Executive Spotlight: An Interview With Eleanor Desai, Managing Partner at Clear Entropy

ExecutiveBiz recently spoke with Eleanor Desai about Clear Entropy’s role providing information technology modernization to federal agencies.

“It’s important to me that Clear Entropy keeps a relentless curiosity for answers to our customers’ problems, and that we’re always looking for new ways to innovate and change the game.”

ExecutiveBiz: You and the Clear Entropy team have over 25 years of experience in serving clients. Can you share some highlights from your background and how it has helped prepare you for your current role?

Eleanor Desai: I spent most of my career in large corporations, like TRW, IBM and Perot Systems/Dell, starting my federal career working literally in a building full of rocket scientists.  Not being one myself, I learned through immersion to become resourceful and adaptive – two very helpful qualities when running a business.

When I think of highlights, my time with Perot Systems clearly stands out. There were many  things that Mr. Perot himself instilled in the company that resonate with me as much today as they did then. He took things like customer obsession to the next level, and the notions of integrity and innovation were woven into the fabric of the culture. He often told us, “Bring me people who love to win and if you run out of those, then bring me people who hate to lose, but don’t bring me anybody neutral.” That really sums it up for me. If you find people who are passionate about solving a problem and have strong values, you have the makings of a winning team.

ExecutiveBiz: Where has Clear Entropy had the greatest impact within federal agencies?

Eleanor Desai: I think about our impact within federal in two ways – the “what” and the “how.”

The “what” is around cybersecurity and digital transformation. Those are two pretty big areas, so let me explain what I mean. Picture a hub and spoke, where the hub centers on the notion of the transformation and protection of all things digital. The spokes represent the different technologies and solutions we’re leveraging to accomplish it.

The “how” involves our approach to market. We’re building a coalition of other small to mid-size innovators in technology and solutions, who have the passion and expertise to address digital transformation and cybersecurity issues. As a nimble and customer-centric firm, we aim to continuously add new spokes on the wheel that can help solve tough problems.

I believe this approach capitalizes on untapped industry resources that can yield major results. Having come from the large integrator community, I have great respect for the work they do for federal. We are very complementary to their efforts, in a 1+1 = 3 kind of way, and that’s an ultimate win for federal agencies.

ExecutiveBiz: What new technologies do you see on the horizon that will impact/improve delivering technology solutions to the federal government?

Eleanor Desai: It’s pretty clear that “smart” everything is here, and here to stay. The era of Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, voice-controlled devices – it’s all on the table now. We’ve achieved an unprecedented level of connectedness.

As federal agencies seek to leverage the benefits of this modernization, I think speed will become a critical factor. Speed to understand gaps and risks; speed to identify solutions; speed to adopt new technologies and processes; and speed to innovate. For critical requirements, I think we’ll see fewer multi-year programs and more innovation offices and incubators focused on quickly bringing solutions to problems.

I also think industry’s partnership with federal agencies is more critical than ever, and I intend for Clear Entropy to be a leader here. Whether it’s a next-generation wireless innovation, evolution in cloud, or something we haven’t even imagined yet, the best outcomes will be realized when we work together closely to improve the speed of adoption.

Bottom line, new technologies will be a vital part of fulfilling mission imperatives, and how we align ourselves to consume and deploy them will be a key indicator of our success.

ExecutiveBiz: What new market opportunities do you anticipate Clear Entropy will be expanding into in the future?

Eleanor Desai: By focusing on what we feel are some of the biggest issues today, we have no shortage of market opportunities. Let me reference my hub and spoke analogy. While there are a number of great firms focusing on cybersecurity and digital transformation, I see us differentiating ourselves and evolving with our spokes, the specific offerings and solutions.

I’m making a big bet around mobile security, particularly with location intelligence. With nearly five billion mobile devices globally, we’ve opened ourselves to an incredible vulnerability in this era of smartphones. We’ve devised a way to leverage unique technology to address some of the most hard-hitting mission problems. With a core in mobile location, and a roadmap of other high-value data from sources such as unmanned aerial devices and other open-source sensors, we feel strongly that our predictive analytics will aim squarely at solving important, unaddressed national security issues.

Another spoke involves securing supply chains. As a federal agency, you put a fence around the perimeter, have tight control with badging systems and computer credentials, but what about the delivery that just came in? With evolving techniques by our adversaries, we’re doubling down on creating higher assurance methods to acquire goods and services in federal.

If I were drawing our hub and spokes on a whiteboard for you right now, you’d see there are several more populated, and a few that remain empty. It’s important to me that Clear Entropy keeps a relentless curiosity for answers to our customers’ problems, and that we’re always looking for new ways to innovate and change the game.

And with a little luck, I can share my passion to serve our customers and our people, just like Mr. Perot did for me all those years ago.

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 Before founding Clear Entropy, Eleanor Desai served in roles of increasing responsibility at TRW, Unisys and IBM, and as senior vice president of national security at Perot Systems Government Services and later Dell. She sits on the board of advisors for SkyPort Consulting and Government Business Results.

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