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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Lockheed's Gooden retires; now that is big news

I had both a personal and professional reaction when I read the news that Linda Gooden, Lockheed Martin’s executive vice president of information systems and global services, was retiring.

The professional first: this is big news. Gooden has led the largest provider of IT services to the federal government for the last decade, at least. She’s a well-known and well-respected leader in the contractor community.

Her departure from Lockheed, which won’t happen until April 1, is a significant change for the company. That her successor, Sondra Barbour, is someone she’s worked closely with for 20 years also says something about the succession process at Lockheed Martin.

Gooden leaves behind a long string of success and growth, and I know she’s had to stare down some significant challenges over the years. In many ways, her career mirrors some of the cultural shifts society has gone through over the last 30 years, namely greater opportunities for women and minorities in the business world and the defense market in particular.

I should have an opportunity to interview Gooden before she retires, so hopefully, I’ll have more insights into the lessons learned from her career. If there are particular questions I should ask, let me know.

I also wonder what the retirements of Gooden and of Joanne Maguire, executive vice president of space systems, mean for Lockheed Martin. The moves come in the first month of Marillyn Hewson’s tenure as CEO. Coupled with all the changes in the market, this is Hewson’s chance to lay the ground work for Lockheed’s position in the new competitive environment.

So, that’s my professional/journalistic reaction. My personal reaction is similar: Wow, this is big news.

I met Linda Gooden sometime in the mid-to-late 1990s. She was running an IT business for Lockheed Martin that was taking in about $300 million a year in revenue. In 2012, she was running a business with $8.8 billion in revenue.

I remember how soft-spoken she was in that first interview, but we all knew she was very smart. Her soft-spokenness was short lived. I definitely wouldn’t describe her that way now.

Obviously, I never worked for her, so I can’t comment on her management style, or whether she was a good boss. I’m sure, as with anyone in her position, she has fans and detractors,but she was always good to me -- always accessible, always frank. I think that the stories we did that involved Gooden helped elevate Washington Technology’s stature within Lockheed Martin at large.

For that, I’ll always be grateful to her.

When interviewing her, I needed to be on my toes. An interview was not a long, rambling affair; we both needed to know what we wanted to talk about, so I needed to prepare. That’s not a bad thing because I always left with something of value. It was not a case of walking out and thinking, that was a fun interview but is there anything I can use? Never a problem with her.

She has always struck me as a somewhat formal person, but I do know she has a playful side. I once saw her ask for a ladder so she could climb up on the hood of a Humvee for a photo shoot.

I’ll miss Linda Gooden being at the center of Lockheed Martin, but she’s only 59, so I wonder where else in the industry she might turn up. I hope so anyway.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jan 24, 2013 at 9:50 AM

Reader Comments

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 Ms. Anonymous

To make this a real scoop, I would ask some forward-leaning questions, for example: Do you think it is appropriate for contractors and their clients to call and think of each other as "partners"? If so, do they share culpability for massive over-runs and schedule slippages of great length? Why do you think the American public, and many in Congress, perceive contractors as overpaid, lumbering, and providers of services and goods of low value much of the time?

Mon, Jan 28, 2013 Joan Colbert

Nick - I would advise looking sharp and meeting with her in a formal tone, rather than trying to be informal. (I would let her initiate that, if it's to be initiated.) And, do the research. When I interviewed a former First Lady years ago, it was business, not congeniality. I now prepare for three events; an interview to go well, medium, not so well. It helps to keep me on my toes!

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 Don O'Neill

Nick, In your upcoming interview, consider the following lead-in question. The Department of Defense depends on the defense industrial base to delver on the competitiveness, security, and innovation challenges facing the nation. Always difficult, the situation is now dire as these challenges loom insurmountable due to austerity and the threats and effects of sequestration. Just what are the challenging focus areas for defense contractors today?

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 Rich G. Valley Forge, PA

Thanks for sharing your professional and personal views Nick of this complex and interesting business leader.

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