The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Chief Officer Awards were announced March 25, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place live, in-person May 11 at the The Ritz-Carlton in McLean, Virginia.
Next is Chief Technology Officer (Private & Public) finalist Kyle Tuberson, CTO of ICF. Here, he talks key recent achievements, overcoming career struggles, primary focus areas going forward and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2021/2022?
As ICF’s first chief technology officer — a role and office I helped create — I’m proud of our technology and digital strategy journey. In my current role, and even before, I’ve helped guide ICF’s leadership and business partners toward viewing technology as a true business driver. One that generates value across the company and for our clients. And stressing the importance of making ICF’s technology practice a larger, more integral part of our business.
Together, we’ve drawn on ICF’s entrepreneurial spirit to identify opportunities to develop, grow and expand ICF’s technology capabilities. This led to a series of acquisitions, starting with cloud-based platform services provider ITG in 2020. In the last year, we added federal health IT provider ESAC and IT modernization and digital transformation solutions provider Creative Systems and Consulting. And we continue to make investments that bring value to our clients and greater impact to their missions.
Now, we’re a leading implementer of the three most highly adopted low-code platforms in the federal civilian government. And we were named Appian’s 2021 Trusted Delivery Partner in the Public Sector and ServiceNow Americas’ U.S. Federal Partner of the Year.
But it’s our highly sought-after combination of deep domain expertise, strong analytic capabilities and the ability to architect and develop technology at scale that I think truly sets us apart. I’m very proud of my role in helping us get here, and excited about what’s to come.
What has made you successful in your current role?
Empathy, collaboration and creativity. I was fortunate to live in many different countries as a child and while living overseas, I quickly learned the value of empathy — that getting big things done isn’t something you can do alone.
As CTO, I’m able to step into the shoes of organizations and help them see the value of technology. Digital transformation isn’t a one-time effort, so communication is key to helping others see themselves as part of the larger narrative and journey.
When I joined ICF, I was struck by a culture that embraces entrepreneurship. Knowing that new ideas are welcome and encouraged has fostered better collaboration with my team. We do our best work for our government agency partners when we work together.
And finally, you have to make room for creativity. AI, machine learning, Internet of Things, cloud — these are complex things that can be tough to explain. So when we present our ideas, we use visualizations and communication techniques to make these concepts more relatable and the value to the mission more clear.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
Being part of ICF means being surrounded by really smart people working together — and using technology — to tackle tough challenges. Our climate experts bring a wealth of analytical knowledge as they develop paths for clients toward a sustainable and low-carbon future. Our public health experts are applying AI and machine learning to disease surveillance — a critical resource throughout the pandemic — to help our clients get ahead of the next big threat. Over my 12+ years at ICF, I’m most proud of my role in working collaboratively with these incredible experts to harness the power of technology to bring world-changing ideas to life.
Often, the “T” in CTO stands for translator. I’m helping domain and mission teams understand how technology and more lean ways of working can be leveraged as a tool in their space and the value it brings when properly integrated into teams. In a sense, I translate the technical aspects to help prepare agency mission leaders for what’s to come.
What are your primary focus areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
In our industry, there’s a big push around modernization and transformation, a heavy focus on cloud disruption. But this push isn’t standalone. It’s about trying to make big things happen by leveraging cloud. Transformation is an opportunity to think about how technology can make things better; how we can protect the nation from the next big disease outbreak or combat the effects of rising sea levels.
Part of this is bringing teams with different backgrounds together to make sure we’re working in the best way possible. Addressing our world’s growing challenges requires collaboration, diverse perspectives and empathy. By breaking down silos, we can work together around a common cause, communicate across teams and rethink how to leverage technology to achieve big undertakings.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
Be fast. Be connected. Be OK with being uncomfortable. When facing challenges that put you outside of your comfort zone, stay nimble and continue learning from those around you. Don’t worry about failure or fear — use them as opportunities for personal and professional growth. The biggest advances in my career happened when things felt tough. Just like in our technical work, we need to embrace trial and error as part of our own continuous improvement. Without being pushed, we can never grow.
What was your biggest career struggle and how did you overcome it?
I’m a natural introvert, but also the face of ICF’s technology practice. As CTO, I do public speaking, but this wasn’t always easy. I’ve become more comfortable with those scenarios by learning as I go. Incrementally, I get better by doing. I’ve come to embrace any lingering fear.
In meetings, I’m always listening and thinking. I’ve come to appreciate that as a strength. I found that being the loudest voice in the room isn’t the only way to have my voice heard.