to rely on Hexagon US Federal to help them achieve their goals.
What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken?
I’d say that leaving my previous position at Booz Allen Hamilton, where I was running a very successful and growing cyber portfolio to take this CEO position with Hexagon US Federal was a biggest risk I’ve ever taken in my career. However, when a board of directors, made up of three Department of Defense and intelligence community legends, invite you to transform a company with so much potential, it’s hard to say no.
Hexagon US Federal was very different from BAH in terms of the diversity of its portfolio, legacy footprint and reputation in the industry and many other aspects, so I knew my new role as CEO and president and board member was going to bring some very different challenges. However, I felt so excited and empowered at the same time to lead this company with a new vision and strategy, that I just had to say yes.
What was your biggest career struggle and how did you overcome it?
A key struggle I faced early on in my career was relying too much on past successes to be the key that enabled future career growth. I had achieved notable success on high-visibility projects and developed a reputation as being somewhat of a risk taker. I was disappointed and a bit shocked to learn that my reputation was actually causing an adverse perception on the part of leadership that were key to my continued growth at the company.
I learned that perception is reality — that no matter how passionate and confident you are in your approach, if you are not understanding areas of sensitivity with your audience (in this case, my risk-averse management), you run the risk of failure. It was a great learning experience for me to see my performance from someone else’s perspective.
That experience taught me to adapt my approach to be compatible with corporate leadership’s expectations and put strong attention on effective communication as a measure of mitigating risk.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
The most important advice that I can give is this: Know your weaknesses and double down on your strengths. This means being transparent on topics that you know you’re weak on and filling those knowledge and skills gaps with colleagues that complement you and your leadership style.
There is often more than one solution to every problem and surrounding yourself with individuals from diverse backgrounds and experiences ensures that you see multiple perspectives on key issues and the different approaches for successfully taking on any challenge.
Another part of setting yourself up for career success is to carefully select your professional mentors. I am proud to say that the Hexagon US Federal board of directors have become my professional mentors and the leadership team I have surrounded myself with here have become lifelong friends.
I also must tip my cap to the many legends in the U.S. defense and intelligence communities that have mentored me along the way and have instilled core values and lessons that continue to drive me today.