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I am willing to take on anything, anywhere—and I mean it. As an executive vice president in our defense business, I like to be on the move, volunteering for assignments and tackling challenges.
Along the way, I’ve been an approachable leader known for my “Tom & Eggs,” informal chats over breakfast with staff touching on everything from career advice and business development to sports.
Tom Pfeifer is an executive vice president with 30+ years of experience providing systems and software engineering services across the Department of Defense, civil, commercial, and international communities with a particular emphasis on enterprise architectures and IT-based solutions.
He is an expert in all aspects of business development as well as business execution and operational performance. In addition, he has been a key contributor to Booz Allen’s functional standards/quality initiatives including the firm’s software CMMi, ISO-9001, and ISO-20000 certifications.
Tom is a subject-matter expert in position, navigation, and timing (PNT) technology and GPS. Within Booz Allen, he is the senior leader of integrated resilient-PNT (R-PNT) research and development facilities and he is highly engaged in R-PNT external engagements for defense, intelligence, civil and commercial clients.
He has recently presented perspectives, insights, and solutions at the following conferences:
· Defense One, Washington, DC, (November 2016)
· Time and Money, New York, NY (January 2017)
· DiUX PNT hackathon/workshop, Austin, TX (February 2017)
· South by SouthWest conference, Austin, TX (March 2017)
From a market perspective, Tom currently leads Booz Allen’s Air Force business. This entails addressing challenges including C4ISR, combat support, logistics, air platforms, space systems, ground systems, modeling and simulations, economic analysis, strategic planning, domain specific analytics, and training and education.
The nature of the work ranges from traditional consulting and acquisition support to cybersecurity, engineering, system/software development, and "big data" analytics solutions. The Air Force team consists of professionals working onsite with clients or in Booz Allen facilities from the Pacific Rim to EUCOM and the Middle East, as well as facilities in the U.S.
Tom holds a master’s degree in computer systems management and a bachelor’s degree in economics, both from the University of Maryland. He is a member of the Institute of Navigation, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering Computer Society, the American Society for Quality, and the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.
Tell us a little about your career journey. I’ve been driven primarily by technology and IT capabilities throughout my career. When I started at Booz Allen 32 years ago, I worked on a reusable software implementation program. I left the firm for a while, working in Taiwan modernizing Navy logistics software systems. When I returned as one of the firm’s “comeback kids,” I worked on military satellite communication systems, information dissemination management, and Air Force Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) and IT work. For the last 15 years, I’ve been a geographic partner. Right now, I’m in Colorado Springs, but I’ve always been on the move. As an Air Force kid, I moved around a lot. It helped me adapt to many different environments, so I think that works for me.
What do you do from day to day? I wear many different hats. From a market standpoint, I’m the Air Force C4ISR subaccount lead. I’m very driven by the challenges, people, and issues we’re working with. I’m willing to take on anything, anywhere. Maybe it comes from growing up, being in 12 schools in 12 years, but I have zero problem of letting go and starting something new.
What drives you? I’m more interested in what’s keeping people up at night, what they’re worried about, and how I can bring capabilities together, either through the skills I have or across the firm. It’s the challenge that matters and interests me. It gets me going.
What are your defense clients’ biggest challenges right now? They don’t have the budget to create new starts for weapon systems, yet they have more demands than ever on their weapons capabilities. Clients need us to help them decompose legacy systems and re-document them to modify and enhance parts. It makes me feel proud that we can help the government save money.
Why are you passionate about the work that you do at Booz Allen? I have a passion for the people, for helping those who want to make a career at Booz Allen actually learn how to do that—whether it’s technically or professionally. It’s all about the people. I’ve had a great career here, and I want to give back. Often when I’m traveling for business, I’ll stay an extra day and meet staff for breakfast on a Saturday morning. We call it “Tom & A.” It’s interesting to see who shows up and where the conversations go. One time in Omaha, I had 35 people who stayed for 3 hours.
What’s the key to working with clients? There’s a big difference between a client and a customer. A client is someone I worry about long before they give me a nickel. I’ve been thinking about their problems as best I can, and I get them to open up about what their issues are. Eventually, they’ll come to trust me, and the money will come. But it takes time to build that trust, that relationship. Then they’re clients for life. Customers—it’s just a financial transaction, like buying a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
What are your three tips for managing and motivating people? One, you have to have some basic skills and keep those skills up. Two, you need to play well in the sandbox and get along with others. You need to work on your interpersonal social skills. Third, you have to have a work ethic. You can’t just put in your time, punch the clock, and walk out the door.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? The job is the means, not the end. As much as I love this company, there’s a life outside Booz Allen.
What is one thing that you always have with you? Optimism.
What’s an obsolete item you can’t get rid of? I have some old tools that belonged to my great-grandfather. I come from a long line of craftsmen. The blades are dull, but they’re still in my toolbox.
What can we do to be happier? Doing good in this world. I think happiness comes from giving, being a giver. If you focus less on yourself and more on others, you’ll be happy.