Alderson brings her warrior plan to Sotera
- By Mark Hoover
- Jul 03, 2013
Just eight months into her job as chief operating officer at SRA International, Deb Alderson faced a tough decision: stay or move on.
She chose to leave, and will become the new president and CEO of Sotera Defense Solutions on July 8.
On that day, she’ll kick off what she describes as an intense 30-day warrior plan to get to know Sotera better.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to correct a quote by Alderson saying that leading a company is something she has always wanted to do.
“I have an appreciation for the importance and value of people in this industry, and how you have to make sure that you are there to provide value and create opportunities for them,” she said.
New Sotera CEO Deb Alderson
Her warrior plan reflects her sense of urgency and her reputation for being “hands-on,” she said.
“Everyone else talks about 100 days, but I think we can do it in 30,” Alderson said.
During those 30 days, she plans on going out and talking to Sotera’s people and customers. “I want to let them know that I’m here, and that I’m here to serve them,” she said.
One of the reasons that she is so intent on getting people engaged is because she sees it as an important discriminator in today’s market.
“With all of the talk of the budget and the change, it’s very important to let people know that they are part of a strong team that actually appreciates the importance of taking care of them and having a strong foundation that allows them to grow,” Alderson said.
Couple that sense of people engagement with Sotera’s talented leadership team, technical experts, subject matter experts within the fields of intelligence, cybersecurity and data fusion, and you’ve got yourself a prime player in the government contracting market, she said.
“If you don’t have the smart strong people supporting the customer base, then you’re in trouble,” Alderson said.
The decision to leave SRA was a difficult one, she said, since it's been a company she’s known well for most of her career.
She expressed respect for SRA founder Ernst Volgenau, CEO Bill Ballhaus, the rest of the management team and Providence, the private equity group that owns SRA. The company hired her in 2011 after she left Science Applications International Corp. as part of the management fallout because the CityTime contracting scandal in New York City.
During her total of 18 months at SRA, Alderson said she focused on building a growth engine and increasing the engagement on people; however, now was the time to go.
“I did my research on Sotera, and gained an appreciation for the quality of the people that we have here and their focus on the mission and their focus on execution,” she said.
At Sotera, She replaces John Hillen, who stepped down as CEO and is now vice chairman of the company’s advisory board.
The move is a significant one for Alderson, as it will be her first time serving as a president and CEO.
“To be honest with you, leading a company is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Alderson said.
It won't be easy, but she feels up to the challenge, having been in the industry for a while. “It is a tough industry, but I never recall any ‘good old days,’” Alderson said.
It’s always been about being able to build the skill sets and reputation to grow and create opportunities for people while keeping the mission first, she said, and she thinks that she’s developed those skill over time.
“I’ve been a part of small companies, large companies, I’ve worked at two companies and helped be a part of the team that took them public, I’ve divested companies before, I’ve acquired companies,” she said, and she’ll rely on those lessons as she prepares for her new role.
In addition to her leadership role at SAIC and SRA, Alderson was also an executive at Anteon before it was acquired by General Dynamics, and at Techmatics.
“And I love this industry. I am passionate about this industry. It’s fun; that’s just the bottom line,” she added.
Mark Hoover is a senior staff writer with Washington Technology. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with him on Twitter at @mhooverWT.