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 Cybersecurity Industry Executive of the Year (Public Company) finalist Kevin McNeill, senior vice president of cyberspace solutions at CACI. Here, he talks key achievements, focus areas going forward, career advice and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2020/2021?
This was a very important year for us, as my division worked towards winning a key recompete for a very large contract with a 5-year period of performance. Our capture team, supported by program management and technical experts, did an excellent job constructing a compelling proposal that ultimately resulted in winning the award. Our success enables the division to continue providing best-in-class technical support for one of CACI’s most valued customers.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
Leaving a stable career in academia after 28 years to take a job in the aerospace defense industry and moving across the country from Arizona to Virginia.
What are your primary focus areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
Succeeding in the transition of research and development into the mission to address a broad range of hard technical challenges — especially in an era of modernization for the Department of Defense, in the context of Great Power Competition.
What’s one key thing you learned from a failure you had?
Many years ago, I was principal investigator on a large cyber-related program. There were several performers for Phase 1, which involved an initial study and design with a proposal for Phase 2. I led a large team with many subcontractors, and we developed a very strong, advanced technical proposal.
Unfortunately, it was also too expensive, and customers judged it as highly risky. I was too focused on technical aspects and did not concentrate sufficiently on customer relationship building, understanding the risk tolerance and realistic cost limitations. It was an important lesson in understanding all the aspects of competing in this industry.
Looking back at your career, what are you most proud of?
Developing talented technical staff to become leaders — by both advising master’s degree and Ph.D. students in my academic career and by mentoring technical staff in the industry.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
To embrace life-long learning — especially from your junior colleagues — and be resilient and adaptive to change to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.