Rocky Thurston, vice president and general manager for Wyle Information Systems Civilian Programs Division, spoke with ExecutiveBiz about his Air Force Background, his new position and where he’s taking his firm.
Could you tell us a little bit about your background?
After graduating from the United States Air Force Academy, I began my career as a flight test engineer in the Air Force. My experiences in the Air Force led me into the government consulting arena where I eventually worked for Booz Allen Hamilton as a program manager in both Intelligence and DoD markets. From there, I jumped into the small business scene and helped a company grow its presence in the Civilian market. Lockheed Martin acquired that company in 2007 and I led Lockheed Martin’s strategic growth into the Financial & Regulatory domains.
What are key goals over the next 12 months?
I have three major goals, all of which are of equal importance. The first goal is to deliver the highest possible quality services and solutions to our clients. The second goal is to develop our talent and ensure our people are prepared and rewarded with a successful career at Wyle. The third goal is to firmly establish a growth trajectory for our business, which includes developing a sustaining pipeline, winning major pursuits, and creating depth within our major accounts.
Where are the growth opportunities in the federal civilian space?
With the current administration’s agenda, budget outlook, and market dynamics, I believe Health IT, Earth Science, Cloud Computing, and Cybersecurity are all growing, viable markets within the civilian space. Most the federal civilian agencies have focused and sustainable missions in each of these major issues. Whether it is responding to natural disasters, preparing for Financial reform, or protecting critical infrastructure, there is a need for innovation, transformation, and modernization and the federal civilian agencies are working to adapt and partner with companies like Wyle.
How is the company positioned to respond to the growth opportunities?
We are extremely well positioned. Within our Civilian portfolio, we have re-aligned to focus on enterprise IT, scientific IT, and mission IT. Our enterprise IT division supports customers like Tax and Trade Bureau, Census Bureau, VA, and ATF with enterprise infrastructure initiatives and critical infrastructure needs. Wyle has a rich heritage supporting NASA and NOAA and our scientific IT division leverages that experience to deliver specific solutions in climate prediction, data analysis, and data visualization. Our Mission IT division prides its work in delivering systems and solutions to support the business and mission of our customers. Today, we are supporting a broad set of mission needs with custom development, COTS integration and systems integration support for clients including FAA, EPA, and the US Coast Guard. We have depth and expertise in each of the major areas of interest.
In addition to the realignment above, Wyle IS has a Solutions Organization that is developing, evolving and deploying innovations in three major areas: business solutions, enterprise solutions, and cybersecurity solutions. The team has reached deep into the Wyle capabilities to develop a set of corporate solutions that we can take to nearly any client environment. The solutions set map perfectly into our new civilian business allowing us to respond to any and all growth opportunities.
What will your division look like in 2 years?
To point out the obvious, the federal market is never static. I think we will evolve as the market evolves. Wyle is now a billion dollar corporation, yet if we plan, act and execute as a nimble, agile team our civilian business will grow, expand, and adapt to the civilian market. I see us leveraging more and more of the talent and reachback of the Wyle Corporation. I see us building strong business practices in the health IT, transportation, and scientific markets and broadening into the Homeland Security and financial markets. We will move from commodities IT business to more solutions engineering and mission architects. We will be an industry leader in the federal civilian market space.
How has your Air Force background helped you in your career?
This is beyond words. I grew up as a test engineer in the Air Force and was fortunate to gain experience in running live missile test missions in the Gulf. This experience gave me technical knowledge of systems as well as the program management experience to handle the multitude of activities that come in our government contracting work environment. More importantly, my AF background gave me a sense of mission and a sense of duty. It helped me understand the importance of serving our constituents, our taxpayers, and our country. It may sound altruistic, but I believe our work in the Federal contracting community is contributing to the fabric of this country. I’ve often been kidded in the past about my enthusiasm and passion, and I suppose it’s because I care so deeply about what we do and how we do it. Whether it’s predicting climate change (which has socio-economic and political implications) or maintaining the PBXs for the FAA (so the Air Traffic Controllers can maintain communications), our work at Wyle is absolutely critical to our great nation.
Your company is moving to new office space. Tell us about the move and why it’s important to your company.
The move, while necessary, is one of many positive changes taking place at Wyle IS. We want our customers, partners, and employees to know that Wyle is a great company. We have outstanding talent, passion, experience, and relationships that endure and we are ready to meet any challenge that comes our way. This new office is simply a symbol of who we believe we are.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
Well, I don’t think I have many secrets, because I wear everything on my sleeves. Most people know I played football for the Air Force Academy Fighting Falcons. Most people hear me talk about my beautiful wife, Kathryn, and our kids, Hilary (10), and Tucker (7). Most people know I grew up in eastern North Carolina where I learned and still retain my southern drawl and hospitality. I guess most people don’t know that I am writing a novel. I’ve been writing it for about ten years and I guess I’ll finish it ten years from now.