Where did you grow up?
Until I was 2, we lived in a communal home in New Hampshire with a bunch of families and kids. It was very hippy-ish. Everyone meditated and shared household chores. But we moved to New Jersey and life became much more traditional after that. Both of my parents got different jobs; my dad was a tennis instructor, but he still does Tai Chi every day. My mom went more corporate. She got her nursing degree and was a nurse for a while, then got a teaching degree and taught high school and then went back to school for her doctorate and became a high school principal, then assistant commissioner of Education in NJ. I went to college at West Point in New York and haven’t really looked back at New Jersey since.
What made you decide to go to West Point for college?
I’m not from a military family; West Point just met the criteria I was looking for. I liked the size of the college and the fact that it was free. I also felt like I needed more discipline – I thought I would flounder at a regular school with too many distractions. Having a more structured environment appealed to me because I could see myself so easily getting sucked down the wrong track – not just a self-destructive path but any possible distraction. I played tennis and soccer growing up, but I didn’t want to get too into sports to the point that it distracted me from my studies. All of West Point’s classes also only have 15-20 students, so you don’t get lost in the shuffle. It just felt like the right fit for me. My parents were a little shocked a little bit by my choice, but they were incredibly supportive and helpful.
Did you always know you were going to go into the service?
No, but I liked the idea of knowing what I was going to do at the end of college. It was post 9/11, so a lot of people, especially those in the military academies, were ready to help serve in whatever way they could, and I wanted to do my part.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ivan Eno from Baker Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division on a mission in Iraq.
Photo Credit: Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS)
What did your five years of service include?
I was an Infantry Officer. I trained in Fort Benning in Georgia before I was deployed to Iraq in February 2007. I got back in May of 2008 and then stayed at Fort Benning for 6 months of additional training before going to El Paso, Texas, where they were starting up a new light infantry brigade. There, I was an S4, which means I was in charge of logistics – buying, selling and setting up transportation for my unit, before I got out of the service.
Did you know what you wanted to do after the Army?
I didn’t, so I interviewed for a lot of positions as I was getting out. I ended up in Southern California at General Mills, but I realized the manufacturing experience wasn’t what I wanted to do as a career. While I was there, I got my MBA, which opened my eyes to a lot of different industries and careers. I eventually ended up at DPRA where I was able to build a business development practice in the federal space. The CEO was another West Point graduate, and he and I talked a ton before deciding it was a good fit. I was there for almost seven years.
How does your background set you up for success at Blueprint?
I had met many people on the Blueprint team over the years in my previous role at DPRA, so I understand the ethos of the company and the personalities. Stepping into my new role, I knew I could work well there. I’ve also built a federal business development practice before – at DPRA. This is different, of course. It’s different technology for a larger company, but the process is the same. I can leverage what worked well for me before and avoid some pitfalls in advance. Understanding the different contracting languages used in the federal space helps in pursuing and winning contracts and RFPs.
How else is the federal space different?
Much of the federal government has requirements that are not mirrored in the commercial space. They often have old systems and technology that no commercial company would have, siloed information systems that they can’t get rid of and procedures and processes that they are legally required to follow. Companies who try to partner with organizations in the federal space often stumble because they don’t understand those constraints, such as classified environments, security clearances and the limited selection of commercial products that are certified for use in federal environments. Blueprint is great at developing an understanding of the challenges organizations face before beginning technical solution development. Marrying those attributes with my background in the federal space puts Blueprint in a good position to expand in this space.
How do you think Blueprint will be able to thrive in the federal space?
Long timelines and slow progress toward actionable results are par for the course in the federal space. It often requires several multi-year contracts to gain anything from a new effort. Blueprint has grown as rapidly as it has because it specializes in delivering fast results – basically in working itself out of a job. That fanatical approach to ensuring the customer sees value or stops the project will serve the company very well in the federal space. Rapid prototyping, the process of spending just 2 to 3 months to build a solution that provides real results with real data, is something that the Department of Defense and other federal agencies aren’t accustomed to. Smartly using resources by avoiding strategic missteps is incredibly valuable to any organization, but especially those in the federal space. There’s a strong synergy between what Blueprint does well and what the federal government needs.
Why do you like this type of role?
I love creating relationships. I like going places, meeting new people, understanding how we can work together and then carrying out that plan. Building strong, mutually beneficial relationships is a huge tenet of my career. When you can have a meaningful conversation with people and then actually take away deliverables from that – and then follow through on them – it can create a long-lasting relationship.
If you could go back in time and give yourself career advice, what would it be?
I’d tell myself to relax a little bit and not let the highs get too high or the lows too low. Sales has a lot of ups and downs, so if you can keep an even keel, it is much better for your health.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from previous roles that you apply to the work you do now?
You can never over-prepare. You can’t rehearse enough. You can’t prepare enough. There is no such thing as being too well prepared.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I played a lot of poker in college and got pretty good at it. I sent myself to Asia – Bali, Thailand, Hong Kong and Japan – with my poker earnings.