Al Nashman: A life and career worthy of the Hall of Fame
Nashman served as a mentor and inspiration to many
Alvin Nashman — Al to his friends, colleagues and the legions of those he has mentored, taught and supported — was named to the Greater Washington Government Contractor Hall of Fame at the recent Seventh Annual GovCon Gala.
The award was unexpected and unsought, Nashman said, “but it was a kind of pinnacle. It put an exclamation mark on my career.”
To hear Nashman tell it, his career easily could have never happened. “It was one of the toughest decisions I ever had to make,” he said. In fact, he said, “as far as decisions go, I think it was the second most important one I made, the most important one being to marry my wife, Honey.”
It was the mid-1960s, and Nashman was working at ITT subsidiary Intelcom. “I was involved with state-of-the-art technology, the space program, satellite and digital communications, when digital communications were hardly thought to be the thing of the future,” Nashman said.
When the news came that Computer Sciences Corp. was buying Intelcom, he said, “I was torn between the two paths. Do I stay with ITT, where I had a very satisfying and challenging career? Or do I pursue a new career with what then was very much a fledgling company — I think CSC had income of about $2.5 million at the time — in computer science. And would it be as fruitful and rewarding as what I was doing at ITT?
“I went with the smaller company because it was the bigger challenge,” he said.
In presenting the Hall of Fame award, CSC Chief Executive Officer Mike Laphen sketched out a few highlights of Nashman’s 27 years as a leader at the company, growing its federal practice from tyro to billion-dollar behemoth. Laphen listed a few landmark accounts Nashman landed: Kennedy Space Flight Center, Saudi Arabia Ministry of Interior, Customs Data Network and the Navy’s Aegis project.
And then he got personal, citing praise for Nashman from multiple quarters before adding his own accolades.
Now, Al Nashman might not be Mother Theresa. The man built and drove a lucrative empire in a fiercely competitive market, after all. But listening to his GovCon acceptance speech, one would think he had little to do with that success. He thanked his wife, family, colleagues and staff, stopping just short of lauding the loyal contributions of the family dog — anything to avoid taking credit himself.
Although the biggest egoist or most ruthless son of a gun can put on an "Aw, shucks" act, contemporaries, colleagues and those who worked with him, for him or in competition with him praised the freshly minted hall of famer.
What Tom Hewitt, founder of Federal Sources Inc. and Nashman’s vice president of program development at CSC, remembered best about Nashman “was meeting with him frequently, daily sometimes, and there wasn’t one time that we met that I didn’t learn something new about the business; the wisdom he brought to the business was unbelievable.”
Nashman seemed baffled by the concept that he was a mentor. “I never consciously thought of myself as a mentor,” he said. “I just always wanted to surround myself with good people. I just wanted to work with them; it was just part of getting the job done.”
Ted Legasey, executive vice president and chief operating officer of SRA International Inc. until 2004, lauded Nashman for being an original thinker. “The thing that Al may be best known for is creating the business development process that most companies in our business use today,” he said. “That whole red team, blue team, pink team concept was his idea.”
That methodology for efficiently identifying quality leads was and remains crucial, Legasey said. “In the contracting business, you’re auditioning every day; it’s important to keep developing new business.”
Nashman “is a smart individual,” said Dendy Young, former CEO and chairman of the board at GTSI Corp. “But he has common sense as well as being a smart person, and you don’t always see those together.”
That was his business style, Hewitt said. “Making money and having fun.”
Nashman chuckled. “Making money, well I don’t know about that. I mean, business is great, technology is great, science is wonderful. But people, working with them, talking with them, having a relationship with them — that’s the most marvelous, most rewarding part of being alive, I think.”
Genuinely caring for people contributed to his success, Young said.
And, if anything, it is that aspect of his success that Nashman would have those who peopled his career remember. “Maybe if we worked together, that they enjoyed it,” he suggested.
“After all, what is life but to be enjoyed? Whatever you can do to make it richer and more enjoyable is what you should be doing.”
Return to list of GovCon winners.
Sami Lais is a special contributor to Washington Technology.