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 Legal Counsel finalist in the Private Company category Steve Costalas, chief legal officer at Gainwell Technologies. Here, he shares stories of taking professional risks and proud organizational moments.
What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken?
Several years ago, I served as general counsel of a privately held defense contractor specializing in IT solutions and analytics for the U.S. Intelligence Community and Department of Defense. When that company decided to form and spin off a new healthcare analytics firm, I became the founding CEO. Taking that role was undoubtedly a professional risk.
Was it totally in my comfort zone? No. My background was running global legal organizations. But I wanted to stretch my career and lead an entire business. It didn’t take me long to realize this was an incredible learning opportunity that would influence and shape the rest of my career.
Being a CEO immersed me in the enterprise, involved me in all aspects of our operations ⏤ customer performance, finance, business development and culture ⏤ and enabled me to build and work with a strong senior team to lead our growth. Companies can’t grow without excellent people who have the right skills, people skills and expertise and a culture that inspires them to do their best work.
I am proud to say our strategy worked, and I think I helped build a culture of success. In my three-and-a-half years at the helm, we grew our revenue almost 20-fold and had a successful exit.
When I joined Gainwell as chief legal officer, I built on many learnings from my CEO experience. I see our business holistically, keeping in mind the best interests of our clients, business and people.
I took a risk in becoming a CEO, but it paid off in significantly broadening my experience and made me a better leader. I think it’s critical to continue to take career risks to maximize personal growth and performance.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
When I joined Gainwell as chief legal officer, our company was new, and I had to build my organizations from the ground up. Because of my experience as a CEO, I knew it was essential to find exceptionally talented people who truly understood our business and industry.
Our company is fortunate to have attracted leaders who not only knew how to lead their teams in legal, government relations, contracts, ethics and compliance and organizational transformation but also saw their roles in the overall business context.
They view their roles through the lens of our business and clients. That’s far beyond just providing corporate support, and I think this philosophy is one of the secrets of Gainwell’s success. These colleagues help continuously drive positive business results.
I’m very proud of the teams we’ve put together. They’ve played a key role in accelerating Gainwell’s growth.