Special Report | Channel leaders: A Marine in his heart

Eric Olson, director of Marine programs, InfoReliance Corp.

The leaders

» Mark Blevins

Perot Government Systems

Vice president of civilian services

» Jerold Clark Jr.

Anteon International Corp.

Senior group manager of operational intelligence

» Douglas Gilbert

Verizon Federal Network Systems

Director, Energy Dept. operations

» Bhaskaran Jayaraman

Avineon Inc.

IT director

» Kevin Lee

Health Management Systems Inc.

Vice president and senior program director

» Eric Olson

InfoReliance Corp.

Director of Marine programs

» Greg Pellegrino

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu

Public sector global managing director

» Tim Schilbach

Apogen Technologies Inc.

Project manager

» William Smithson

SI International Inc

Vice president of financial systems applications development

» Heinz Wimmer

Analex Corp.

Vice president of central operations

How we found our leaders

The Washington Technology Channel Leaders were picked from nominations submitted by our readers. The editorial staff read the nominations and judged them on the following:

» How the person helped a federal, state or local government agency fulfill its mission

» How the person helped his or her company meet growth, positioning and profitability goals

» How the person showed creativity, leadership and good partnership in the delivery of products or services to a government customer.

Nominations of chief executive officers, division presidents and executive vice presidents were not accepted. Instead, we wanted to recognize the people in the trenches: program and project managers and sales and business development executives. These are the people who touch and interact with government customers daily.

Eric Olson, director of Marine programs, InfoReliance Corp.

Rick Steele

Eric Olson believes in one way of doing things: full submersion into the culture of the client.

For Olson, director of Marine programs with InfoReliance Corp., Fairfax, Va., working with the Marine Corps has made him question why he steered clear of government consulting in favor of commercial work for much of his career.

"It shattered all of my stereotypes and the reasons why I had stayed the hell away from it for a long time," he said. The Corps is not the stodgy, slow-to-act government organization he feared it was, he said.

Olson runs a team of 45 who help manage the Marine Training and Education Command's Integrated Management System. The IT solution tracks the training and education of individual Marines, then qualifies them for field assignments.

Before members of the InfoReliance team can work on the project, they must view some DVDs, which Olson bought, of a Discovery Channel series on Marine boot camps.

Olson and his team frequently can be found at 2:30 a.m. at a Marine recruitment facility, watching the new recruits as they're dragged off of buses and step into a new world.

"The drill instructors come on like the hounds of hell," Olson said.

He and his team stay up until all hours not to witness fresh-faced recruits getting their heads shaved, but to gain a better understanding of how Marine personnel use InfoReliance's software. The solution logs all new recruits' information into the system, and then tracks their progress and educational development.

InfoReliance in 2002 won a five-year, $13.6 million contract to integrate 12 legacy systems into one information management solution. A month later, the company won a five-year, $9.4 million contract to support and maintain the system.

It's evident that the Marine commanders appreciate Olson's dedication. They often ask if he is a former Marine. He's not.

His willingness to stay up all night to watch the drill instructors induct recruits "carries a lot of weight with them," he said. "We take it all in, and it helps us from a technology standpoint to build better software and solve more problems."

Olson's understanding of the Marines and their needs has led him to help guide internal Marine projects in which InfoReliance participates. He often encourages the Marines to solve their problems in-house, something that has cost InfoReliance business, said company co-founder and president Andrew Butler.

But Butler does not mind the loss of business. Olson's dedication has secured a solid partnership with the Marines, and Butler sees that paying off in much larger terms down the road.

"[Olson] is one of the few people who I can trust completely to make the right decision without me being involved, and that's something that's very special," Butler said.

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