May - June 2022
Get to Know the New CEO, James Gordon
A technology innovator with 20 years of experience in federal agency digital transformation, James Gordon recently assumed the role of CEO at DRT. Now serving as Chairman of the Board, Susan Kidd says, “James is an ideal leader for DRT, given his long record of groundbreaking solutions for federal clients—and his commitment to a culture of inclusivity, performance, and caring.” (See more in the CEO Message below.)
Prior to his role at DRT, Gordon served as President of Cognosante. Here, we feature a Q & A with the new CEO as he embarked on his first week on the job.
Q. What drew you to DRT? Did you know of it ahead of time?
A. I knew of DRT by reputation though I hadn’t worked with the team before. But Susan and I met many times, once for so long that we saw a shift change at a restaurant. We discovered how much we had in common, coming up as consultants in the 1990’s with a shared philosophy of getting the job done and being scrappy and nimble—what one calls “agile” today.
Q. As you talked, what appealed to you about DRT?
A. Our shared values and business approach. DRT is known for producing really good work—and delivering efficiently. The “think hard, work smart” adage resonates with me. I like that the company does not live quarter to quarter but is strategic and has a longer term vision. Also, at the core of DRT is an innovation engine, a drive to “do the right thing” for customers. Leading with our values is a great differentiator.
Q. What part do you think you will play in driving resolution together with this team?
A. I believe everyone has a superpower, something they are very good at and something they love to do. For me, that superpower is business development. I immensely enjoy identifying prospects and figuring out how to solve problems for them.
Q. What opportunities are you eyeing for DRT?
A. All the big consulting firms are having problems right now because they can’t get out of their own way. Agency execs are tired of long cycles of development in which tech solutions are out of date before they are implemented if they ever get off the ground. DRT is agile and has a track record of moving and delivering. Low code and no code solutions are so attractive right now, so solutions like DRT Confidence make great sense. Agile builds are the future of what our customers want—and DRT is poised to specialize in these.
Q. What value is important to you in cultivating the culture at DRT?
A. Empathy. Some of my appreciation for empathy is born of the pandemic, this 100-year event. I learned the importance of managers talking to and finding out how their employees are faring. We had cases in which high performers were struggling. Maybe they lost their structure, so we found ways to introduce structure that helped them. The company I want to work for and to lead, employs empathy.
Q. Who impressed the importance of empathy on you?
A. My grandparents were missionaries in the 70’s, active with the organization World Vision that brought many Vietnamese refugees to this country. Years later, I was working at Ernst and Young—and I mentioned my grandparents’ work to a colleague about my age. It turned out my grandfather had arranged the placement of his family in the U.S. This colleague was the first person in his family to go to college. What a full circle moment for me: out of 5 billion people in the world, I worked alongside someone my grandfather helped escape war and poverty.
Q. What’s your take on remote and hybrid work?
A. All of us enjoy days we work at home and dread going to the dry cleaner again. But we need to return to a level of normalcy. So, turn on your camera during virtual meetings. Come into the office; you can regulate the time frame. I trust people to manage their time and their time off. But get face time with the client. Go to the work happy hour, go to lunch with your teammates. Build those relationships. That’s the key.
Q. Other priorities?
A. We need to embrace diversity—and live into our commitment to it. We will continue to build on the inclusivity platform forged in a woman-owned company. There’s so much emerging research and best practices. Accenture, for example, has made diversity part of its business model—and I know professionals who stayed with that company because of it. I want people to line up around the block to work for DRT—and to be attracted to us because of what we stand for.
Q. And what do you do to balance your work life?
A. I enjoy anything on the water. I’m a recovering boat owner and love fishing and the beach. I used to run half and full marathons, then I took up biking. I love to travel and I am a big foodie—all things involving food!
Project Spotlight: CDC's Public Health Law News
A family member concerned about a loved one in a nursing home being served a poor diet submitted a request—and DRTers working at the CDC followed up to provide law and policy resources that could be used to right this public health problem. Indeed, the implications of the work performed by the DRT team at CSTLTS (Center for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support) are profound. And the recent refresh they have provided to the website and newsletter have expanded their outreach and improved user friendliness.
Senior IT Associate Swapna Deshpande contributed to redesign with Adobe Campaign — and has demonstrated the value of Campaign’s analytics to the customer to measure and improve engagement. “We’ve seen subscriptions and views to the site, Public Health Law News, increase since its refresh in March,” she says.
Attorneys also serve as analysts on the DRT team, including Minnesota-based Jada Fehn and Atlanta-based Jessica Ogilvie. For the communications, they call on their legal training to contribute reports and presentations. And they act as preceptors as needed for CSTILTS interns who write for Public Health Law News. Subscribers to the News include CDC staff, academics, law students, as well as public health professionals across the country.
