Archive for 'Featured Interview'

Why Personal Brand Matters

Posted on January 31, 2012, by , under Featured Interview.

John Hillen, CEO of Sotera

Amid a high unemployment rate and future budget cuts in the federal government, it has perhaps never been more important to have a strong personal brand. In the government contracting sector especially, your reputation is your key asset. Whether you’re looking for a career change or moving up the ranks, you should always work to position yourself for success. And that’s where your personal brand comes into play.

Personal brand? you may ask.

Think of it like this: You’re planning to make a major purchase, one where your credit score matters. Do you wait until the day before your planned purchase to check your score? Of course not. The same goes with your personal brand. Manage it the same way as your credit score: continuously review, improve and recalibrate.

Although everyone has a brand, most don’t know how to manage it. Personal branding is neither marketing or self-promotional; it’s about presenting yourself in the best possible light, whether it’s among your peers, before a potential employer, or the undersecretary at a federal agency. It’s not about the work you have done in the past, but about the work you’re capable of.

Building your brand and raising your reputation capital is simple: Be genuine, stand out, and make others realize it. Figure out what sets you apart. Look at market leaders such as Apple, Coca-Cola and Google — what differentiates them from the competition? Brand promise must be authentic, magnetic and distinctive.

The mistake many do is that they begin working on their personal brand too late; just like it takes time to improve your credit core, fixing a flawed or mismatched brand requires energy and effort. Many also wrongly believe that personal brands are limited to certain professionals. No matter which company you support in government contracting, a strong brand will help you. Just look at John Hillen, CEO and president of Sotera Defense Solutions, who has perhaps the best personal brand of anyone I know. At age 46, Hillen is a war hero, academic, policy wonk, speaker, author and now successful business owner whose brand has not only enabled him to become a well-recognized name, but has also helped him raise money for charities.

Your personal brand, in Hillen’s words, will speak more powerfully than your resume. How you then decide to use your brand is entirely up to you. The sky’s the limit, but get your name out there: And while you’re out there, remember the golden rule of personal branding: It’s not whom you know, but who wants to know you that really counts.

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Spotlight On Eileen Cassidy Rivera: The Five Keys To GovCon Corporate Branding

Posted on January 13, 2012, by , under Featured Interview.

Eileen Cassidy Rivera

Last month Eileen Cassidy Rivera, former Vice President of Communications and Investor Relations at Vangent, wrote an article in Washington Technology that encompassed my two niches…personal branding and government contracting.

Eileen talked about how valuable company branding is in the world of government contracting…weak-branded companies can get lost in the competition.

Listing the top five ways to guarantee a strong company presence, Eileen believes that simple, straightforward language is one way to win contracts. “A much more compelling way to communicate what a company does differently is to promote the outcomes or results it accomplishes for its customers – in plain English,” said Eileen.

A great idea that Vangent developed was the “brand playbook.” The “brand playbook” was spurred out of a lack of standards for how employees describe their company to potential buyers. I agree with Eileen, making sure the employee understands your company’s offerings matters just as much as how that employee describes what their company represents. Without an understanding of the core mission of the company, your employee is just another person vying for a contract.

Eileen’s third point was that people make business, not companies. Executives should not shy away from bringing a personal or emotional connection to their offerings…how else will potential buyers remember your company?

“The first question asked by any new employee is about the company’s culture, not about the company’s strategy,” said Eileen. She is right, companies spend large amounts of time developing strategy and reading over the “employee handbook” when really, it is the company culture that maintains and retains employees.

Eileen’s fifth and final point is by far the most important message to take away. Government contracting will be going through major transitions within the next couple years…when developing strategies to make a leaner company, cutting out platforms and tools that help promote your company’s brand is just about the worst thing an executive can do.

*Vangent was acquired by General Dynamics September of 2011.

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Interview With Networking Guru Devora Zack

Posted on September 1, 2011, by , under Featured Interview.

This month I had the pleasure of interviewing Devora Zack, networking extraordinaire and founder of the team management, leadership, and communications consulting firm Only Connect Consulting. I took a more practical approach for our interview, asking Zack what an individual’s next step should be once they receive a business card, and what is a basic concept that most executives do not understand about networking. Much like her book, Networking For People Who Hate Networking Zack brings practical answers to the world of professional connecting.

What lead you to your current career path?

My career path is quite unusual.  I have worked professionally as an actress, disc jockey, and chamber maid – among other things!  However, my work now as a leadership development consultant, trainer, and author combines many of of my passions – building connections among people and improving relationships.  My MBA in organizational behavior (Cornell), BA in communications and psychology (Penn) and certifications in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator all contribute to my career direction as well.

What is the next step someone should take after they receive that business card at an event?

I’m glad you asked.  The very first step takes place right after taking the card.  Take a moment to write a few key facts about that person on the front of the card.  For example, where you met, their interests, pertinent facts, or how to pronounce their name.  This way your follow up is specific and genuine.  Follow up within 2 days, while you both still remember each other.  There is no point spending your time or money on networking if you don’t follow up.  Even following up with one person per event is fine.  If you’re not following up, you’re not networking!

What is something most executives do not understand about networking?

Networking done right (i.e. yielding positive, lasting, mutually beneficial relationships) only works when we are authentic.  A lot of executives hate the traditional idea of networking because of an erroneous assumption that networking requires being phony, which is draining to most of us.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Outcome-driven networking requires being real, which is energizing and puts you in your best light.  This also means successful networking strategies differ, based on individual’s personality types.  I go into much more detail on this – including a self-assessment – in my book Networking for People Who Hate Networking (Berrett-Koehler 2010).

