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I started skydiving in 1980 and never looked back. In 16 years, I jumped over 3,600 times out of an airplane and was completely hooked.
The skydiving teams I was part of broke four world records for largest free-fall formations. And in our last record breaker from 1992, 200 of us held hands in the air in the world’s largest freefall formation, having jumped from 24,000 feet from six different aircraft.
The thrill-seeking lifestyle of sport skydiving was so much more than I ever imagined it would be and it fit well with my other favorite outdoor sports of skiing, scuba diving, and hiking. From very early on, I learned that things that are worthwhile are rarely easy.
Those same rewards of achievement motivate me professionally. Certainly, one of the most incredibly rewarding projects I’ve been involved in was the reconstruction of the World Trade Center in New York City.
And as a vice president for our infrastructure and environment business here at Booz Allen, I support our federal clients in solving some of their most complex problems. The rewards? Building and executing work that changes the world for the better.
Vice President Jeffery Willis is a leader for the firm’s infrastructure, engineering, and installations support initiatives. Jeffery has more than 30 years of experience in the administration, management, and implementation of program and construction management, architectural/engineering design and support requirements directly related to federal, state, and local facilities planning, programming, engineering, and management in the U.S and abroad.
Before joining Booz Allen, Jeffery was a partner and business unit senior vice president with The Louis Berger Group. He supervised more than 200 staff with full operations profit-and-loss responsibility and was primarily responsible for all federal, state, and local program and construction management activities supporting large-scale infrastructure, aviation and transportation, facilities, and power projects.
Jeffery has ensured quality schedule and budgetary performance for some of the world’s largest facility program and construction management projects, including the $20 billion World Trade Center redevelopment program in lower Manhattan and the multibillion-dollar U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations new Embassy capital program requirements.
Prior to the Louis Berger Group, he was a senior vice president and partner with Alarm Data Inc. and a consultant at The World Bank.
Jeffery has a B.S. in electrical engineering from Capital College and an M.B.A. from the University of Maryland. In addition, he has project management certifications from The George Washington University.
Why are you passionate about the work you do at Booz Allen? We build things—bridges, roads, and buildings—that make the world a better place. That gives me a tremendous amount of job satisfaction. I think all of us should want to leave a positive legacy.
What excites you about working in infrastructure and environment? Our clients are constantly faced with tough challenges. When you provide them with innovative solutions and deliver a higher quality model, it helps our clients do their work better. That really motivates and energizes me.
Why is Booz Allen an ideal firm for someone with your expertise and skills? I don’t believe there is another firm in existence that has the innate ability to adapt to a changing world as efficiently or as effectively as Booz Allen. This firm has a reputation for being a thought leader and innovator when it comes to solving the world’s most complex problems. I want to be a part of that culture.
What is a highlight of your career? I oversaw the reconstruction of the World Trade Center in New York City from 2001 to 2016, redeveloping $20 billion worth of infrastructure and 10 million square feet of office space. Rebuilding something that has such overwhelming emotions associated with it was incredibly moving and gratifying on a professional and personal level.
How are you working to build the next generation of infrastructure professionals? I do my best to focus and help them be the CEOs of their own careers. At Booz Allen, even the most junior professional can craft a solid career path by networking and having great mentors, and getting leadership engaged to help them along the way.
What are the three most pressing needs in infrastructure? First, modernization from a maintenance perspective is crucial. Right now, the country needs approximately $3 trillion of infrastructure investment not only to modernize but also to repair. Second, reinvestment to modernize and expand is needed to accommodate the country’s growth. And third, we need a constant assessment of the state of the country’s infrastructure and an ability to ensure that we don’t fall behind ever again
What makes you excited to come to work in the morning? Every day is different. It’s not like putting bolts and nuts together every day, it’s always changing. It’s always dynamic.
What are your three tips for managing and motivating your people? One, lead by example. Two, embolden your subordinates. And three, listen twice as much as you speak.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? At a conference in Chicago, Warren Buffet once told me that the best investment I’d ever make was to be debt free.
What mentorship advice would you give someone who took on a new leadership role? As a leader, your job is to make your people better and provide them with needed resources, exciting work, and positive support to enhance their overall satisfaction.
What advice would you give yourself as a young professional? Be more forgiving. And focus more on the positive rather than the negative.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A pilot. And guess what I got to be when I grew up? A pilot. And I wanted to skydive, and I got four world records out of that! I’ve had a wonderful life, actually, and have been far more blessed than I could have ever hoped for
What was your first job? In 5th and 6th grade, I delivered the Washington Post newspaper to all the officers’ quarters on the military base where my family lived. There were no days off on that job. The job got worse on the holidays because of all the inserts and advertisements. Those newspapers were heavy!
What’s an old item you can’t get rid of? Record player. I’ve got records!
What’s something not many people know about you? I was a member of a Mount Everest Nepal expedition in 2007 and am a Level 4 ice hockey coach. .
What’s been your biggest accomplishment so far? Having two healthy kids willing to contribute to society.
What are you nostalgic for? There’s nothing I miss more than jumping out of an airplane. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t look up at the sky.