TASC Chief Information Officer Barbie Bigelow is leading her company’s IT endeavors into the future, through cloud and beyond. GovConExec recently spoke with Bigelow about where she’s been and where she and TASC are going.
GovCon Executive: What brought you to TASC?
Barbie Bigelow: The challenge of standing up a brand new enterprise platform drew me to TASC. From the infrastructure design to the applications architecture to the employee experience and support, leading a full-scope effort of that complexity was really one of those once in a lifetime kind of opportunities.
GovCon Executive: When you first arrived, what kind of challenges did you encounter?
Barbie Bigelow: Crafting the plan was easily the first objective, designing the plan and the acquisition strategy and also learning the TASC culture and business priorities. We had to balance our desires and our different stakeholder’s desires with the schedule pressures, standing up the entire enterprise platform and becoming an independent company by Dec. 31 of 2010. We obviously had affordability constraints around that as well. If you think about it, it is very much like what we do for our customers in terms of managing time and budget constraints. We were able to leverage the same processes and discipline that we use for our customers in doing this.
GovCon Executive: What, in your opinion, makes TASC unique? Why would your customers choose your company over the competition?
Barbie Bigelow: As a newbie on the scene here, the thing that makes TASC unique and really sticks with me about TASC is the depth of understanding and commitment to the mission of our customers, coupled with a passion for technology, a deep knowledge, from a thought leadership standpoint, of systems engineering and integration, and good program management discipline. The combination of skills, domain experience and talent that TASC brings to complex problems is so impressive. Plus, the company has the size and depth to invest in research while still being small enough to move fast.
GovCon Executive: In your words, could you briefly describe what it is that TASC does?
Barbie Bigelow: We provide analytics and advisory services to the Intelligence Community, Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, and parts of the federal civil government, agencies that perform some of the most complex and important missions in the world. We tend to work on the high-end in terms of advising our customers and then leveraging technology to implement solutions that help them succeed in their mission.
GovCon Executive: Within that realm, cloud computing is becoming quite a buzzword. What is TASC’s involvement with that?
Barbie Bigelow: Cloud computing is indeed a bit of a buzzword today. It is the evolution of the intersection of outsourcing, virtualization and SaaS. TASC has experience in all of these areas and has worked closely with our customers as the integration of these distinct technology areas began to produce flexible IT capabilities at reduced cost. We and our customers face challenges in determining an appropriate set of security controls to make use of cloud computing viable across the full range of activities we undertake. Our cybersecurity team is working on this problem. And over the past year as we put our acquisition strategies in place for our internal operations, we placed some of our requirements in a cloud to give us flexibility to grow. We used a risk- and affordability-based set of trade criteria to identify enterprise functions that could be supported by a cloud model. It turned out that cloud computing is pretty effective for us. We are able to use the experience from our own operations to help our customers in the evaluations that they are doing and help them leverage the technology for cost and savings flexibility in their own environments.
GovCon Executive: The new cyber challenge seems to be insider threats. Has TASC done anything to provide solutions or observations about that?
Barbie Bigelow: Certainly the insider threat is not new. It may have changed its stripes somewhat as we’ve become a more mobile workforce. We look at insider threats from a behavioral standpoint and then from the technology standpoint, using technology as a deterrent. We have very deep knowledge of what’s going on in our environment. That’s important for the threat in general. Where we see insider issues we’re able to continually improve our education campaign and implement countermeasures. This is another area when we collaborate closely with our customers and partners to advance the state of the practice.
GovCon Executive: Where do you see TASC going in the future?
Barbie Bigelow: The exciting thing about TASC is that it is a growing, driving kind of a place to be right now. With a long heritage serving the Intelligence Community, we now see a strong future taking our expertise more deeply into the DoD and civilian agencies of the federal government. TASC is an independent company for the first time in years, and it’s an independent company with a clear purpose and heritage. From my perspective, where we are going is all around connectedness and collaboration and the analytics behind that to help employees and customers get to the information they need. Those are the things we are focused on. The challenges that our customers are facing are constantly changing and we continue to evolve to meet those needs.
GovCon Executive: Sounds like you have an exciting role at TASC, is there anything else you’re working on now?
Barbie Bigelow: We recently launched an affinity group called “WiTi”– Women in TASC, Inc. It’s open to all employees and will focus on advancing women through opportunities for thought leadership, networking and mentoring as well as community outreach. This initiative is particularly important to me because I believe strongly in the benefits of mentor relationships. For example, as a mentee, you gain an objective ally who can help you navigate and take on greater challenges. As a mentor, you gain insight into another person’s perspective and learn about different cultural and generational views. I’ve had the good fortune to have some incredible mentors in my life. I now find mentoring the most satisfying part of my role, seeing someone achieve a goal and knowing that I played a small part in their achievement.