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 Space Industry Executive of the Year (Public Company) finalist Rich Aves, who’s executive vice president of space and geospatial solutions at Parsons Corp. Here, he talks key achievements, focus areas going forward, turning points in his career and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2020/2021?
We had several key achievements the past two years. First of all, we completed two successful acquisitions. The first was the Braxton Science and Technology Group, which expanded our space offerings to include satellite ground command and control expertise, tools and software; and expanded our customer footprint in NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Naval Research Laboratory, the Air Force Research Laboratory and various intelligence community customers.
The second was Echo Ridge, which brought in strong software and hardware capabilities related to radio frequency spectrum simulation, software defined radios, alt positioning, navigation and timing. The real achievement related to these acquisitions is coming from the integration we are doing with these capabilities across Parsons to expand our service offerings and solutions we can offer customers.
We also secured some big contract wins related to space situational awareness, information security-related space and support to Enterprise Ground Services. We also successfully completed payload integration for three multimanifested space vehicle launches.
What has made you successful in your current role?
The primary attributes that have led to my success are adaptability and an ability to work with people of varying backgrounds. Adaptability is critical in being able to quickly learn a job and provide value. The ability to work with people of varied backgrounds is critical given the dynamic nature of running a business and the unique requirements of the missions we support.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
I’ve had a few inflection points in my career and luckily, they have all been for the better. The first one was my decision to leave active duty naval service after 10 years. At that point, I was halfway to retirement, which certainly has lifetime benefits, but I knew that I wanted to pursue another career in addition to being able to raise a family without the stresses of deployed military life.
The second inflection point was when I decided to leave a company I was at for 12 years and go to OGSystems. I had a lot of stability at the previous role and enjoyed the people I worked with, but I knew I wanted to explore this opportunity to make a big impact on this 200-person company.
This opportunity led to me playing a prominent role in doubling the size of OGSystems, which led to our acquisition and eventually, the role I’m in now at Parsons.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
I’m most proud of how my current organization collaborates and their level of motivation to find new ways to address their customer’s needs.
What are your primary focus areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
I’m focused on creating unique solutions for our space and intelligence community customers that address their most important mission needs. We as Parsons bring multiple capabilities across all of our sectors that currently support national security, but I want to further our integration of these capabilities and couple them with IRAD investments that will create new solutions.
Specific areas we are looking at are satellite command and control and the ability to use commercial antenna networks in new ways to support the rapid proliferation of constellations, alternate forms of positioning, navigation, timing and cyber resiliency of data across the space continuum from ground to each orbital regime.
How do you help shape the next generation of government leaders/industry leaders?
One of the best ways to shape future leaders is to encourage an innovative mindset and empower them to take risks. Without this, leaders will focus on management and optimization of the current as opposed to accomplishing things that have never been done before.
What’s one key thing you learned from a failure you had?
Persistence and incorporating lessons learned are crucial for future success.
What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken?
The biggest professional risk I ever took was joining OGSystems. I knew the owners, but did not have a defined role. The only job description I had was that they wanted me to, “Come over and kick butt.”
I quickly migrated into a business development role and was capture manager for most of the major wins we had in my time there.
Looking back at your career, what are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the professional relationships I’ve developed and the opportunities that have been created by those relationships. I’ve been lucky to work with some incredible people who have put their faith in me to continually assume positions of increasing responsibility and enabled me to be successful.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
The best advice I can give someone who wants to pursue a similar path is don’t think there’s an exact recipe to follow to get here. Make sure you consistently add value to whatever role you’re in and act like a leader, even if your job title doesn’t match that role. People will recognize competency and go to people they know can achieve results. And always be results oriented.