The winners of this year’s GovCon Awards will be announced this Wednesday, and until then, WashingtonExec will highlight some of the finalists. Today’s spotlight is on Siemens Government Technologies, nominated in the Contractor of the Year (greater than $300 million) category. CEO Barbara Humpton talked with WashingtonExec about her company’s growth, some of the challenges it’s overcome and the importance of employee engagement.
WashingtonExec: You’ve been in this role as CEO for two years. Tell us about your role at Siemens Government Technologies.
Barbara Humpton: I’ve been thrilled to serve as the CEO of Siemens Government Technologies for the past two years. Over that time, I’m happy to report we have experienced double-digit growth in our focus markets. This growth has been possible due to the compelling portfolio of products and solutions that Siemens has to offer.
Over the last six years, Siemens has really focused on educating our government customers on our solutions in areas like: energy, infrastructure and automation. This introduction has filled a need for our customers and been a growth driver for our business. We have much more to accomplish, and I’m excited about our upcoming opportunities.
WashingtonExec: Could you talk a little bit about the award you are up for with the GovCon Awards?
Barbara Humpton: Yes, we are pleased to have been recognized as a finalist in the category of large business for the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce for the GovCon Awards. This is one of those premier awards within the government contracting community. The recognition by our peers, by other leaders in this industry noting the advances that we’ve made; it would be wonderful recognition for our employees and something we would be proud to share with our customers as well.
WashingtonExec: In your career, have you faced any challenges specifically being a woman CEO in your industry?
Barbara Humpton: You know, I get that question quite frequently. It’s interesting because I actually think it is almost the opposite. This has been a tremendous time of opportunity for women in this industry. There have been some women, of course, who have risen to the top of some of the most important aerospace and defense companies leading programs of critical national interest. We’ve seen women starting small businesses who have introduced innovation — and, in fact, the awards themselves this year include many companies that are led by women.
Importantly, we’ve also seen women take leadership roles within government. I think that has made it easier in the industry — to know that we have peers in government who are seeking to improve services for citizens and accomplish critical governmental missions — which those of us in industry are so proud to support.
Those government leaders have been reaching out to industry and finding women who are like minded with similar backgrounds — and it turns out, we’ve got a great peer network that’s grown together over the last several decades.
WashingtonExec: Where do you predict growth in your industry and the energy space as the overall federal budget is declining?
Barbara Humpton: In energy in particular, there is actually quite a bit of work that can be done for federal customers with private investments. One such means to do so is through energy savings performance contracting. When we install more efficient gear, we’re actually able to guarantee the performance of that and use the savings in our customer’s utility bills to pay off the financing for very large projects. We are doing that with the Navy right now — their premier energy project is Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, where they’ve selected us to go fence to fence for an energy makeover.
Ultimately, we’re talking about literally billions of dollars of addressable energy savings across the federal government, and there is a community of financiers in the federal space making all of that work possible. I’m actually very bullish on that side of the equation because regardless of politics or policy, everybody understands the value of reducing expenses and finding good solutions for the taxpayer.
I actually think we are going to see more of that being done across government with various services that can be monetized in one way or another. Truly, I think that the new digital tools that industry is bringing to market today are going to transform the way our federal customers are working.
WashingtonExec: As you have seen double-digit growth over the last two years, what are some of the challenges you’ve experienced?
Barbara Humpton: Really the critical thing to any growing business is making sure that you have the right mix of skills and capabilities to support the growth of your business. As we’ve been making our hiring decisions, we’re asking ourselves not “what do we need to fill this job?” or “backfill a position that was left by another employee.” We are actually asking, “where are we going to be in the next couple of years and can we attract the kind of talent that is going to help us be proficient when we get to that step?” It doesn’t matter the technology field; we are all in the people business.
WashingtonExec: How does your organization maintain engagement with all levels of your employees?
Barbara Humpton: We actually have a really robust business cadence, where we’ve designed in key intersection points to share information with employees. For instance, we have quarterly business reviews, where we invite extended leadership team members to help facilitate information flow down through the organization.
We also provide employees with key business updates through face-to-face quarterly town halls and in “skip level” meetings, as well as in broadcast email communiques and in our employee newsletter. Of course, communication is two-way, which is why we’re in the process right now of implementing quarterly pulse surveys, so employees can tell us how we’re doing on engagement and communication.
We think hearing from our employees more regularly — outside of an annual employee engagement survey — will go a long way to bolster our ability to facilitate dialogue and identify gaps in understanding sooner. Communication is a vitally important priority for us.
WashingtonExec: What projects are you looking forward to in the next year or two?
Barbara Humpton: We’re incredibly proud of our energy business and the projects like the National Park Service, featured in our application for the GovCon Awards. One of the most rewarding aspects for our energy work is that we see the fruits of our labor almost instantaneously.
For instance, when people visit the National Mall, they can see more efficient lighting and more efficient use of water — two very specific manifestations of energy conservation at work — helping the National Park Service reinforce their own core mission of conservation while also being effective stewards of taxpayer dollars.
In parallel with our rapidly growing energy business, another exciting thing we are working on these days — and is a major focus of the Siemens Corporation — is electric propulsion for aircraft. Think about the electrification of everything right now and then how all of those things become interconnected. In the electrification chain, one of the biggest energy consumers is transportation. We’ve been focused on aviation and a Siemens team in Germany has invented a lightweight, very powerful motor. We refer to this as the e-aircraft — the “e” is for electric. That motor is now going to be introduced into the U.S. market.
If you think about what electric flight might do for us; it’s quiet, it’s good for the environment and it has real operational advantages for the customers we serve. We think we’ll see a transformation of how people fly; first regionally and then for longer hauls. However before that, we think the Department of Defense will be an early experimenter with the technology. We are looking for Siemens to be a major innovator in this space along with some other exciting companies. The race is underway to electric flight. Watch this space — it is going to be exciting!
WashingtonExec: What is something most people don’t know about you personally?
Barbara Humpton: How about that I studied Italian and art history in college along with my math degree. I’m a big believer now that those intercultural experiences make you a far better business person at the end of the day.