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 Information Officer (Private & Public) finalist Steve Hittle, who’s senior vice president and CIO at ECS Federal. Here, he talks primary focus areas, taking professional risks, learning from failures and more.
What has made you successful in your current role?
Being successful as the CIO of ECS is about much more than simply getting the job done. It’s been about managing my team properly, implementing and taking responsibility for the organization’s IT strategy and driving meaningful business growth across all business units and seamlessly integrating multiple acquisitions into the ECS infrastructure without sacrificing our culture. Accountability is my cornerstone for not only myself but my team.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
The loss of my father in 2012; I was stuck in a cycle of learning new tech and trying to ensure that there was nothing in the market that I was not familiar with. When I lost my father, I came to the realization that I had lost my teacher and my guide. My father was not hip to all the new cool tech, but what he taught me was how to take responsibility, how to help shape young minds in a professional environment and most importantly, the value of the “Team Effort.”
At that point, my focus changed from what I could learn for myself to what I could help teach to others and assure that any organization that I worked with had a path for guidance and growth at every level.
What are your primary focus areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
- Business Applications: Internal business functional support applications
- Shared Infrastructure: Information transport, office automation and collaboration enhancements
- Information Assurance Activities: Cybersecurity, secure data availability, data integrity and data reliability
What’s one key thing you learned from a failure you had?
It was an old-school saying that I leaned from my grandfather, but it held true in my professional career and that is that failure teaches you to be open to change. If you have failed, then you were not doing something right. You have to be open to change to move past the failure.
As a leader, you can’t fear change. You need to remain flexible to allow your team and your organization to adapt to the customers and markets ever changing requirements and needs.
What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken?
The biggest risk I have ever taken was leaving a well-paying division head position for a top DOD IT service provider to start my own small business. After two years of being told no and losing bids, we had finally got our first win and I can honestly say that I have never been more proud of an accomplishment. My wife Joanne and I had mortgaged everything we had and were living on credit cards to get by. But that win and the growth of KSH was worth all the risk and sleepless nights.