Profile: Al Nashman | Sightlines
'Dean of systems integration' Al Nashman had an unclouded view of the industry's future
In declining to be interviewed, Alvin Nashman was perhaps a little less than completely truthful. "Oh, I don't think you want to interview me," he said. "I've been out of things for 15 years."
That's not entirely possible for a man whose vision shaped and defined the engine that powers an industry. The medium is the message.
"The whole way we do business today ? Al Nashman is the daddy rabbit of all that," said Ted Legasey, executive vice president and chief operating officer of SRA International Inc. until 2004.
"When Al was head of CSC's federal systems division, he created the business development process that most companies in our business use today," Legasey said.
"He designed the apparatus for identifying quality leads ? that whole red team, blue team, pink team concept was his idea for organizing capture activities in major procurements, and now everybody uses it."
The strategy was no M.B.A. brainstorm; Nashman's masters degree was in electrical engineering. He directed research and development of advanced communications, electronics and space systems, including spread-spectrum communications for satellite communications and military missile guidance systems.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers in 1971 named him a fellow for his contributions and leadership in developing communication and geodetic satellite systems.
Nashman brought the rigor of science to the art of business, Legasey said. "He was a very organized, very disciplined thinker. He had a very scientific, structured way of approaching the business."
"He was a good scientist," agreed Israel Feldman, founder of Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News. But it was as a businessman that Nashman was a true pioneer, he said.
"He was with a company that CSC bought ? that's how he started at CSC ? and he worked his way up," Feldman said.
"He built the company's federal business. When he took over the systems group, the company had revenue in the millions. By the time he retired in 1991, it was $1.2 billion."
In 1992, GCN named Nashman to its IT Hall of Fame. "He was a giant," Feldman said. "And he made CSC a giant."
"If you wanted to learn the business, there wasn't a better way to do it than to work for Al," said Tom Hewitt, founder of Federal Sources Inc. and Nashman's vice president of program development at CSC. "There wasn't one time that we met that I didn't learn something new about the business; he was like a professor of business."
Nashman seems embarrassed by such praise. "Oh, no," he said, laughing. "I'm sure he's being very kind."
Kindness he would know about, said Dendy Young, chairman of GTSI Corp.'s board of directors and, until from 1996 until February, also its CEO. "One reason he was successful is that he really cared about people," Young said. "He was always generous with his time; he never asked what was in it for him, but what was the right thing to do and the right thing for the person."
Young tells of a small dotcom company Nashman started in the 1990s. "It was something to do with gardening; he was a passionate gardener. The neat thing about it was that he saw the opportunities and took that passion of his and applied it ? at this late stage in his life, when he was retired and having difficulty walking.
He was still young enough in the way his mind worked to start something new."
Nashman isn't going to like this story. "I'm uncomfortable seeing my name in print when I've been out of the business for so long," he said.
Today, he's an executive advisor for NextGen Capital LLC, which invests in next-generation communications, IT and Internet technology companies.
Sami Lais, a freelance writer and Washington Technology copy editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sami Lais is a special contributor to Washington Technology.