The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Chief Officer Awards were announced March 17, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place live, in-person May 10.
Next is Chief Information Officer finalist in the Public Company category Chris Soong, who’s executive vice president and CIO of HII Mission Technologies. Here, he talks key achievements, taking professional risks, career turning points and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2022 / 2023?
I joined HII with the acquisition of Alion Science and Technology where I was the CIO. When Alion was acquired, I became the CIO of HII’s Mission Technologies and now I serve as the executive vice president and CIO of HII.
When Alion was acquired, the company embarked on a large-scale, integration and change management project called Beyond 2022. This effort brought Alion’s 4,000 employees into HII’s infrastructure with 36,000 employees.
I had the opportunity to lead the company through this digital transformation and merger and acquisition activities. Together with my team, we successfully completed the integration of two $1 billion+ businesses in 12 months.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
The turning point in my career happened shortly after I graduated from college. I had worked in my family’s company business in the mid-west as an intern ever since junior high school and I was on point to help lead the company after I graduated from college. It was a well-known construction and structural engineering company in the mid-west. I went to Virginia Tech and studied to be a civil engineer.
Since I was in this area, I ultimately started applying for jobs in the DC area. When I was applying to jobs, recruiters interpreted my CE degree as a computer engineering degree. I had interviews for computer engineering and IT jobs, and I got several opportunities.
I ended up taking an IT position, leaving my opportunity with my family to be an IT consultant at American Management Systems. It literally changed my path and career trajectory.
How do you help shape the next generation of industry leaders?
As a leader, you are always shaping the next generation of leaders. You hope to inspire your kids, co-workers and your teams by providing them the opportunity to grow, learn and thrive in their environments. I think one of the biggest rewards as a mentor and leader is seeing the development and advancement of those around you.
As my kids grew up, I found myself gravitating to assist or lead in some capacity their sporting events and school functions. When my daughter went to Virginia Tech, my alma mater, through my job I was presented with the opportunity to be an Alumni Board member of Virginia Tech’s Department of Civil Engineering. That eventually led me to also serve on the Alumni Board for Virginia Tech’s Business Information Management department where I help advance the educational goals of the students. I am also a mentor at Columbia University’s Center for Technology Management and Northeastern University where I provide graduate students with individualized guidance as they develop their Master’s project.
I also enjoy collaborating on IT challenges with my industry counterparts. I am a member and serve on several leading industry CIO committees, where I lead and host meetings to discuss a range of topics from digital transformation and cyber security to technology, DFARS, CMMC audits and compliance.
What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken?
In my career I have overseen many types of organizations from marquee companies to telecommunications providers and large defense companies. I have managed up to 625 employees in four continents, and I think the biggest professional risk I took was leaving Booz Allen Hamilton, a well-known large business and going to Alion Science and Technology, a private equity held company with an end goal of selling within three to five years. But this also turned out to be one of my greatest accomplishments as CIO.