The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Pinnacle Awards were announced Oct. 11, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place live, in-person Nov. 30.
Next is DOD Industry Executive of the Year (Private Company) finalist Tom Portlock, who’s CEO at Odyssey Systems. Here, he talks success in his current role, proud organizational moments, career advice and more.
What has made you successful in your current role?
Diligence and resilience. I’ve always worked hard and have been determined to make this company the best it can be, while understanding not everything will go our way. We’ve experienced ups and downs during my tenure, as all businesses do. It’s how we react to the ebb and flow that determines our future success.
If we keep our eye on the ultimate mission and the purpose of our company, improving operational readiness, then we can be more resilient and keep a positive attitude even when we’re challenged. As leaders, we must radiate positivity and be straightforward to maintain a culture of resilience.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
Now that we’re looking back at the shock of experiencing a global pandemic for the first time in our lives, I’m most proud and in awe of Odyssey’s response to the pandemic. We were forced to endure not only fear of our personal safety and having our lives uprooted, but also quickly finding a way to continue to serve our defense customers while running a business and holding the mantel of leadership as our employees looked to us for answers.
I am proud of the way we used the time in quarantine to improve employee engagement and come together to find ways to work smarter and listen to each other. We became a high-functioning, collaborative and more compassionate team during the most challenging time in many of our lives.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
The best advice I could give to those looking to follow in my footsteps is to take advantage of any opportunities you are given.
When I joined Odyssey, we were a small company of 35 employees concentrated at Hanscom Air Force Base with small contingents in Washington and Langley. We were subs to the bigs, and we had a lot of lessons to learn still.
Four years later, in 2006, we had our first opportunity as a prime thanks to a set-aside, and I was asked to lead the proposal effort. No one in the company had led a major IDIQ effort, but I’m a firm believer that if you’re given an opportunity and unsure if you can do it, say yes and learn. I’m so thankful we took the risk.
On the heels of that effort, we developed a capability and saw the doors to new ventures opening. Over the next couple of years, I was asked to lead more pursuits and take on additional responsibility both within Operations and Business Development. As Odyssey grew, so did I.
Opportunities come in many shapes and sizes. Some are unexpected and not readily apparent at the time. Others are clearly game changers, which set the stage for future growth (personal and professional). My advice is if you see an opportunity to improve your skills, relationships, and career, believe in yourself, take a leap of faith and give it your all.