One would think of the childhood activity of building Legos as being inspirational to kids becoming future engineers. While that may be true for some, Vangent“™s Jeff Bohling opted for the sandbox in his grade-school days. He went on to become an engineer and applied his skills while climbing up the ranks at Vangent.
Having been with the firm for more than a decade, the senior vice president and general manager is responsible for all of the business within the company“™s civilian and national security entity. He spoke to ExecutiveBiz and shared his latest projects, his history at the company and his passion for engineering.
ExecutiveBiz: I read that you led the 2010 U.S. Census program for Vangent. Where do you begin? How do you lead such a big project as the U.S. Census?
Jeff Bohling: That“™s a good question. When I started on that project, there were three people working on it from Vangent and we peaked at about 6,400 last April. How do you attack that? Well, I guess as with any problem you break it down. If you are faced with this big challenge, big project or big issue you just try to break it down into smaller, more manageable parts. It really boils down to the people that you hire after that. I had a mentor once tell me that if you hire the right people and you empower them, everything else will take care of itself. If you break the problem down into smaller chunks, get the right people and you lead them in the right direction ““ everything else will take care of itself.
ExecutiveBiz: When did you actually start preparing for that? Does it take years?
Jeff Bohling: Vangent, as a subcontractor to Lockheed Martin, won the contract in 2005, but I actually started on the project in May of 2008.
ExecutiveBiz: You“™ve been with Vangent since its transition from Pearson Government Inc. What is it about the company that has compelled you to work for it for almost a decade?
Jeff Bohling: This is a good company. We do mission-critical work for the federal government, and I enjoy that aspect of it. I would also say that the company has been very, very good to me. I started as the manager of mainframe development and through the years, I went through numerous different roles and our CEO put me into a lot of different situations and ultimately, I ended up with responsibility for CNS. The company has been good to me, and it“™s a good company so the two kind of fit well together.
ExecutiveBiz: Does it feel like a family? Like it“™s home?
Jeff Bohling: You get comfortable because I know a good portion of the people because they have grown along with me. When I started back in 2001, Government Solutions, which became Vangent ultimately, was about maybe $80 million in revenue and this year we will be over $800 million. The growth and all of the excitement and challenges that come along with that has been a great experience. It has really allowed me to grow both personally as well as professionally and like I said, they“™ve treated me well.
ExecutiveBiz: What do you consider your most important task each day?
Jeff Bohling: I had to think about this one a bit ““ there is so much stuff that comes at you from so many different directions. After thinking about it, I would have to say that talking to our customers is probably the most important thing that I do every day. In the end, we are in a relationships business. It is about the relationships that you have with your customers, with your partners and your employees to a great extent but being in contact with your customer base and having them know that they are important, you value their business and that you are here for them when they need something is a big part of what someone in my position should do in my opinion. I would have to say that that“™s probably the most important task; whether it“™s reaching out to them and going down to see them, talking to them on the phone or just making sure that I“™m keeping their interests in mind as we are operating ““ in my opinion there is nothing more important. There is a lot of other stuff that happens every day, but I would have to say that“™s the most important one.
ExecutiveBiz: Last, is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
Jeff Bohling: My roots, my core thinking is really in engineering. I“™m an engineer at heart. My bachelor“™s degree is in electrical engineering, and I worked for a number of years in that field. I“™ve evolved into the business side of things after what I consider a pretty good career on the technical side. The way I work, I“™m still very analytical. I still try to break things down like you would think an engineer would do. In the end, since I“™m still an engineer at heart I like to build things and so I consider the evolution to building a business, just as a natural next step. My heart might still be in engineering, but the whole idea of building a business, building a team to execute that business is just a natural next step in that whole process.
ExecutiveBiz: Were you building with Legos when you were a child?
Jeff Bohling: I didn“™t have a lot of Legos, but I had a heck of a sandbox.