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When our clients survey the cybersecurity landscape, they see many threats and few resources to help counter them. Overwhelmingly, they think they’re in a no-win situation.
What’s the solution? Change the paradigm! It’s my job to provide my team with the freedom and support it needs to bring about that change. We empower tremendously talented people to drive our approach in cyber. Our purpose—Empower people to change the world—sums up why we’re successful.
That’s one reason why I see the firm continuing its swift rise as a premier destination for the world’s top cyber talent. There’s going to be a tipping point in the not-too-distant future when people are absolutely clamoring to be here. Booz Allen will be like Apple, Facebook, or Google.
Executive Vice President Jim Allen is the client service officer for the Cyber account, supporting the National Security Agency; Cyber Command; and Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps Cyber. The Cyber account also enables cyber-related business in other parts of government and in our commercial and international markets. Jim is co-officer in charge for Booz Allen Dark Labs, our unique approach to tackling cyber challenges.
Jim has nearly 36 years of experience leading or supporting cyber and intelligence missions in the U.S. and abroad. He has advised U.S. and foreign intelligence organizations on intelligence, cyber, technical, and organizational issues; served on advisory boards; and provided expertise to non-profit and research organizations. He was adjunct professor for cyber warfare at Georgetown University from 2012 to 2014.
Jim joined Booz Allen in 2004 after a distinguished career at the National Security Agency (NSA), including service as deputy director for analysis and production. His assignments included positions with other members of the intelligence community.
Prior to joining the NSA in 1987, he served in the U.S. Navy as a cryptologic officer and surface warfare officer, with service afloat and ashore.
Jim holds an M.A. in telecommunications from The George Washington University, an M.A. in national security studies from Georgetown University, and a B.A. with distinction in Russian from University of Virginia.
What excites you about working in cyber at Booz Allen? I love that we approach cyber from the bottom up rather than from the top down. We empower tremendously talented people to drive that approach. My job is to create the conditions to support them.
Why is Booz Allen an ideal firm for you? First, our purpose and values. Through all kinds of challenges, those values have allowed Booz Allen to grow as a firm and me to grow as a person. Second, the firm’s commitment to excellence means that we’re the premier provider in our market, particularly in cyber.
How do you help your clients prepare for the future? We anticipate the challenges on the horizon. We don’t come to our clients when they already have a problem. We lean forward and help them prepare for what’s coming.
What is one of the most pressing needs in cyber? Change the paradigm! There will never be enough cyber professionals to secure what is inherently an unsecure system. That’s the paradigm we have now: defend systems that are operating in place. We need a preventative and automated approach, rather than a predominately reactive one.
What keeps you awake at night? That we might fail to capitalize on some unique intellectual capital or insight. When we see opportunities and know we can make a difference, do we move fast enough? Or are we too deliberate?
What makes you excited to come to work in the morning? Working through interesting challenges, alongside fascinating people.
Have any tips for managing and motivating your people? Help people realize their aspirations. People also have to realize that they really can realize those aspirations, and that we’re here to help them do that.
What mentorship advice would you give someone who took on a new leadership role? Listen. Sometimes mentors feel that they need to just give the answers. It’s better to listen and help someone on their journey toward the answer.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a physicist.
What was your first job? I stood on a street corner and sold newspapers. If my boss didn’t think I sold enough at the end of the day, I had to stand out there longer. It was hard work!
What were you like in high school? I was a very nerdy, geeky, unpopular kid.
What’s your most prized possession? My books.
What’s the most influential book you’ve read? There are so many! One I’d say is Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Kurt Godel was a mathematician, M.C. Escher an artist, and Johann Sebastian Bach, of course, was a musician. The book explores how concepts of thought and beauty within separate disciplines converge to create a harmonious whole.
Who’s a fictional character you identify with? Augie March from Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March. I could really get in Augie’s head.
What’s something not many people know about you? This won’t be shocking to many people, but I’m very passionate about my dog, Nelson. He’s one of a kind.
How do you envision the future of Booz Allen? We will continue to become a top destination for premier talent. There’s going to be a tipping point in the not-too-distant future when when people are absolutely clamoring to be here. Booz Allen will be like Apple, Facebook, or Google. The challenge won’t be finding enough people but rather identifying the best people.