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Noblis CEO Mile Corrigan Outlines Leadership Plan, Explains Methodology for Testing Tech

Mile Corrigan has dedicated her career to advancing national security goals through measured, consistent technological progress and continuous innovation for the federal sector. A long-time employee of Noblis, the Reston, Virginia-based nonprofit science and technology organization, Corrigan initially served in roles such as computer scientist and software architect where she launched and operationalized Noblis’ Center of Digital Excellence and delivered technology transformations across civil and defense missions. Her success in these roles earned her leadership positions such as director of transportation systems, senior vice president of federal civilian solutions and executive vice president before she came into her current role as president and CEO in October.

In an Executive Spotlight interview, Corrigan spoke with GovCon Wire about the essential, inarguable decision for companies to digitize, the differentiators that have made her loyal to Noblis and her plans for key items she wants to accomplish as CEO.

Congratulations on your new role! What has kept you at Noblis over the years and what do you hope to accomplish in your new role as CEO?

Thank you! I’ve been at Noblis for more than 20 years because it is a very special company. Our people and culture are driven by mission impact, and we have a culture of continuously innovating for the future and for our clients. Noblis is known for advancing national priorities—protecting our interests globally and building a more sustainable and resilient future for not only our employees, but our customers and our nation.

What’s kept me at the company for so many years is the opportunity to work with such dedicated and talented leaders and some of the best minds in our industry—who are all committed to our customers’ missions. I’m also proud of the ethical, diverse and inclusive culture we’ve worked hard to build together. That is something that I’m committed to preserving; ensuring that we keep that company ethos as we scale and grow.

I’ve got a heavy agenda for the foreseeable future with many things to accomplish and encapsulate in terms of growth. At the highest level, I want everything we do to focus on continuous evolution and growth.

I don’t mean growth in purely financial terms. I mean growth of our people, so that they can maximize their potential and bring their best and most authentic selves to work every day, and growth of our customer programs so that we can help achieve success for their ever evolving and complex mission sets. Equally important is growth of our research programs so that we continue to drive breakthrough innovations and expand  our technology investments to advance future missions and deliver long-term returns on invested capital.

I view this as a critical lever that will keep our legacy of science and technology excellence thriving for many years to come.

What core values are important to your company’s culture? How has your team developed its workflow and ability to drive success in such a competitive market?

At Noblis, we stand and live by our common purpose. It’s all about enriching lives and making our nation safer with our shared passion for excellence and innovation—and establishing trust and confidence with every colleague, every time. This is the basis for the Noblis experience that sets the bar high for our service standards which call for us to be ethical, respectful, innovative and efficient.

Those four service standards really guide our behaviors and all that we do. If you think about the Noblis experience, it’s what brings us together and also what differentiates us. So not just words, but an expectation that we have for each other and the strong foundation that we’ve set for our culture.

Our success is this standard that we’ve set for ourselves and for each other to keep pace, not only with market forces, but technology evolution, convergence and of course, first and foremost, our customers’ needs.

We often discuss innovation from the technical or capability side. What are some of the unique challenges that you’ve seen on the business side of innovation that haven’t been addressed or discussed enough?

In the federal sector, the bulk of innovation we often see is incremental at best—usually with a three-to-five-year time horizon. When I talk about that type of innovation or incremental innovation, it improves upon an existing technology to either sustain a position or provide features that deliver enhanced value. And while incremental innovation may meet mission needs in the now, or near-term, I personally would like to see the rise of new business models and the combination of new technology and new business models fundamentally drive breakthroughs for our sector.

For instance, it’s been very exciting to watch the space market rapidly evolve and observe how our customers are accepting more risk: they’re balancing schedule and funding needed to deliver on current programs while more aggressively exploring future innovation in the commercial sector and through partnerships. The acute threat vectors from our near peer powers and their aggressiveness are actually helping us build more bridges with industry, academia and government more than ever before.

We know that assuring our dominance in space will require collaboration across all fronts. It will require us to remove unnecessary bureaucracy and long tech-time horizons that are no longer relevant or sustainable—similar to how we ramped and scaled innovation throughout Covid-19. I would like to see that type of convening power not just from a pure technology sense, but how, when and where we deliver capability to meet some of these great challenges we have ahead of us.

With the influence of emerging technologies impacting every aspect of business, how has your company been able to drive digital transformation efforts to stay ahead of innovation in the federal landscape for yourself and your customers?

I love this question because I feel like going digital isn’t an option. It’s really foundational to every business. I may be dating myself a bit, but back in the mid-1990s, I selected Virginia Tech as my school of choice, because believe it or not, rural Blacksburg was the most wired community with the highest per capita use of the internet in the world at that time. As a college student, I wanted access to this growing and game-changing technology.

If you think about where we are today, at Noblis, our work is focused on helping our customers transform their mission. And digital connectivity is a fundamental aspect of driving that transformation. It’s necessary to deliver speed, performance and scale. And when you integrate digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, cloud, extended reality, just to name a few, the possibilities are endless. Without digital connectivity, we wouldn’t be where we are today. 

In terms of how we stay ahead at Noblis, it’s pretty simple. We practice on ourselves. We’ve automated most of our business processes across the organization and we’ve long been operating in a cloud environment. So, when new technologies emerge, we test them for ourselves and for our customers.

For instance, we transitioned to a fully software-defined network way ahead of our customer transformations, really to debunk hype from reality across the various vendor offerings. Thus, we take a very applied approach to technology. We have purpose-built labs where we test the wide range of technology that’s available in market. That’s part of our culture at Noblis. We challenge our employees to raise ideas to try new tech and fail fast so that we understand the feasibility and viability of that technology in our customer operations.

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