Is there a difference between networking and connecting?

That is an insightful question!  Really…no. When understood and executed correctly, networking is simply about building meaningful connections, one person at a time.  The title “Connecting for People Who Hate Connecting” isn’t quite as snappy, though.

How has your profession changed since the explosion of online and social media?

I do a lot of live training seminars.  Some organizations have turned to online training because it eliminates travel and expense.  However what they lose is person-to-person connection so the value is greatly diluted.  I’m still busy!

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Todd Stottlemyer: CEO, NonProfit Chairman, Abe Lincoln Admirer

Posted on June 10, 2011, by , under Featured Interview.

You might already know Todd Stottlemyer as the CEO of Interactive Technology Solutions, or co-founder of Apogen, but did you know he is also a founding member of Helping Children Worldwide? Helping Children Worldwide is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit founded in 1999 that works with children in Northern Virginia as well as Sierra Leone. Stottlemyer’s involvement in the nonprofit sector is reflective of his belief that teams foster and create change; with every individual there is a team to thank right behind them.

We also talked about personal branding, Stottlemyer named Abe Lincoln as the ultimate “authentic personal brand.” Like the nonprofit sector, Stottlemyer believes that when building professional relationships, you must focus on your connection’s needs.  This way you create a sustainable, mutually beneficial relationship.

What is your background?

I am currently the CEO of ITSolutions, a mid-market information technology and management solutions company that serves both government and commercial customers, with a strong focus on the Federal health IT market.  We are backed by private equity firm SnowPhipps.  Prior to ITSolutions, I co-founded and led Apogen Technologies as Chief Executive Officer.  Like ITSolutions, Apogen was also private equity backed by Arlington Capital Partners.  In late 2005 Apogen was sold to QinetiQ.  I also served as Chief Financial Officer of BTG (now part of L-3) and as a member of the senior executive management team of BDM International (now part of Northrop Grumman).  I have also had some very interesting work experiences outside of the technology industry, including serving as President of McGuireWoods Consulting, President and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation’s largest business advocacy group, and as an Executive Vice President with the Inova Health System.

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Anne Altman: Personal Brand Means Helping Your Community

Posted on May 31, 2011, by , under Featured Interview.

Despite  Anne Altman’s longtime career in the private sector, Altman views her professional life as one dedicated to the public sector. She believes creativity is vital to establishing your brand and growing your company and that innovation is most useful when developed by teamwork and cooperation. Having a large network of business and personal friends not only has helped her in career, but has also provided her with a variety of outlooks and world views. Altman also strongly believes that you must maintain balance between forwarding your career and giving back to your community, as shown by the various her advisory positions in the academic, nonprofit and music sectors.

What’s your current role at IBM?

I currently serve as General Manager of IBM’s Global Public Sector. In this role I’m responsible for the strategy, direction, and development of solutions for public sector clients worldwide spanning federal and state and local government, education, health care, life sciences and pharmaceutical industries. I work with a team of more than 7,000 technology, research and consulting services practitioners globally who are playing a key role in IBM’s internationally recognized smarter planet campaign.

How would you describe your personal brand?

Passionate and dedicated to the Public Sector. I joined IBM in 1981 as a systems engineer supporting the Federal Bureau of Investigation and then went on to many other roles within IBM – with the exception of a few, all in the public sector. I’ve been privileged to have worked in re-establishing IBM’s position in the Federal market, and now combining health care, life sciences and education industries to my government portfolio in a global capacity. In my IBM career, while many things have changed – there’s been one constant – namely, helping clients leverage hardware and software technologies, research and deep expertise to improve their operations and deliver quality services their respective constituents.

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Stu Shea: Advice From A College Professor, How To Expand Your Network, And The Social Media Community

Posted on May 23, 2011, by , under Featured Interview.

Stu Shea, founder of the non-profit USGIF, gives a thoughtful and informative interview about personal branding, social media, and how the best piece of advice he has ever received was from his college thesis professor.

Shea believes that an emphasis on community team building and that the wisdom of crowds sparks business innovation, social media is one way to start the discussion. Regarding personal brand, Shea suggests that most executives relay on a narrow set of skills to get through life, instead of engaging with a variety of people and outlets.

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Career Transition Coach Stan Krejci: How To Have A Successful Interview

Posted on May 18, 2011, by , under Featured Interview.

Stan Krejci, founder of the career and transition consulting company SK Group LLC, talks about how to have a great interview and why even start-up companies need a board of advisors.

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Communications Expert Shana Glickfield: How To Use Social Media

Posted on May 7, 2011, by , under Featured Interview, Uncategorized.

Shana Glickfield, partner at the public affairs communications group Beekeeper, discusses the ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ when building a personal brand. The goal of the Beekeeper Group is to lead the public affairs sector “towards a community-based, hive-driven approach.” Glickfield also lists some basic first steps when starting your online brand.

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Geeta Nayyar: Social Media and HealthCare IT

Posted on April 22, 2011, by , under Featured Interview.

Geeta Nayyar, Principle Medical Officer at Vangent, Inc. and George Washington University Professor , forecasts where healthcare IT will be in the next 10 years and how social media relates to her work in the healthcare IT industry.

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Paul Leslie: Using Personal Brand For Competitive Advantage

Posted on April 20, 2011, by , under Featured Interview.

Paul Leslie, a seasoned professional in building companies to market value and founder of Sydalco Consulting, talks about why giving back to your community is important in building a personal brand. Leslie also explains how maintaining relationships is critical in achieving a competitive advantage and up-to-date information in your industry.

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