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I learned a long time ago that when you go through life, you can either be a thermometer or a thermostat: You can react to your environment, or you can control your environment.
I’ve tried to be the thermostat in my life. It’s control in a good way, a guiding way.
As a executive vice president, I lead a team supporting evolving Department of Defense missions with the Joint Combatant Commander, with a particular focus on cyber warfare and analytics.
Thomas Crabtree, an executive vice president, is a leader in the firm’s U.S. Navy and Marine Corps business, with a focus on Navy Marine Corps headquarters. His work is centered on all aspects of force generation, readiness, and capability, including program objective memorandum/budget preparation and defense, workforce optimization analysis, Navy training and effective readiness/capability production businesses. Thomas also serves as the Norfolk cluster location general manager, defense functional integration lead, and Navy/Marine Corps defense capture board representative.
Thomas is a former naval supply corps officer, with active and reserve service from 1972 to 1980. He joined the federal civil service with the Navy in 1975. Thomas held positions with increasing levels of authority and responsibility, until he was selected into the Senior Executive Service (SES) in 1999. As an SES, he served on the staff of U.S. Fleet Forces Command as director of shore installations readiness, director of fleet training, director of fleet readiness, training, logistics and maintenance, and finally as executive director and chief of staff. He retired from civil service in May 2006.
Thomas’ honors include the Senior Executive Service Presidential Rank Award, Distinguished Civilian Service Award, and numerous superior and meritorious civilian service awards.
Thomas holds a B.S. in business administration from Old Dominion University and an M.B.A. with a concentration in finance from Golden Gate University. He has also completed enterprise management, business strategy, and executive development programs at Duke University and the University of North Carolina.
What makes you passionate about your work at Booz Allen? First of all, it’s the people. That brought me to Booz Allen. I love the ability to interact with the diversity of thought and capability of the folks here who are thinking creatively about problems. These people have a passion for the client missions. The people here are successful with influencing and impacting the future, and they focus on the purpose of their work.
What do you see as the most pressing needs for your clients? The biggest is cyber analytics for our client base. Our clients need to be flexible enough to move from influencing and consulting positions to warfighting positions. We need to help our clients be ready for accurate analysis of indications and warnings for global safety. There are also issues with cyber warfare in multiple arenas. These are exciting problems to work on. We have many people who are deeply engaged in these areas. In addition, many of the defense clients are working on new projects and fast-moving agendas. These clients will need to pull together both government and business practices. We can help position our clients to safely and effectively make progress with their missions.
Why is Booz Allen a great place to work? When people join Booz Allen, they get to take on a lot of challenging problems. They also have the opportunity to interact with people who are so knowledgeable about the client missions and have a passion for them. Also, you can move around if you want to. I’m amazed how dedicated people here are to help people. We are bringing in some brilliant people who are taking on technology and developing solutions that save people’s lives.
How do you keep your team motivated during a challenging project? They stay motivated for the mission because they see how much they matter. We have so many inspiring experiences that show how loyal our people are. When my team meets, I want people to share their “missions that matter.” It lets us all hear the client missions and why they matter on a bigger scale. I want us all to see the value of the bigger purpose. We discuss the tactical part of the mission and how that fits into the big picture and makes the world better. In my experience, people want meaningful work, to be part of a team, and to be treated fairly. That’s my leadership goal.
What do you look for when you’re hiring? I want to work with someone who can get along. I look for people who can recognize the strength of the entire team, not just their own performance. We are also looking for great talent, not just certifications. When it comes to cyber, we might go to a college and host a hackathon. We get to see their abilities and their excitement for the work. We also have in-house cyber testing and wargames as well. These show real-world skills.
What is something about you that most people night not know? I rode a motorcycle all through college, so I think that surprises people. I love to garden and ski, and I wish I had more time for those.
What are some valuable business lessons you’ve learned? At Booz Allen, I learned to take care of the people, take care of the clients, and everything else will take care of itself. That’s important. I’ve been blessed to have two separate successful careers. I worked in the military and government, and now, I’m a partner at Booz Allen. I’ve tried to get a broad experience base. Every 3 to 5 years I looked at my progress intellectually, and if I felt stagnant, I moved onto a new job. What I found is that in my career, it gave me a broad project and organizational experience. The more you interact with cultures and languages, you become more valuable in your experience. I jumped in when people needed help, and I learned a lot.