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Ever tried to solve a Rubik’s Cube? It’s not easy—there are so many different layers to consider as you twist and turn the puzzle.
For me, solving a Rubik’s Cube is not unlike finding solutions to the complex challenges Booz Allen’s clients face. There are technical challenges, to be sure, but organizational, leadership, and people challenges exist as well.
It’s that unique complexity that drives my work for our defense clients.
Tony Mitchell, an executive vice president, leads the firm’s Navy and Marine Corps account as its client service officer. Tony has nearly 25 years of consulting experience, supporting private and public sector clients in the U.S. and Europe. In prior roles his clients included the Joint Staff, combatant commands, and the Defense Information Systems Agency.
Tony is based in our Norfolk, Virginia, office, where as a new vice president he played a significant role in building the area’s business. He brings that experience base to the current role of driving a geographically-disbursed business with elements from Norfolk to Washington, DC, San Diego, California, and the Pacific.
Tony’s recent internal role included serving as chairman of the executive development committee, where he led efforts to develop, promote, and assess senior leaders inside the firm.
Tony holds a B.S. in electrical engineering from the General Motors Institute (now known as Kettering University) and an M.S. in information systems management from the George Washington University. He also completed the senior executives in national and international security program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
What is your strongest character trait? To know what one stands for and then working persistently to be true to that.
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever gotten in your career? My dad told me early on not to measure my ability to succeed by other people’s failures.
What advice would you give yourself as a young professional if you could go back in time? In almost any given situation, there is a difference between being right and being effective. It’s imperative to know which is more important in the moment.
What’s an obsolete item that you can’t get rid of? A calculator.
What has been your biggest accomplishment to date? Raising, along with my wife of 32 years, two beautiful, intelligent, independent children into adults. I don’t know that a person could hope for much more, honestly.
Why do you have the career that you have? I’m an engineer by training with a background in telecommunications and information technology. I love the intersection between being a functional expert and being challenged to solve problems. The whole idea of working through and identifying problems and creating solutions for clients is something that has always intrigued me.
What are your three tips for managing and motivating your people? First, encourage people and set an expectation that they find a way to contribute (to the solution). Don’t be a bump on a log. Next, recognize people’s successes, but also be constructive in giving positive critical feedback. Lastly, without vision, people perish. Even though the engineer/analyst in me has sometimes struggled with the vision thing, I do recognize that people need to know where the organization is going and how they fit in.
What aspects of Booz Allen do you think are particularly helpful to defense sector clients? We fundamentally understand and have a sense of ownership for our client’s mission. We also bring our values—collaboration, teamwork, and integrity—in how we work with each other, and with our clients. That translates well in the defense industry.
What are three pressing needs of the defense industry today? Understanding their level of readiness and how to make decisions to improve readiness is important. There’s also the challenge of moving into cyber and information warfare. How do we help our clients address these new domains? Finally, we need to help our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen build career paths within these new domains so that as they build their expertise, we’re helping them think through how to build and scale up their staffing.
How do you help your defense clients prepare for the future? Our clients are so focused on day-to-day threats that it’s difficult for them to step back and see over the horizon. Booz Allen has a footprint in more elements of the Navy and Marine Corps Commands than just about any other organization supporting this client base. By using that footprint, we can help our clients understand things that are already going on without having to create things from scratch. Our clients are facing challenges on multiple fronts and in multiple domains, and so it's natural for them to focus more of their time on current operations. We try to help them look over the horizon by integratng our mission understanding into tailored anlysis and solutions relevant for today and well into the future.
Why are you so passionate about your work at Booz Allen? It’s a place where you’ve got that Rubik’s Cube I’ve talked about. And you’re also constantly stretched by two things. One is the quality of the people around you, their curiosity, education, and passion. I draw my energy from them. You have to show up at your best, and listen, learn, and teach at the same time. The other involves stretching myself as a leader. The combination of problem solving, learning from people around me, and stretching as a leader has been a continual journey for me.