Survival Guide: Patty Nunn, Anteon International VP

Patty Nunn

Henrik G. de Gyor

In 2000, Patty Nunn became a vice president -- the youngest ever at that time -- at systems integrator Anteon International Corp. of Fairfax, Va. Running the proposal and production operations, Nunn manages 30 percent of the company's bids, usually those that involve multiple business units and large subcontracting teams. Today, Anteon has a win rate greater than 90 percent on re-competitions. This year, the rate hit 97 percent.

Nunn, 40, is also an avid runner, bicycler, hiker and swimmer, and has put her athletic skills to the test all over the world. Her best marathon time is 3 hours, 10 minutes, in the Columbus Marathon in Ohio about 12 years ago. She talked with Staff Writer Gail Repsher Emery about being a young leader, setting goals and what she won't do.


WT: You were the youngest vice president in Anteon's history. How did you get to the post sooner than others?

Nunn: I was a director at Anteon at first. I made some goals, and I got rewarded for meeting them.

WT: What were your goals?

Nunn: One was to set up a proposal center. Anteon wanted one that was the best in the business. I am continually looking at the latest technology and what's the latest in the industry. Things change. For me, change is a lifestyle. You have to be looking for it.

WT: What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Nunn: Moving into a vice president role. In my professional organization [the Association of Proposal Management Professionals], there are only 10 vice presidents that run proposal centers. Most are at the director level. Moving the center to report to a vice president was really critical.

Also, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro last spring was really fun. It took nine days. I slept at 18,000 feet, and then climbed to the top. My father is going to do the climb this Christmas, following in his daughter's footsteps.

WT: Are there parallels between climbing mountains and climbing the corporate ladder?

Nunn: You have to take care of yourself, physically and mentally, before you are going to climb a corporate ladder. If you are having a lot of family problems or whatever, you are not going to be effective. Taking a chance every once in a while, saying, "I am going to climb that mountain" is the same as saying, "I want to be an senior vice president one day, and I am going to work toward that goal."

WT: When did you start doing triathlons?

Nunn: About 15 years ago. I was running, swimming and biking a lot. I needed some goals. I heard about the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii and said I wanted to do that. A colleague said, "You can't do that," and I said, "Oh, wrong answer." I've done five of them.

WT: Your vacations are very active. How important is vacation?

Nunn: There is always another proposal coming up, and it's not unusual to have four or five going on at the same time. It gets kind of crazy. When you can get away from work, it's amazing how quickly you can come back refreshed.

We make sure everyone gets their breaks. When they go on vacation, they are not called. Whenever I come back from a trip, I plan my next one.

WT: Do you see yourself as a role model for other women in the IT industry?

Nunn: Definitely for other women in proposal centers. I get a lot of calls from other companies who say, "We have a proposal center, can you show us what to do?"

WT: Do you have any role models?

Nunn: Oh, yeah. Noreen Centracchio, a senior vice president at Anteon, one of the founding members of the company.

She has extremely good GWAC [governmentwide acquisition contract] proposal experience. When I came to Anteon, I got to work side by side with her, and learned a ton. She set the stage for those who followed behind her. She's dynamic, fun and full of energy.

WT: What's next in business?

Nunn: I'm always thinking about what new training courses I'm going to roll out across the company. This year, I rolled out some new capture manager training. We've trained about 500 people. The next one we are going to do is proposal management.

WT: What's next in sports?

Nunn: This fall I'm doing a marathon in Iceland and the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington.

WT: Do you have any limitations?

Nunn: No way. I'll try anything once. If any company would pay for my salary for a year, pay for my training for a year, I'd be happy to climb Mount Everest.

I would probably not be very good at "Survivor," because I'm not going to eat worms.

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