“We make people aware of the public health research that has been done,” says Ogilvie,”and how the law or policy might affect a public health question.” Fehn cited an important recent example in which lack of water access for a community of color was highlighted, and justice to address a racial health disparity was modeled.
Another attorney serving as an analyst, Sasser was the latest DRTer to have her work published in Public Health Law News. In this article, Sasser and CSTILTS co-authors scanned state disease reporting laws with a legal epidemiology lens. “Analyzing these state laws,” she wrote, “can serve as a potential starting point to assist in understanding why gaps in data exist and can help address these challenges in anticipation of future disease outbreaks or spread.”
The team’s takeaways for other DRTers? “We put a good face on our agency, producing top-notch communications and ensuring constituents and government partners have ready access to critical resources and information,” Fehn says.
DRT Life Gets Jump on Summer Reading with Challenge
Nineteen DRTers read 30 books during DRT Life’s Reading Challenge. Thanks to all our voracious readers including: Megan Young, Lisa Minardi, Jennifer Adams, Erica Boehm, Beth Pollak, Stephanie Dromerick, Ameer El’Alaily, Graeme O’May, Jessica Rothwell, Pamela Hsieh, Alyssa Glasgow, Marsha Salehi, Lana Bian, Annette Elliot, Monika Deshpande, Mei Lu, Jacalyn Hartmann, Joseph Dorn, and Ellen Wertheimer.
Two of their recommendations for your beach reading pleasure? Here you go . …
As 22 members of the class of 2022 prepare to begin their careers at DRT, it’s graduation time for me as well. After 19 years as CEO, I’ve moved into an exciting new position—establishing a world-class board of directors to advise and set strategy for DRT, which I will chair.
Our new CEO James Gordon brings a deep understanding of our market, sound decision making, and a very calm and thoughtful demeanor. He’s eager to grow our business, heighten our diversity/equity, and bring our marketing to the next level. I’m enjoying working with him in this transition, and I am certain you will as well.
May this summer offer rest and renewal, as we continue to serve customers with smarts and innovation. I look forward to this next chapter with you—to your and James’ leadership as DRT grows and thrives.
Employee Spotlight: Mahmoud Yessad
The DIRT talks below to IT SME Mahmoud Yessad who started full-time work with the company in January, having contracted with DRT since last year. Of him, Senior Manager says,”Mahmoud demonstrates DRT values thoroughly: he has a positive mindset, a can-do attitude, always going above and beyond for customer objectives amid tight deadlines. He introduced new ideas which our client appreciates and approves, demonstrating DRT innovation and creativity.”
Q. Tell us what you do, Mahmoud.
A. My first project was migrating an old system and upgrading to Office 365 for the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) Office of Translational Science. But most recently for CDER’s Office of Executive Programs (the Combination Product and Product Jurisdiction team), I’ve been working with SharePoint for backend data for their applications. We have developed essentially a triage system for all their emails instead of a mailbox, which makes the record management more efficient and accurate.
Q. Any secrets to success you could share with other DRTers?
A. The key is creating apps that are easy to use, making complex applications seem simple. I’ve been doing this work for 15 years, and it takes experience to understand and solve these problems. I think the most important thing is understanding the requirement, and even amid the complexity, taking the time to grasp the requisites.
Q. DRT’s new CEO emphasizes the value of empathy. Is this something that resonates with you?
A. I come from Algeria in North Africa. I know what it means to have nothing. I see myself as fortunate to have whatever I have, and I look around for people who don’t have much. I just always look at life this way.
Q. Is there someone you are actively helping right now?
A. Kirit Kondoori is a new DRT associate with us, new in his career. It’s my job to assist him—to develop his skills and always be accessible for his questions. We work remotely so this is harder to do, but I enjoy welcoming and helping him.
Q. Why is this so important to you?
A. I was 22 when I left Algeria during a civil war. I left my parents and my whole family and came to the United States alone. I had small jobs here and there and eventually went to school, got my degree, and started working. There were people along the way who helped me, and I always try to be that person for others.
Q. Favorite childhood summer memory?
A. When I was 8, I went camping with my brothers for a month at the beach. On a big tent right on the sand. I grew up by the sea. But I remember that summer in particular. I’m afraid these days in the D.C. area, I spend much of the summer hiding at home in the A.C.
Q. Any good Algerian food you can recommend in the area?
A. Only at my house. I’m a good cook. We make couscous and a lot of stews.
Important DRT Dates
Monday, May 30, Memorial Day Federal Holiday
Monday, June 20, Juneteeth Federal Holiday
Friday, June 24, New Employee Orientation, DRT Headquarters (Tentative)
Save the Date
Saturday, September 17, DRT-Sponsored Youth Leadership Foundation 5k Fundraiser