Herb Strauss interview
Consulting vice president and senior managing partner at Gartner Inc.
Not long ago, we called up Herb Strauss, a member of the DC-based Johns Hopkins Federal Government Affinity Group and spoke with him about his career, his involvement in the group, and his thoughts about the group in general.
Herb has enjoyed a successful career both in the private sector and in government. Currently, he’s working for Gartner Inc., as Consulting Vice President and Senior Managing Partner, U.S. Public Sector-United States Intelligence Community. And though he may not tell you—we didn’t learn this until we read his official bio—he’s a decorated combat veteran of the Persian Gulf War, where he served with allied Special Forces in the Defense of Saudi Arabia and the Liberation of Kuwait (Desert Shield/Desert Storm).
His first involvement with the Federal Government Affinity Group was June 2012, when he was invited to be a presenter at one of its special events. He has been involved since.
JHU: When did you graduate from Johns Hopkins and what degrees did you take?
HS: I graduated in 2002 with an MBA and an MS in Information and Telecommunications Systems.
As an undergraduate, I was a military college graduate of Norwich University where I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government. I also earned graduate certificates from the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, the U.S. Naval War College and the National Defense University.
JHU: Tell us a bit about your career and what you’re doing today.
HS: I’m a consulting vice president and senior managing partner at Gartner Inc. I’m a subject matter expert in business and government applications of information technology. My fields of knowledge include the aerospace/defense, banking, government and IT industries—especially in the areas of national security and intelligence, strategic sourcing and the management and transformation of enterprise enabled by information technologies. In my current role, I lead Gartner’s consulting work assisting clients of the U.S. intelligence community.
Previously at Gartner, I was a research vice president and the firm’s principal national security analyst supporting government research worldwide. In this role, I researched, analyzed, published and presented research findings to Gartner clients on topics affecting the regional and increasingly global government industry, national security market segments and the companies that provide IT, consulting and system integration services in support of government missions. I also served as a member of Gartner’s global research communities in Government, Emerging Trends & Technologies and Consulting and System Integration, actively contributing to Gartner’s rigor of analysis and extensive body of research.
I’ve also worked in executive and management roles (P&L) with American Express, Electronic Data Systems Corporation, American Management Systems Corporation and Robbins-Gioia Inc.
Prior to that, I served for 20-years as a Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, where I specialized in operations, intelligence, and R&D. I served with operational forces worldwide, and in extended assignments with the Offices of the Secretary of Defense, Director of Central Intelligence, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA.
JHU: Why did you become involved in the Federal Government Affinity Group?
HS: In June I was invited to be part of a panel discussion at the Carey Business School in Washington called “Risky Business: The Future of Risk Management in the Federal Environment.” This event, which was followed in the evening by a networking reception, was the first event I’d attended that was hosted by the Federal Government Affinity Group. It was a great experience—the first of what I hope to be many such events with them.
JHU: What is your role and level of activity in the affinity group and in the alumni community in general?
JH: This summer has been my first involvement with the Federal Government Affinity Group. I’m looking forward to participating in future events.
My involvement in the alumni community at large has been longer. Since graduating in 2002, I’ve been very active. Among other things, I’ve listened to student presentations, worked with the university to help place students the research and IT industries, and so forth. I’ve also enjoyed mentoring and directing Hopkins grads to the right resources within the industries I know well and am a part of.
JHAA: What is your experience getting Hopkins alumni placed or at least prepared for career advancement?
HS: When I try to help a Hopkins student get into the market, in addition to listening to them articulate their goals, their skill set, and how their education applies to their desired career path, I try to give them a sense of the industry and provide
critical guidance as to where and when they should consider focusing their efforts.
My firm focuses on IT, and my area of expertise is IT security in the government. In general, the government and government contractors are always hiring, but even that is slowing down these days. While we are still somewhat successful in placing people, it’s harder in those cases where people want to do special things or work on specific projects. While some areas of IT are slowing down, IT in other sectors is picking up pretty quickly.
IT is similar to law—it’s a discipline that permeates almost every part of society. That makes IT pros necessary in all industry and segments. In order to be marketable, however, IT professionals need to know more than just IT—they also need to know the specific industry they’re working in as well.
JHU: How would you describe the Federal Government Affinity Group and its members?
HS: My first event with the group really piqued my interest. My sense was that most of the participating alumni are quite engaged and are very well informed.
All age groups were represented. People from both early and late in their career were present. A number of folks occupy fairly senior positions in government and government-supporting industries. Other participants were newly minted government employees or contractor employees. There is also a good representation of uniformed military personnel.
In terms of specific disciplines, there was strong representation from my field, IT. There were also a lot of people who are working in the life sciences in government.
Personally, I think engineering might be better represented in the future. It would also be good to have more entrepreneurs involved, whether they’re in engineering or consulting or some other discipline. Entrepreneurship in government industry is important, and I’d really like to see more folks get engaged in the group who are bringing good ideas to government as a business. Of course, it’s hard to get entrepreneurs involved in anything because they’re always busy!
JHU: The Federal Government Affinity Group is still quite new. What are your thoughts on its development?
HS: Although it’s still in the formation stage, it’s well organized. Its membership is solid and the group has a great infrastructure. There are a lot of Hopkins grads in government and in government-related industry. So while the group is still embryonic, its membership is by no means weak. There is a tremendous amount of potential in this community.
The group is young, and that’s a good thing. One of the main virtues of the group being new is that you still have the opportunity to steer it in any number of interesting directions. For example, it can break up into focus groups. There’s also an opportunity to publish if members so desire. We can also call for writers and speakers. Now’s a great time to be a part of the group because this is when we’re shaping its future.
JHU: What benefits does this affinity group offer its members?
HS: Three come immediately to mind.
First, this group provides a great forum for the sharing of information. Information is a powerful thing in government and related industries. Everyone in government knows how siloed information can be. By assembling with other talented people working in government, we can gain a broadened perspective that can help us in all kinds of meaningful ways.
Second, it’s very interesting to see what people do behind their title. This group provides a great opportunity to find out who people really are and what they really do.
Third, the group provides a healthy networking environment. People in the Federal Government Affinity Group really connect. It’s definitely not your standard rubber chicken networking circuit. As I’ve been introduced to members of this community, I’m struck by the fact that people here don’t just meet and greet. They continue to stay in touch. They track each other and show a genuine interest in how others are advancing in their careers.
JHU: How has this group benefited you in particular?
HS: Even though I’m new to the group, I’ve benefitted from it both professionally and personally. Professionally, I want to recruit new talent. This group is a great place to do that. I’m also interested in how people inside government are thinking. Knowing how people think is valuable to me.
Personally, I really like Johns Hopkins University! I get a charge every time I’m able to step onto a Johns Hopkins campus or meet with fellow grads and staff.
JHU: What single word or phrase would you use to describe this group?
HS: Future-oriented. The Federal Government Affinity Group is not tied to any particular class, grade or field of study. We’re leveraging our relationship with university to help advance the university and our own careers at the same time. Regardless of where we are in our career, this group is a future-oriented professional development asset to the university, the students and the alumni.