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 Technology Officer Award finalist Tommy Gardner, who’s CTO at HP Federal. Here, he talks professional achievements, focus areas going forward, shaping the next generation of leaders and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2020?
In 2020, agencies faced the enormous challenge of equipping employees with the technology they needed to work securely and efficiently from home. I supported HP Federal’s rapid response to supply government agencies and federal customers with enterprise-level, secure products. This past year, I have continued to support the execution of the Navy NGEN-R hardware contract, and assisted with the win of two new customers, whose work will kick off this year.
I have also been a constant advocate of HP’s diversity and inclusion efforts. I recently addressed the company at a town hall, discussing the importance of allyship not only in the workplace but in shaping the culture of future generations, and shared my personal journey to improving diversity of thought and action.
I work with different groups within HP to support HP’s work with HBCUs, HP’s African American, Hispanic and Women’s impact networks, and through my participation at the HITEC Summit.
In addition to my work at HP, I teach graduate courses on secure programming and supply chain management at Catholic University. I am a voting member of the DHS Task Force on Supply Chain Risk Management, co-chair the Threat Evaluation Working Group and advise NIST, ANSI and ASME on advanced manufacturing standard. In 2020, I was named to the ASME board of governors and the ANSI board of directors.
What has made you successful in your current role?
As a technology and security practitioner and adviser, I have been successful as CTO of HP Federal by collaborating with my peers in cybersecurity and privacy, data science and program management to improve cybersecurity across HP’s products and our work with federal partners.
Our goal is to advance our technologies to not only meet federal cybersecurity standards from NIST and CMMC, but to continuously push the boundaries to develop the most secure products and infrastructure.
Specifically, the HP Federal and HP Labs teams and I have focused on improving cybersecurity for controlled unclassified information, part of NIST SP 800-171, and engaged with zero trust architecture as a result of NIST SP 800-207. This work has been ongoing since 2009, and continues as new advancements or standards are released.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
The COVID-19 pandemic tested every facet of our lives, personally and professionally. I was extremely proud to see how HP immediately gathered its leadership from around the world and mobilized a response plan to support not only employees, but millions of people affected by the pandemic.
I was proud to assist with HP’s COVID-19 response and linked academic institutions and researchers with mask, ventilator and air purification designs to HP’s 3D printing facilities to quickly manufacture imperative equipment for healthcare providers.
In other areas of my work, I am also dedicated to advancing HP’s presence in the quantum information science field. I am proud to support this critical work by advising HP customers and partners on security considerations for next-generation devices and products, serving as an advisor for the Quantum Economic Development Consortium, and sharing my expertise on quantum encryption for device protections and quantum networks.
I am also working with other leaders within HP on microfluidics research, to be applied across industries.
What are your primary focus areas moving forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
Supply chain security will continue to be a primary focus moving forward, which is critical to address for all U.S. vendors who supply government partners, and to protect U.S. citizens. I am a member of the DHS Supply Chain Risk Management Task Force and help identify and develop consensus strategies that enhance ICT supply chain security for the U.S. government.
My expertise on cybersecurity infrastructure and supply chain liabilities helped the task force to develop a common framework for the bi-directional sharing of SCRM threat information between government and industry. I also helped identify processes and criteria for threat-based evaluation of ICT supplies, products and services in both the private and public sector.
In addition to the DHS task force, I advise the U.S. Council on Competitiveness, where I served as co-chair of the advanced computing roundtable and advised on the future of computing and cybersecurity architectures. This work culminated in the Council’s December 2020 report, “Competing in the Next Economy,” which identified priority areas of investment for U.S. innovation leadership, including areas for technology, supply chain and security innovation.
These findings will be instrumental in guiding the U.S. investment strategy in key technology innovations. I will continue to advise on secure supply chain and cybersecurity in manufacturing and not only aid HP customers on their technology strategies, but the U.S.’ long-term innovation agenda.
How do you help shape the next generation of government leaders/industry leaders?
I currently teach a graduate course at Catholic University on secure programming to engineers, where I stress the importance of learning a programming language. It doesn’t have to be any specific language; the students can take their pick between C++, Python or others that will give them a strong foundation in the mechanics of coding. The key is to take what they learn in the class and put it to practical use.
By doing so, it gives them a much deeper understanding of how new systems can be created and built upon. To me, that’s what mentorship is all about. Helping individuals see how small actions can lead to something bigger. This perspective is essential for the upcoming generation of industry leaders, because they will be expected to have a much broader skillset than ever before.
My goal is to prepare them to think critically, explore new ways of solving problems, and use their strong foundation in engineering and technology to set a clear vision for future innovation.