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My favorite quote is from Michelangelo: “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”
I’ve taken these words to heart throughout my career. After earning my undergraduate degree in finance, I joined the Navy, where I became an officer.
After serving as the comptroller for the Navy’s premier biomedical research institute, I entered consulting, the absolute perfect career for me.
Booz Allen empowers people to change the world. Deciding to work here was one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made.
Karen Dahut is an executive vice president and a member of Booz Allen’s leadership team. She leads our civil commercial business, directing the delivery of the firm’s strategic, technology, cyber, and analytics capabilities to both the federal and commercial sectors.
Her commercial clients include Standard & Poor's top 500 corporations in transportation, pharmaceuticals, financial services, and energy. Federal clients include health, finance, and homeland security agencies and departments.
Formerly, Karen was the first to lead an internal team focused on strategic innovation, developing and delivering new and creative solutions to our clients’ toughest challenges. During her tenure, that team imagined and built a dynamic innovation agenda that transformed the firm with new capabilities in cyber, data science, and digital microservices. She was also charged with transforming the firm’s culture by creating a series of cultural components and systems to source, supply, and mature innovation practices while inspiring talent.
Previously, she led Booz Allen’s analytics capability, providing business, mission, performance, policy, intelligence, and operations analysis services to the firm’s government and commercial clients. She has also managed the firm’s U.S. Navy and Marine Corps business, involving staff and engagements in 25 locations worldwide. In this role, she led all aspects of strategic market development, execution, and business operations.
Karen also ran the firm’s economic and business analytics practice, serving clients across the commercial, civil, defense, and security markets with cost, economic, and financial analysis services, including cost estimating, investment analysis, business planning, and performance measurement analysis. Shehas provided oversight for the generation of business cases, cost/benefit analyses, lifecycle cost estimates, and capital asset plans that form the basis of senior decision making and budget formulation.
Karen has extensive experience developing and implementing tools and methodologies to improve the planning, managing, and budgeting of capital assets for public and private sector clients. A recognized expert in public sector asset management, Karen has led a transformation for a defense client; driven innovative financial solutions and improved processes for military services; and led asset management improvement programs in a number of federal agencies.
Prior to joining Booz Allen, she was an officer in the U.S. Navy and served as the comptroller for the Navy’s premier biomedical research institute. In addition, she worked for an organization that provided asset management and economic consulting services.
Karen is a board member of the Northern Virginia Technology Council and serves on the board of trustees for Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland.
She received a B.S. in business finance from Mount St. Mary’s University and an M.S. from the University of Southern California.
What makes you most passionate about your work? Problem-solving. With clients, on behalf of the firm, with our incredible staff, to come up with new ways of doing things.
Were there lessons you learned in the Navy that have influenced your work at Booz Allen? I’ve only made four important decisions as an adult in my life. One was the man I married, the second was to have children, the third was to join the Navy, and the fourth was to join Booz Allen. The Navy taught me leadership in a way that you would never get at that age anywhere else. I was 21 years old, leading people much older and more mature than me. The Navy thrust me into leadership and I had to find my way. That’s something I continue to rely on today.
What are your top tips for motivating people on your team? First, you have to inspire them. They have to be able to see a future that is bright and that they want to be a part of. Second, you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and work with them and be apprenticing along the way. You can’t be afraid to challenge yourself and continually improve your skill set so you can continue to be an essential partner to clients.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever gotten? Aim high. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Whether personally or professionally, shoot for the moon. It’s good to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
What did you want to be when you grew up? A Sports Illustrated photographer. I’m a sports geek. I love any kind of sport or sporting event—I’m a die-hard football fan. I figured I’d get free tickets to all of the events!
Do you play sports now? I’m a runner now, but I did play sports—softball and field hockey, tennis, soccer, lots of different things. I’ve run a couple marathons, lots of half marathons, innumerable 10 milers and 10Ks.
Is there a connection for you between the dedication it takes to run a marathon and your work at Booz Allen? For sure. I’m a competitor. I think that comes from being the third of three girls. I’m competitive in every way, and I think that’s helped me push myself.
What was your first job? Working at McDonald’s. That job taught me all about customer service.
What are you nostalgic for? My daughters are now 23 and 20, and I miss the days when they were younger and still at home. They’re kind, gentle, smart, thoughtful young women.
What’s the most influential book you’ve read? Where Good Ideas Come From, by Steven Johnson. It offers a creative way to ideate and think about hard problems and solve them differently.
What’s an idea or invention you wish you’d thought of? Velcro. I think it’s one of the most useful things we have, and it’s so simple.
What are some of the biggest challenges your clients are facing? It’s the same across all of them: They want a secure and sustainable enterprise. They want to be leveraging technology in creative and holistic ways to get maximum return on their investments. They’re facing huge challenges regarding their workforces and talent, so we’re helping them build human capital and talent strategies. We’re helping them figure out how to continue to pursue their missions in more technologically advanced ways, using things like the explosion of data to find creative solutions to mission challenges.
Why is Booz Allen best positioned to address these challenges? Booz Allen empowers people to change the world. We empower our talent, our clients, and each other. Because we do that, we unleash an incredibly talented population on really hard problems. We naturally integrate and collaborate, and that’s what makes us different. That’s why we can do things other firms aren’t able to do.