Ms. Nader is the Chief Information Officer for Perspecta
. Christie leads all aspects of corporate and enterprise technology and provides the strategic vision to enable company growth. In this role, she has overall responsibility for IT budgeting, enterprise applications, infrastructure and communication systems, cybersecurity, and end user support. We wanted to get her thoughts on leadership, lessons learned along the way, and what advice she could pass along to others.
- You’re almost two years into your role as the CIO of Perspecta. Could you share a little bit about the company and what drove you to accept the role?
Perspecta brings a diverse set of capabilities to our U.S. government customers in defense, intelligence, civilian, health care, and state and local markets. We provide technology services in all those areas. The company was formed in April 2018 by merging together 3 companies: Vencore Holding Corporation, KeyPoint Government Solutions, and the U.S. Public Sector Business of DXC Technology and now is a $4B+ company with nearly 14,000 employees.
I was intrigued by the role because it involved the challenge of merging the 3 companies, streamlining and standardizing processes and systems, and setting the foundation for future acquisitions. I was also driven to the role and company since I’m a huge fan of spending time in different industries in your career. I hadn’t worked in GovCon in my 25+ years of working in the DC area (which is shocking since it seems 90% of work in DC is in this industry!) so I knew it would expand my experience and stretch my brain a bit.
- You’ve held senior technology leadership roles for the last 20 years. What advice would you give to leaders that are seeking a CIO or equivalent role?
The biggest piece of advice I’d give is to take off your techie hat and hone your relationship building and communication skills. As the CIO, you want to build great relationships with your peers across the organization (in the corporate functional groups as well as the program/business groups) so you can learn about their worlds and what you can do to make their jobs easier. Then you surround yourself with really smart technical folks who you empower to create solutions and solve problems. So, to prepare for that CIO role or promotions, volunteer to lead cross-functional initiatives. Build relationships so senior leaders across your organization come to you to help solve their problems. Also, get to know your finance team. Talk with them about how they approach IT spend and learn to build ROI business cases as well as creative ways to fund projects (perhaps by capitalizing labor spreading over several years to reduce annual cost).
- You’ve worked in multiple industries over the course of your career, including higher education, financial services, healthcare, and government contracting. Does that diverse background make you a more effective CIO? How so?
Not sure if it makes me more effective, but it definitely gives me a different vantage point when it comes to understanding challenges and has made me very adaptive to change. In the different industries I’ve worked in, each company’s leadership style, culture, budget, and operating model varied tremendously, and each had a different set of regulatory requirements. I find that if you have good relationship and communication skills (back to Question 2 above!), you can easily grasp the business strategy, operational nuances, acronyms, and regulations of any industry and then map it to a technology strategy to enable business success and growth.
At Centurion, I created a hybrid Clinical/IT group to focus on answering the technology challenges facing our nurses, doctors, and other practitioners who worked inside the prisons and jails at which we provided healthcare. It was a totally foreign concept to the clinical team there, but I modeled that after a hybrid Finance/IT group I created at Edelman Financial which focused on answering the technology challenges of our financial advisors. These groups solved IT challenges and provided training and communication for a lot of users who weren’t always tech savvy and needed folks to speak their language. I should note that both of these groups became so business critical, they had a lot of visibility among the CEOs, COOs, CMO, etc. Two different industries, but I deployed a similar model that was just tweaked based on strategy and goals.
- What is the biggest leadership lesson you’ve learned over the last year, given how the pandemic has impacted how work gets done?
I’ve chatted with other leaders about this very topic recently and the consensus was that it’s key to be human and listen to the needs of your team members – and modify how work gets done based on individual needs. Usually, it wouldn’t be a great management model to make all sorts of individual exceptions, but, well, we’re in a pandemic. Unchartered waters here. I’ve seen that when team members are allowed to be honest about their needs based on their home/family situation and they can modify their schedule/location as needed, they will be incredibly productive.
I believe, going forward, companies that typically were anti-remote work will need to offer more flexible options for their employees since their employees have proven they can be effective remotely. And let’s be real, if a company won’t provide that flexibility, there will be several other companies hiring that will. We need to move away from the old school “butts in seats” model to an outcome-based model.
- You are a relatively new SIMCAC member, and we’re so glad to have you! What was it that made you join SIMCAC?
Part of my personal professional goals for 2020 and beyond is to grow my network, be a mentor and be mentored, and get involved in more non-profits. I joined SIMCAC after being prompted by Fara Francis
(Hi Fara!) and discovered that SIMCAC complimented my other memberships by rounding out technology leaders in an even wider range of companies and industries. After just one CxO breakfast meeting with SIMCAC, I walked away with several actionable ideas and a couple coffee/lunch dates set for the coming weeks. I truly appreciate the open sharing and authenticity of the members in the SIMCAC group.