Technical talent finds careers that matter at Booz Allen
Solving mission-critical challenges for premier clients. A diverse environment where ambitious professionals can stretch themselves and grow. The chance to combine advanced technical skills with a world-class consulting mindset.
These are several reasons why engineers choose Booz Allen. The firm has a rich heritage of hiring diverse engineering talent and encouraging them to strengthen their leadership muscle. They do this because they know that the analytical mindset their engineers applied to clients’ stickiest problems can help achieve ever-greater levels of innovation and propel business forward.
Today, a number of individuals who started their careers as engineers populate Booz Allen’s leadership ranks. Chief financial officer Lloyd Howell, Jr. is one of them, as is Patricia Goforth, Defense Intelligence Agency and joint military intelligence lead. Acquisition and sustainment efforts lead, Richard Johnson, is on that list as well, along with many more.
“We always had to think beyond our immediate scope of responsibility and serve as advocates for ourselves and the programs we worked on”
Each joined Booz Allen to work on critical client engagements that demanded highly technical approaches. Booz Allen placed them in an entrepreneurial environment where they learned to not only devise cutting-edge solutions but to help clients understand the value those solutions could provide.
“We always had to think beyond our immediate scope of responsibility and serve as advocates for ourselves and the programs we worked on,” says Patricia Goforth, who joined Booz Allen as part of a technical consulting team that provided U.S. warfighters with interoperable communications capabilities.
Why Engineers Make Effective Leaders
Booz Allen recently asked some of these former engineers turned senior leaders for their insights on what makes Booz Allen a great place for engineers and other technical professionals, how the firm innovates on behalf of the U.S. military, and why engineers often make effective leaders.
Why should engineers join Booz Allen?
Christopher Ellis (CE), senior vice president, defense and military intelligence lead: We offer careers, not contracts. I had many jobs before I came to Booz Allen but never a career. The firm encouraged me to try new things and learn new skills, and my career went further than I ever could have imagined. Our commitment to long-term career growth is a cornerstone of our culture.
Michael Davenport (MD), senior vice president, Army C5ISR lead: We don’t just find the next “killer app”—we turn it into an effective, scalable solution for our clients. We balance innovation with practical application and develop our own solutions while also serving as a bridge between start-ups and the U.S. military. That’s our sweet spot, and no one does it better.
William Schuler (WS), senior vice president, national agencies lead: At Booz Allen, you can have an impact on countless problems across a broad spectrum of clients. Most people have to change jobs numerous times to do that. Here, you’ll support different projects, build a powerful professional network, and parlay your successes into meaningful career advancement.
How did your background prepare you for the responsibilities that come with leadership?
Khalid Syed (KS), senior vice president, aerospace command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C5ISR) lead (KS): My training as an engineer is why I’m able to recognize and solve all sorts of problems, and this problem-solving ability is my go-to-market approach. I tell clients that we are all in the business of problem solving.
Richard Johnson (RJ), senior vice president, acquisition and sustainment efforts lead: Being a good teacher is a big part of being an effective leader. I’ve always enjoyed imparting my technical skills to those eager to learn. This has prepared me to lead and develop others through teaching, and I continue to stress the importance of learning to everyone at our firm.
CE: My degree in electrical engineering and subsequent professional engagements trained me in a data-driven method of thinking. What I did not learn from my engineering training was the art of leadership. But our firm always put me in a position to learn from the leaders who came before me.
Over the course of your career, how have the military’s technological challenges changed?
Patricia Goforth (PG): When I started at Booz Allen, the military relied on customized communications and technology solutions. With the evolution of the internet and open-source technology, the military has embraced the adoption of commercial solutions. Initially, our firm served in an advisory capacity around these adoptions. We’ve since expanded into an integrator and also act as a capability provider.
WS: At the start of my career, the government heavily funded research and development and pushed the technology envelope. Now, the pace of commercially developed technology advancements often outstrips what the government can develop on its own. As engineers and technologists, we need to keep abreast of the latest commercial technologies. To do this, we’ve stood up innovation centers, technology labs, and industry partnerships across the country. These allow us to translate the best the tech industry can offer into viable solutions.
MD: During my career, cellular max speeds have rapidly increased and new technologies, such as AI and smart phones, have burst onto the scene. The one constant has been our focus on solving the problem. We need to remember that technology can improve military operations and lethality. It’s not about who has the best technology but who can integrate that technology in a way that improves operational readiness.
What can we offer military clients that no one else can?
PG: We approach technical problems with a consulting mindset. We design solutions with the client’s mission in mind. We don’t seek to check a box that says, “We used so-and-so technology.” Solving the problem is our priority.
KS: Our combination of mission expertise, exquisite technical knowledge, and the willingness to look at problems through the lens of innovation. We devise holistic solutions tailored to the client’s particular challenge. We don’t trade in pre-canned, one-size-fits-all ideas that don’t address the specifics of the problem.
What advice do you have for engineers who aspire to grow into leadership roles?
RJ: Don’t think of becoming a manager as the end goal—train yourself to be a business leader. And don’t forget the problem-solving skills you’ve relied on throughout your career. Most engineers love solving problems, and business leaders are required to solve large organizational and business problems. Wherever your career takes you, you will still be in the problem-solving business.
WS: You have to be willing to do the “extra” stuff to round out your game and gain relevant experiences. Seek out opportunities to serve as a deputy for a manager running a technical job. Be curious and ask questions. Understand how to manage risk and learn what it takes to see a project through completion.
MD: I’m reminded of a TED talk about the importance of taking smart risks in order to put yourself in a position to be lucky. Continue to hone your skills, stay uncomfortable and hungry, and embrace change. This will prepare you for the moment a dream opportunity presents itself.
How has Booz Allen empowered you and your career?
CE: One of Booz Allen’s most distinct qualities is that we not only help people succeed, we allow them to fail without fear of repercussions. When I first joined the firm, I saw many leaders receive promotions after losing a large proposal because the quality of the work was evident regardless of the result. You can learn from your failures and grow stronger.
Angela Wallace (AW), senior vice president, engineering and science leader: My career managers always helped me realize that I could have more impact on my clients’ missions from a leadership position, and the firm offered me training and hands-on opportunities to learn. Just as importantly, I received guidance from mentors and had safety nets around me. This gave me the confidence to assume increased responsibility and risk.
How has mentorship contributed to your professional growth?
AW: I’m a believer in the “three mentor” approach. Find one mentor from your team, one from a different part of the firm, and one outside the firm. This will expose you to multiple viewpoints and help you see the bigger picture. Working with people who have higher levels of experience will help you consider the long-term impacts of decisions.
KS: I’ve had several mentors, coaches, and champions. You need all three in my opinion. Mentors tend to be good listeners and can help you develop your own problem-solving approach. My coaches have helped me better understand the firm and navigate the constant changes we all face. And champions will help you land opportunities that you otherwise might not have access to.