Tom Carter joined CIBER back in April of 2008 as the Vice President for Contracts Management in the Federal Government Division. We had the opportunity to ask him what he learned in his time in procurement at SAIC, where he worked prior to joining CIBER. We also learned more about the business CIBER is doing in Libya, and what ways Carter expects CIBER’s Government Division to grow in the coming months. Carter left us with some advice to other contractor executives navigating in this current environment.
ExecutiveBiz: What skills did you learn in your time in procurement at SAIC that have come in handy at CIBER?
Tom Carter: I spent sixteen years at SAIC so it was pretty much the beginning of my career. It was a very, very good place to learn the fundamentals of contracting and how big companies operate and all aspects of contract management as well as procurement. The reason that I left was that I became complacent a little bit and wanted to take those skills and use them at a smaller organization. It was really the fundamentals of contracting.
“The key is to establish a rapport within the country and have a good team partner there.” – Tom Carter
ExecutiveBiz: Can you tell us about the business that you are doing in Libya right now?
Tom Carter: It’s a challenge. We were one of the first companies to do business in Libya after the sanctions were lifted by the UN. I think we were the fourth US company that did business there and for sure the first systems integrator. It is kind of scary. The first time I got off the plane there by myself it made me a little nervous. Once you get over the cultural issues and overcome the perceptions in the United States it is a great place to do business in that it is a new market, not much competition and they have lots of money. They are the fifth largest oil producer in the world. It is a good place to do business. The key is to establish a rapport within the country and have a good team partner there. It’s exciting.
ExecutiveBiz: What ways do you expect CIBER’s government division to grow in the coming months?
Tom Carter: Our port security business is really, really taking off. We’re a systems integrator and do port security for major ports all around the world from Misurata in Libya to Abu Dhabi in Dubai, domestically in Florida and Georgia and Virginia. It’s really taken off and I think there will be tremendous growth in that arena. We are also making strides in Huntsville. It’s amazing – we have three major contracts that are expected to be awarded to us this year out of Huntsville, so that is a good thing. Our Army programs are mostly recompete type of stuff and then we’re having some new opportunities with the Air Force in Europe so we are expecting to have a pretty good year.
ExecutiveBiz: Which of CIBER’s products separate it from competitors or initiatives? What are you most excited about right now?
Tom Carter: CIBER is not a product company, we are more of a systems integrator but with that said we have “CIBERSecure” which is a tool that integrates and correlates feeds from multiple physical security systems, like radar, video cameras, heat sensing devices – stuff like that. The thing that is interesting about CIBER is that we are small enough and agile enough to support quick response customer requirements but we are large enough, 8,000 employees, to have reach back resources. We have tremendous past performance. 95% of our customers state that we have performed above average. 97% say that they would use us again. That’s pretty good and we’re spread out a little bit. CIBER operates in eighteen countries and forty offices throughout the United States. Like I said before we have around 8,000 employees.
ExecutiveBiz: Speaking of employees – how does CIBER attract top talent?
Tom Carter: It’s pretty easy. CIBER was the two time winner of the Alfred P. Sloane award for workplace flexibility. For instance with the storms that we just had here in the DC area – all of our employees, for the most part, worked from home and so it’s a tremendous thing. People like to have the flexibility of being able to work from home or come into an office. It is what ever is best for them. It is really accommodating the employee that attracts people. Challenging assignments – like I said we are spread out all over the world so if people want to look at transferring to an opportunity in Europe it’s easily done. Career growth and education and training – we reimburse our employees for expensive associative education. We have tremendous recruiting tools. We use Taleo, which automatically posts all of our open positions on four or five of the major websites like Monster.com and those types of things. Advertising – we advertise in airports where our customers are and my favorite is that we also advertise with the Washington Capitals.
ExecutiveBiz: What are your thoughts on teleworking with the government closure and everything going on?
Tom Carter: I think giving your employees the flexibility to work from home, at your office or at the customer site which ever best fits a) the customer and b) the employee. As long as you can manage that relationship it’s fine to have people telecommute. You know what it’s like – the roads out here in the mornings are crazy. It relaxes the pressure on the employee. I’m all about it.
ExecutiveBiz: How would your colleagues describe you?
Tom Carter: That’s a tough one. I think my employees or cohorts would describe me as a caring business person. I care about the growth of our company and our margins and I think I affect change very well and am relentless on making sure things get changed in a way that make sense and can move our business forward.
ExecutiveBiz: You must be familiar with this whole snowstorm after spending some time studying at Utah State. How do you think DC is handling it and do you have any interesting winter sports?
Tom Carter: I graduated from Utah State and was actually raised right on the Idaho/Utah border so I am pretty familiar with adverse weather conditions. I think Washington and Northern Virginia did a wonderful job this winter. Personally I was in my office everyday except for the day of the blizzard. They did a really, really good job.
ExecutiveBiz: What advice would you offer to other contractor executives on navigating in the current environment?
Tom Carter: It’s becoming difficult. With all of the new regulations and the Foreign Prep Practices Act it’s becoming very, very difficult to keep all of the requirements with one person. I think it is wise to have experts in different arenas. For instance we have someone that does nothing but compliance with US regulations. Education – keeping through NCMA is a big, big plus as well. It’s becoming harder and I guess you just have to plow through it. I don’t know what the right answer there is.