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 Cloud Industry Executive of the Year (Public Company) Dan Tucker, who leads Booz Allen’s digital platform capability team. Here, he talks career turning points, shaping the next generation of industry leaders, breaking rules and more.
What has made you successful in your current role?
I’m fundamentally passionate about new and emerging technologies and how to transform organizations with purpose. With the pace of change across the technology landscape accelerating so quickly, it’s a continuous (yet fun) challenge to integrate the best technologies and approaches to mission needs. My curiosity has helped me explore advanced capabilities for my clients that are innovating to create value and achieve better outcomes.
That said, a big credit for my success has to go to my colleagues who have continued to challenge me to think bigger and bolder about what’s possible in government. When I look around at the trailblazers and luminaries around me at Booz Allen, I believe they’ve allowed me to be successful over the years, and bring those solutions to my clients.
Daily, I get to work with some of the most talented technologists in the industry who are innovating in the public sector, and developing ‘first in government’ solutions — from incubating a reusable (and open source) DevSecOps accelerator, to providing FedRAMP High-compliant shared services, to implementing GitOps patterns and practices for commercial grade cloud based platforms.
When I think about what keeps me energized to continue this work, it’s the clients and industry partners who are just as committed to the fusion of technology and mission. From the major cloud service providers to Silicon Valley startups, my role at Booz Allen allows me to work with leaders across government and the technology landscape to experiment and uncover new opportunities for mission innovation.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
One of the moments that shaped my career was when Booz Allen created its Strategic Innovation Group. The firm has been innovating for over a century, but eight years ago, the company deliberately established an innovation function with a support structure to accelerate new ideas, incubate emerging technology solutions for mission-based needs, and purposely develop an ecosystem of strategic technology partners.
I have been fortunate to have been part of that group from the early days and have had the opportunity to work closely with Booz Allen thought leaders across a myriad of disciplines. The ability to work in this group has shaped my path as a leader and has shown me the power of deliberately investing in a culture of innovation.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
I’ve been at Booz Allen for more than 20 years, and to be honest, I couldn’t be prouder to wear our swag and amplify what we stand for as a company. From helping to ensure benefits are provided to veterans, to advancing equity in grants and payments, or assisting citizens to access health care insurance, the portfolio of work that my colleagues are part of is truly changing outcomes for the American public.
Particularly during the pandemic, it’s rewarding to be part of an organization that’s focused on ensuring that the federal government can effectively serve people in times of their greatest need. Booz Allen lives our purpose and values out loud, and it’s what I’m most proud of.
How do you help shape the next generation of government leaders/industry leaders?
I’m fortunate to be leading the talent engagement function for our digital business and it’s the most fun thing I get to do at work. We place a heavy emphasis on training and technical excellence, but also on pulling together the firm’s vast resources for people to access and to help them cultivate a long-term career at Booz Allen.
Ultimately, my primary focus is on putting people in a position to do what motivates them. Some colleagues are motivated to become the best cloud architect they can be and work at the cusp of emerging technology; they want to keep their hands on a keyboard and change what’s possible through innovation. Others are incredibly passionate about mission transformation — they go to bed and wake up thinking about what they can do for Veterans, taxpayers or communities affected by climate change.
Learning about these motivations makes it possible to deploy talent in a way which keeps people motivated, and helps them steadily grow into leadership positions. I consider it my responsibility as a leader to put people in a position where they’re making a difference and get recognized for their professional development, while helping our clients solve complex, real world problems.
Which rules do you think you should break more as a government/industry leader?
One thing I think many industry and government IT leaders would like to disrupt is the traditional federal acquisition process. To meet mission needs at the speed of relevance, we’re seeing more federal organizations break the mold and reimagine acquisition models. One great example is the Air Force and its partnership model to build Platform One.
Rather than navigate the traditional process, they issued a Basic Ordering Agreement to reduce lead time and onboarding, and provide maximum flexibility to meet evolving needs. As our nation competes on the global stage and provides services to the public at the greatest velocity possible, I think that disrupting the current paradigm will help accelerate critical innovation across the federal government.