New at the Top: From Navy Expert to Business Leader

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2012 / Washington Post/ - As a child, I liked to tear things apart and put them back together. I knew that I would be in a technical field. I just didn’t know exactly where.

When I joined the Navy, it became apparent.

(Barquin International) - Bob Willitts

I entered as a junior enlisted, and 24 years later made it all the way to the highest enlisted rank you could achieve — master chief, specializing in acoustic intelligence.

I was selected for a program at the Office of Naval Intelligence as a tactical adviser, where I supported submarine commanders that performed special operations. It was a highly specialized, elite group of individuals. Only 50 from the Navy were selected. The best part of the job was interacting with submarine crews in tactically touchy situations. I thrived in that environment.

After 12 years, I knew I had a capability that I could take advantage of in the private sector. But I took a very, very atypical path when I left the Navy.

People in my position would typically go to the smaller contractors and concentrate on acoustic intelligence. But I’ve always been intrigued by the business side of things, so I decided to work for a large contractor.

I went to work for SAIC as a subject-matter expert in acoustic intelligence. My short-term goal was to become a senior program manager for a very successful, highly complex program for SAIC.

I quickly moved from subject-matter expertise to managing a software-development team for a high-complex program to overseeing all of the hardware and software development and integration for that effort. I managed customer expectations, senior leadership expectations and helped grow that business in a way that hadn’t been seen. My goal when I took over that program was to grow annual revenues from $25 million to an excess of $50 million in less than three years, and I was able to do that.

The latter part of 2010, I transitioned to having my own division, where I managed 60 to 80 senior scientists and engineers, specifically targeting all facets of maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Then I decided to transition to a small business — where you don’t have the same available resources but the decisions you make, both strategically and operationally, have that much more influence on the way the company progresses in its life cycle.

I was afforded the opportunity to tackle a highly related but different space for me, which is business intelligence knowledge management and data analytics. I was brought aboard to help define and execute the strategic vision to the next level.

I am excited to help Barquin become what I would consider to be an innovator and go-to developer and integrator in the space.

Interview with Vanessa Small

Bob Willitts

Position: Chief operating officer and executive vice president of Barquin International, an information technology consulting firm based in the District.

Career highlights: Vice president and advanced solutions division manager, SAIC; vice president and senior program manager, SAIC; senior systems development and integration manager, SAIC; deputy project manager and subject matter expert, SAIC; acoustic intelligence specialist and command master chief, Office of Naval Intelligence.

Age: 50

Education: Project Management Professional, Acoustic Intelligence Specialist and Navy Submarine SONAR Advanced Electronics Training

Personal: Lives in Arlington with wife Kelley. They have a son, Brandon.