The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Pinnacle Awards were announced Oct. 13, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place virtually Dec. 8.
Next is Intelligence Industry Executive of the Year finalist Chris Bellios, who’s chief operating officer at Hexagon US Federal. Here, he talks focus areas going forward, learning from failures, proud career moments and more.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
When I joined the Marine Corps in 1985, I was fortunate to get a Military Occupation Specialty in Imagery and Photography. I did not know it at the time, but this was a major turning point leading to a career in imagery and geospatial intelligence.
The Marine job assignment provided me training and a background that charted my professional course for the next 36 years.
The career included working as a CIA officer, being assigned to the National Photographic Interpretation Center, where I participated in the formation of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and then culminating with these last 20 years serving as a defense contractor supporting the intelligence community, the very field from where I started in the Marine Corps.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
That’s easy, I am most proud of the Leadership Development Program we created at Hexagon US Federal two years ago. It was a result of our Great Place to Work survey in which we received feedback on the desire to have more leadership training opportunities.
We took that feedback and developed a Leadership Development Program, highlighted by a three-day workshop during which we provide leadership training for 16 leaders within our company. We recently completed our second cohort, and the feedback and impact from the students is inspiring to say the least and makes the hard work worthwhile.
I think at this point in my career, the ability to provide meaningful contributions to people makes me the proudest.
What are your primary focuses going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
The threats to our nation’s security and future are ever-changing and require a creative, diverse and committed workforce in order to address them. A primary focus area for me is continually supporting the creation of meaningful and challenging opportunities for all employees within our company, particularly new hires, especially as we pivot to a hybrid work environment.
A second one is ensuring our supply-chain challenges are overcome by expanding and diversifying our suppliers, all the while optimizing our organization’s cybersecurity posture. These focus areas will improve resilience in our company, the industry and the IC for generations to come.
What’s one key thing you learned from a failure you had?
Earlier in my career I looked at failure as a negative consequence to something I did wrong. Over the years, I have realized that a failure is not always negative, but that it is one of the best ways to learn and grow.
Our greatest leaders have all failed at something. While we strive to succeed in all our endeavors and avoid mistakes or missteps, I have learned that these are the very moments where learning happens, and I now embrace failure as part of the process to improve and appreciate the value of the experience.
So instead of focusing on a specific failure, I now look at it differently and appreciate the knowledge gained as a result. This has taught me to embrace each new challenge in a positive manner and not let the possibility of failure deter my commitment.
Looking back at your career, what are you most proud of?
I am honored when I hear that I may have had a positive impact on someone’s career. This may be a perspective that you tend to appreciate later in your profession but leaving someone with positive thoughts of your time working together is what it’s all about.
Over our careers, we spend so much time at the office and working, and so it brings me great joy to hear or be reminded of a time where a conversation or coaching or even a period of accomplishment sticks with people you have worked with over the years.
I am fortunate to have worked with so many wonderful people and it is deeply gratifying to have been able to help make those times memorable in some way.