Roger Baker took the “three bears” approach to finding a new job.
The former assistant secretary in the Office of Information and Technology and the chief information officer at the Veterans Affairs Department found a job that wasn’t too hard and wasn’t too soft. Baker started April 1 as the chief strategy officer at Agilex because it felt just right.
“I thought about starting Roger Baker LLC. It seemed to me that that was going to be a long, hard slog and really wasn’t going to let me do any significant impact on the market,” Baker said in an interview with Federal News Radio. “I looked at the real big players and talked to a few of them. I really just decided that that mid-sized company in this marketplace is really the right place to start. It’s big enough to have established capabilities but small enough that I can come in and actually impact the strategic direction. That probably wouldn’t have been possible with something that was very, very large. I had some opportunities to look at different ways of approaching this and decided that doing it from the mid-sized companies, and especially with the focus Agilex had on doing business this way, was the right way to go at it.”
Agilex provides an assortment of technology services, including enterprise mobility, software development and infrastructure optimization. It has been growing in both market share and notoriety especially for its work on mobile computing.
Less than a month between jobs
Baker left VA on March 8 after more than four years on the job. In an exit interview with Federal News Radio, Baker said he expected to stay in the federal community. On Tuesday, Baker said he just didn’t think the new job would come so quickly.
“When I left government, I left the position but not the passion. I brought the passion with me. I think if there is one thing that you could say my four years in government showed is building a results-based organization, building an organization that can deliver on the commitments it can make,” he said. “For me, this is about continuing that passion. In looking at the different organizations that I talked to that clearly was the major thing for me. I don’t want a job that I show up at. I want to make certain that I’m changing the world in some way, shape or form.”
The role of chief strategy officer, Baker said, is just that type of position.
He said his main role will be to help make sure Agilex delivers results to agency customers. The CSO will define what actions the company needs to take, what parts of the market they need to be in and what’s going to grow, and what approaches will be effective when talking to customers.
Baker said a good example of where he will focus on initially is with Agilex program managers who work on federal projects.
“Having great program managers is pretty critical. But the second thing that really drives that is, as a company, what do you task those program managers with accomplishing? Do you task them with accomplishing growing the number of people on the program, growing the revenue on the program, or do you task them with achieving the results that the customer is looking to achieve?” Baker said. “The way you motivate your program managers has a lot to do with whether or not your strategy is words or actions that are actually showing up in the marketplace. That is what the chief strategy officer does. Not only where should we go, but how do we get there and what do we have to do to make sure we achieve that.”
Separation of church and state
Baker became familiar with Agilex during his time at VA. The company was part of at least two winning contracts, including a $9.3 million deal as a subcontractor to Longview International Technology Solutions awarded in October to develop a mobile device management system, an approach to develop and test mobile apps and to create internal and external apps stores.
Baker said he not only got an in-depth ethics letter from VA lawyers, but that he never had anything to do with contracts or awards.
“There are some pretty standard rules that you follow. By law and by the pledge that I signed as part of the Obama administration, I’m precluded from VA for two years and I fully plan to comply with that,” he said. “What’s interesting is you get exposed to thousands of companies when you’re in a job like a CIO, not that you deal a lot with them directly, but you get to see who’s doing what in the marketplace. And it was clear to me, you can get a fairly good view of who’s doing a really good job for their customers and who’s not. To the extent that I used that to help me figure out who I wanted to be talking to, absolutely. I have a focus on trying to make certain that we continue to deliver results in the marketplace.”
Baker said as the CIO he was driving the strategy and what needed to get done.
“There was a lot of programs where I said this is what I want to accomplish — you could put the numbers in the hundreds at least — and I could tell you very little about how the vendors who were doing the work got selected or who did that selection,” he said. “Our philosophy was we will hold government program managers responsible for accomplishing what they set out to do. The whole strategy was they were selecting good folks to work with them. I didn’t have anything to do with who got selected. I think if you talk to the folks at the Technology Acquisition Center, they would tell you exactly the same thing. They didn’t hear from me about the selection of vendors relative to any contract.”