Dawne Hickton, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Critical Mission Solutions for Jacobs, recently had the chance to speak with ExecutiveBiz in the publication’s latest Executive Spotlight interview.
In the new Executive Spotlight with the two-time Wash100 Award recipient, Hickton discussed the company’s growth strategy and acceleration into its cybersecurity capabilities, recent senior leadership moves, the most significant challenges being addressed in digital transformation and her collaboration with Jacobs’ customers in light of the changes brought about by telework.
“Nothing can replace a face-to-face sit-down conversation with the customer, especially if this happens in a classified setting. In-person conversations are the best way to understand customer needs, and if a customer does not know what their needs are, we can brainstorm and work together as a team.”
You can read the full Executive Spotlight with Dawne Hickton below:
ExecutiveBiz: Following Jacobs’ purchase of KeyW a year ago, how has that acquisition and the last year of business benefited and accelerated the company’s cybersecurity expansion and driven CMS’ growth strategy?
“When I stepped into this role, one of my goals was to drive the business from a cybersecurity and intelligence standpoint. Some of that had been done organically, but we had made a couple of very small acquisitions early on in cyber.
One of them was called Blue Canopy; the other was Van Dyke. The KeyW acquisition was an opportunity for us to accelerate that growth and to add some great capabilities for our U.S. government clients, primarily in the areas of cybersecurity and intelligence analysis.
KeyW also added domain intelligence data analytics and some artificial intelligence capabilities into our team. I can say that the KeyW acquisition has accelerated our growth, and it has really paid off and proven to be an excellent acquisition for the team. It has allowed us to continue to grow and better support critical missions.”
ExecutiveBiz: How has senior leadership for Jacobs’ CMS business, including the recent appointment of Bruce Crawford, helped to drive growth opportunities?
“We brought on some great people from KeyW, including folks who will grow into executive leadership positions and, similarly, Paul Courtney joining our team from The Buffalo Group. Courtney and the others are really strong leaders, and we are very impressed with what they add to our overall team.
Bruce Crawford brings over 34 years of experience as a leader in executive management, national security enterprise information systems and cybersecurity. Bringing in somebody with Bruce’s stature, background and leadership skills has added to the future growth opportunities as we move into the digitalization and cybersecurity space.
What is interesting about Bruce is that he brings not only strong leadership skills but a different perspective. He is a change agent, which helps the rest of the team bring in new ideas. Sometimes those new ideas pan out, sometimes they do not, but it allows all of us to look at things differently and either validate the approach we are using or enables us to tweak the approach we are using as we think of solutions for our customers.
Our recent personnel additions supply that fresh perspective, and Bruce has been vital in providing a new perspective and focus that supports business growth.”
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ExecutiveBiz: What are the most significant challenges that Jacobs is working to address to push innovative solutions for its clients in integrated engineering solutions, cybersecurity as well as digital transformation.
“An area that we are really focused on is threat intelligence within our Cyber & Intelligence business unit. We work very closely with the Intelligence and Department of Defense communities. We are in a very strong position to address some of the market needs of today.
Cyber-attacks have been in the headlines recently with SolarWinds and the Colonial Pipeline. We can assist our customers with a brute force attack, someone doing trial and error to try to unlock accounts, phishing, either traditional phishing and spearing attacks, or malware. We are working aggressively to not only prevent those attacks but also to help find the bad guys.
Those attacks have brought increased emphasis on cyber issues in the current administration. They are prioritizing and reinvesting in cybersecurity, and we are focused on it and think this is an excellent opportunity for us to help our customers.”
ExecutiveBiz: With significant contract awards to drive innovation for the U.S. Army and U.S. space operations, what is your main focus to continue the development of space technology and other emerging technologies for the U.S. service branches and their needs?
“The KeyW acquisition helped jumpstart our space intelligence portfolio, but even before this, our space portfolio has over $1 billion in contract awards supporting space missions with our NASA customers. We are one of NASA’s non-EOM services providers. Of course, we support the Artemis Program, and we do work across eight of the ten NASA centers.
I have had the privilege to visit some of the centers, including Langley and Kennedy Space Center, in the last couple of months. Also, I did visit the Johnson Space Center too. Jacobs is key to the Artemis project.
We are working on the largest rocket ever built called the Space Launch System and then the Orion spacecraft with the associated Exploration Ground Systems. All the work is happening at Kennedy Space Center. We have a great team working on the mission, so it is exhilarating.
When it comes to space intelligence and space satellites, Jacobs designed, developed, integrated and qualified and then today is upgrading the Mango One payload. We have had much success on that mission, and there have been several others.
We use Spire’s Space as a Service (SpaaS), to demonstrate and qualify radar, communications and intelligence capabilities for Mango One in space. We have positioned ourselves to reflect that work and make us a key player in this game.”
ExecutiveBiz: With us having reached the halfway point of 2021, what are your goals for the rest of the year and what would you like to accomplish for Jacobs’ CMS by the end of 2021?
“Our near-term goal is to continue to go after new business and grow as a company. We will add capabilities and great people to strengthen our team. On a personal note, I have had an opportunity to start traveling again to meet with the customers, and as good as the virtual world has been during the pandemic and has opened up many opportunities for us, I think the way of the future will be hybrid.
Nothing can replace a face-to-face sit-down conversation with the customer, especially if this happens in a classified setting. In-person conversations are the best way to understand customer needs, and if a customer does not know what their needs are, we can brainstorm and work together as a team.
We will continue to help our customers with national priorities, not just for the United States but for our coalition allies. For example, our Five Eyes expansion is a big project for us.
In the near and long-term, we will look at emerging markets, particularly cybersecurity and the Five Eyes expansion. We are already working on critical mission solutions in Australia and with the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense. We hope to continue to grow these opportunities and work with coalition allies.”