WashingtonExec had the opportunity to secure one of the first interviews with new SRA International Executive Vice President of Strategic Development, Deb Alderson. Alderson previously served as SAIC’s Defense Solutions Group President until October 2011. In her interview with WashingtonExec, Alderson talked about the transition process to her new role at SRA as well as what a “good day” looks like to her. WashingtonExec also asked Alderson about hot technology trends she sees coming to the federal market space this year and beyond.
WashingtonExec: How do you like your new position? How would you describe your new role at SRA International?
Deb Alderson: First off, I love my new position. It is very different from where I came from in running a large line organization at SAIC. All of the differences make it even better. My role here is strategic development. I support an organization called the Growth Group and they focus on bidding and winning and building capabilities to help us execute. Then you have the business group line, of course, that is out there every day working with the customer, finding opportunities. I’m in the middle basically working on any type of capture activities, strategic pricing and things that I love to do and also more customer facing activities – getting out there with them, prepositioning for bids. I have the best of both worlds actually.
I love it and the people here are absolutely incredible. The culture at SRA is totally different from where I came from I really wanted to land at a place where they truly appreciated the value of people and that’s definitely SRA.
When I leave – if I have had a full calendar I feel like I had a good day. A lot of my customers from the past were pleased to see that I went to SRA because they have a great reputation so I had a lot of people reaching out to me in the first day or two.
WashingtonExec: What are some plans that you have for the coming year?
Deb Alderson: I have so many plans. I really want to continue to work with the team to get people excited about growth, and the future. It’s reintroducing people to SRA because going from public to private now there is even more goodness in this company than there has ever been. We have everything. We have the capabilities, the passion and the reputation. We can maneuver through the market much better than other companies can. Efficiency is our heritage. I’ve known SRA for twenty-something years and they were always considered by the customer to be those who brought in innovation, understood the importance of best value way before anybody else talked about it.
What’s going to happen here? I’m excited to see. I’ve been with two public companies. People have a tendency to look at growth as the bottom line instead of what it is going to do for people in their careers. Being a public company is not a fun thing in Defense. It creates distractions. Now we don’t have anything that is in our way. It is exciting.
WashingtonExec: What are some hot trends you are looking towards?
Deb Alderson: We are investing in IT lifecycle, Agile solutions and mobility. Mobility is a big deal and with that goes security and we have a very strong cyber security practice. I’ve been with really large companies – I am very, very impressed with our cyber practice. A lot of people just say they do it but we really do it.
WashingtonExec: What is a good day for you?
Deb Alderson: A good day to me is when my calendar is totally full, that shows that I am creating value. My first week at SRA, I hit the ground running. I got thrown into this and I got thrown into that. Literally within two weeks my calendar was full. When I leave – if I have had a full calendar I feel like I had a good day. A lot of my customers from the past were pleased to see that I went to SRA because they have a great reputation so I had a lot of people reaching out to me in the first day or two.
WashingtonExec: Why do you feel outside community involvement is important?
Deb Alderson: The various communities and committees is just a way for you to network, work with good partners, share the goodness of your company so other people look at you as a partner and more importantly gain insight into the industry and try to get ahead of things. I’m a firm believer in the saying that good things happen to people, who put people first – that’s how I was raised and that’s what I do.
WashingtonExec: I see all your awards ready to be hung up behind us. What is something that you are most proud of in your career or in your personal life?
Deb Alderson: It’s my family. I’ve been married for thirty-two years which is unheard of. My two boys are 27 and 22 and are very smart and social. My mother will always be my mentor. She lives three doors up from my house. She is a rock star. My kids think that I can do anything. I have a husband that is supportive and a great mom, and her husband is super too. Family is important because it is what drives you. My mother set the foundation.It sounds simple but a lot of people forget this — to treat people like you would want to be treated. I am very, very blessed. I’m proud of where I am in my career.
I think it is important for people to know that when I left my last job, that was on a Monday and the first company I even thought about reaching out to was SRA on Tuesday and that was it. The first place you want to go is someplace where you trust people. I think that is really, really important.
WashingtonExec: Do you have a favorite book or a book that has impacted you?
Deb Alderson: You are probably not going to like this . . . I work all of the time. I read all of the time at work and I learn from people and watching their behavior. When I read I want to read something for fun. I love Lee Child books. I love anything that is a mystery and has a person in it that can kick butt and take names. I don’t have any business book that I read and had an “aha moment.” I think leadership is really something that you’ve got in you and you just develop it over time – it’s not something that you take from a book.
WashingtonExec: Those are all of my questions for you. Is there anything else that you would like to add or that you would like to talk about?
Deb Alderson: I think it is important for people to know that when I left my last job, that was on a Monday and the first company I even thought about reaching out to was SRA on Tuesday and that was it. The first place you want to go is someplace where you trust people. I think that is really, really important.
Read about Deb Alderson’s recent appointment here.