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Executive Spotlight: Deborah Drake, VP and Chief People Officer with Noblis

Executive Spotlight: Deborah Drake, VP and Chief People Officer with Noblis - top government contractors - best government contracting event

Deborah Drake, vice president and chief people officer with Noblis, spoke with ExecutiveBiz regarding the company’s recent growth initiatives as well as how the implementation of McKean Defense and other acquisitions have benefited its customers in the federal landscape.

In addition, Deborah Drake also discussed the core values that drive the company’s culture forward in such a competitive market and drive Noblis’ team and workflow during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.

“Inflation challenges, supply and demand difficulties, COVID – all of these contribute to an employee’s life.  Our desire is to balance as much of that burden as we can while also delivering trusted and aspirational outcomes. Noblis is becoming much more geographically dispersed, which allows for greater diversity within our population and our portfolio.”

You can read the full interview with Deborah Drake below:

ExecutiveBiz: What can you tell us about the company’s recent growth initiatives and how you’re driving value for your customers through contract awards, acquisitions and other aspects across the federal sector?

Deborah Drake: “As a non-profit science, and technology organization, Noblis’ mission is to enrich lives and protect our nation. For us, growth is about expanding mission impacts and proactively evolving with our clients’ needs and technologies to make a difference.

That difference comes from our employees. They are the ones who really drive the impact and value for our customers. And growth in each of our mission areas, which include federal civilian, homeland security, defense and intelligence and law enforcement, stems from our people.

For this reason, we work hard to continuously build a culture where our employees can thrive, and our customers can feel a tangible difference when working with us. We call it the Noblis Experience.

We train all of our employees on this concept and have built a strong foundation—one that’s highly ethical, respectful, innovative and efficient. It helps us optimize the experience for both our employees and customers and drives a user-centric approach for our business.”

This approach is critical in all we do. We consider it with acquisitions. For example, we acquired McKean Defense (now Noblis MSD) in May 2021. This acquisition and integration have been very successful. I believe a large part of this success is because we have a common mission, and everyone is operating according to our Noblis Experience.

This experience and collaborative environment have enabled our teams to introduce several new patents this year. For example, we were recently awarded patents for improving Artificial Intelligence recognition for low-quality images, introducing an autonomous machine coordination system and establishing a distributed ledger technology that expedites secure access to mobile networks to name a few.

Our teams also won several significant awards this year, including contracts to help deliver technical services for transforming the nation’s surface transportation system, reducing or eliminating weapons of mass destruction and to provide critical test and evaluation services for the Department of Defense’s artificial intelligence capabilities.

We’ve also been focused on expanding our footprint into new markets as well as driving our focus in critical areas like artificial intelligence, machine learning and model-based systems engineering. To sum it up, Noblis’ growth focuses on innovation that stems from our employees to deliver value to our clients and serve the public interest.”

ExecutiveBiz: What are the core values that are important to your company’s culture? How has your team developed its workflow and ability to drive success in such a competitive market?

Deborah Drake: “Overall, Noblis has a very dynamic company culture that builds upon our team dynamics to deliver the best combinations of trusted scientific, technical and engineering solutions with an amazing emphasis on our research and development.

We put our profits back into the mission and our people. From a cultural perspective, we’ve been named one of the most ethical companies in the world by Ethos. We are also a recognized top workplace. We don’t take this for granted because it’s all based on our own employee feedback.

We build upon our employee value proposition every day with a focus on excellence and celebrating success—and these awards really belong to our employees. We’re thankful for their hard work, innovation and commitment to our clients and each other that they bring every day.

Critical areas such as flexibility, employee wellness and diversity and inclusion are at the heart of our Noblis culture. Our current CEO, Amr ElSawy, and our planned and announced CEO successor in October 2022, incoming CEO Mile Corrigan, have exceptional passion and integrate diversity into everything that we do. It’s also a regular topic of discussion with our customers as well, so it’s at the forefront for Noblis.

We know that our employees are mission-driven and every employee that wants to join Noblis wants to perform meaningful work with an opportunity to significantly impact our world. It’s not just about their individual role, it’s also about the impact we make as a team in helping to enrich lives and make our nation safer.

Every day, Noblis is contributing to improving and sharing knowledge to contribute to the state-of-the-art for truly impactful mission work. This can sometimes be a lot tougher than it should be because of the ongoing challenges in recruiting talent and finding the right people to drive our organization forward.

Inflation challenges, supply and demand difficulties, COVID – all of these contribute to an employee’s life. Our desire is to balance as much of that burden as we can while also delivering trusted and aspirational outcomes. Noblis is becoming much more geographically dispersed, which allows for greater diversity within our population and our portfolio.

We’re also focused on building talent for our growing missions. We’ve recently hired incredibly talented transitioning military members through Hiring our Heroes and have a new summer cohort of interns.

The interns are phenomenal, and I know they will be wowing us with their knowledge, skills and capabilities as they work on challenging research and client projects. The talent at Noblis is outstanding.

When it comes to the ‘return to the office’ discussion, Noblis strongly believes that flexibility is crucial. We want to build purposeful connections, networking and career opportunities and continue to enable our employees to innovate and work independently for valued outcomes.

We believe the workforce is still evolving with some people preferring an office atmosphere, some people want to be hybrid and others want their own workspace. We work hard to balance our employees’ preferences with those of our clients.  Ultimately, it’s about a positive work and life balance.”

ExecutiveBiz: What can you tell us about the implementation McKean Defense and how other acquisitions have benefited your portfolio, technical capabilities and driven value for your company and customers?

Deborah Drake: “Our acquisition and integration of McKean Defense (now Noblis MSD) has been a significant focus for Noblis over the last year. Noblis MSD is an amazing organization comprised of exceptional people who are really passionate and knowledgeable about the work that they do with the U.S. Navy and the Army.

We’ve had a collective focus of bringing in the operational capabilities that McKean offers and how to fold in other aspects like artificial intelligence, data analytics and future modernization efforts. We’ve already seen a huge impact in terms of the modernization efforts for the U.S. Navy as a result of that acquisition.

For example, we combined their deep domain knowledge with Noblis’ technical capabilities to develop a resource optimization tool to help multiple stakeholders, who used varying reporting methods, manage interdependent data including drydock and facility availability, workforce allocation and maintenance schedules.

The resulting automated integrated decision-support tool enables data-driven decisions in a fraction of the time it previously took. Ultimately, the solution provides accurate information quickly to improve forecasting, scenario planning and overall fleet optimization and readiness.

I’m looking forward to seeing how we further integrate and combine this within Noblis to provide additional solutions in the future.”

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Written by William McCormick

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