WashingtonExec: Top HR Execs to Watch in 2023

Jo Ann Bjornson

Chief Human Resources Officer, V2X

Jo Ann Bjornson joined V2X this year after the 2022 merger of Vectrus and Vertex created a company worth nearly $4 billion with close to 16,000 employees worldwide. With 25 years of experience in federal contracting and having been part of several business transformations, she’s now part of a successful and energized company. V2X is using its larger size and varied skills to continue expanding the business.

“I feel fortunate to have joined a leadership team that is so collaborative and committed to tackling hard problems, shaping the organization, and supporting our talent priorities to support our scale and growth,” she said.

Why Watch

In 2023, Bjornson and her team are heavily focused on shaping the future and viewing the recent merger not as an integration but a reinvention. They will be working to link day-to-day priorities to what drives business results, removing what does not add value, and improving the overall V2X candidate, employee, and manager experience.

“For me personally, I have opportunity to impact the HR function at V2X but also the career development of my team, as I empower them to shape our function and their roles to focus more on being partners to our business and contributors to its success,” she said.

Chuck Prow, CEO of V2X, said the company is fortunate to have Bjornson join the leadership team during a period of transformation.

“She has hit the ground running, bringing her years of experience in our industry to shape our people priorities and lay the foundation to further scale our organization,” he said. “V2X is deeply committed to the mission and its people, and Jo Ann has brought a dynamic leadership approach that will be pivotal to our growth.”

StrategicCFO360: Stop, Reflect, Reset

Four CFOs with a slate of responsibilities that would intimidate their peers a generation ago are finding value in stopping to assess their leadership performance.

Like other CFOs in today’s turbo-charged world of business, Katie Grahmann struggled to find time in her jam-packed day to pause and think about the big picture. So many details required her attention that it was difficult to step back and assess how she was doing.

“My whole career I’ve been told, `Katie, you’re doing great, just keep up the good work,’” said Grahmann, finance chief at the 92-year-old Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the world’s largest livestock exhibition and rodeo. “But am I really doing great? I know what I know, but what I need to know is what I don’t know—my blind spots.”

Not taking time to understand one’s leadership strengths and shortcomings also troubled CFO Chris Young at private equity fund Montage Partners, which invests predominantly in family-owned industrial consumer products companies. “There’s just so much on our plates these days as CFOs that we’re getting stretched thin, going from one crisis to the next without a pause,” Young said.

The workload and blistering pace made another finance chief, Susan Lynch, wonder if her communications with finance staff was correctly interpreted. “When someone is not performing at the level they should, I ask myself, was I clear, were they capable of performing the task, or do they need help?” said Lynch, CFO at public company V2X, a leading provider of mission critical solutions to global defense clients, with $3.6 billion in annual revenue and 15,000 employees worldwide.

All three CFOs came to the realization that a relentless focus on the minutiae of business leaves no time to reflect on their leadership, how they are inspiring and mobilizing people toward attaining the CEO’s vision. Minus this introspection, they were in a liminal state, in between thinking all was well and not really knowing.

This confusion is much less today, thanks to their determined efforts to pause to frankly assess their leadership performance. Their methods of self-examination are different, but they collectively appreciate the need to sit back and take notice. Young, for example, schedules his much-needed break every two weeks to reflect on his plusses and minuses. “I zoom out to evaluate what I’m doing and how I could do it better,” he said.

Leadership self-assessment falls into the category of a CFO’s softer skills, but it is as immensely important as closing the books correctly and keeping tabs over a seemingly endless set of responsibilities. “It’s crucial for CFOs to turn everything off, take two hours, go for a walk and think about the things they’re doing well and not so well,” said Owen Ryan, former CEO of Deloitte Advisory. “Self-assessment is an opportunity for continuous improvement.”

Ryan’s long career comprises three additional stints as a CEO: at investment firm Geller Advisors; property/casualty insurer AEGIS Insurance Services; and leading finance and accounting automation solutions provider BlackLine, where he serves today as chairman and co-CEO (with founder Therese Tucker). “Good CFOs understand the vision and have put forth the strategy to achieve it, but great CFOs pause along the way to contemplate their progress,” he said.

He’s not alone in reminding CFOs to stop, reflect and reset. “The speed and intensity of change in the world challenges CFOs as enterprise and function leaders, but it also challenges them to find needed moments of time to nurture their souls,” said Ankur Agrawal, a partner at McKinsey & Co. focused on strategy and corporate finance issues.

Washington Technology 360: What are V2X’s next big steps?

V2X’s chief growth and client service officer Sue Deagle joins the podcast to explain the rationale for putting this new company together by merging Vectrus and Vertex, plus how the combined team is looking to grow beyond the foundation already in place.

Vectrus and Vertex joined forces in the summer of 2022 to form what is now V2X — a global government services provider roughly double in size to approximately 14,000 employees.

It was one of the larger deals of 2022.

For this episode, V2X’s chief growth and client service officer Sue Deagle describes how the combined company is looking to build off that foundation and expand into new areas of the market.

One significant leg of the corporate strategy is converged infrastructure, which V2X defines as integrating digital offerings into large physical assets with the end goal of creating smarter buildings including many military bases.

V2X also has to be a scout for technologies and partners to make that converged infrastructure a reality. Deagle also explains how V2X thinks about technology and goes about identifying the right tools and partners for more than just an individual program.

Listen to the full podcast here: https://washingtontechnology.com/podcasts/2023/04/wt-360-what-are-v2xs-next-big-steps/385444/

Commercial Observer: Defense Contractor V2X Moves HQ to Tysons

V2X, which provides mission solutions to defense clients, has moved its headquarters from Colorado Springs, Colo., to Northern Virginia.

The company, which formed in 2022 as a merger between defense contractor Vectrus and government services company Vertex, inked an undisclosed amount of space at The Shenandoah Building, a 209,332-square-foot building in Tysons, Va. 

“This is a strategic location for V2X that is collaborating with government clients, business partners and educators,” Chuck Prow, V2X’s CEO, said in a prepared statement. “Tysons Corner is a bustling community at the intersection of the DMV area. We are excited to be so close to thriving educational institutions and a wealth of talented prospective employees.” 

Rockpoint Group owns the nine-story building, having acquired it for $55.2 million in 2017.

Located at 7901 Jones Branch Drive, the property was built in 1999 and has been renovated to include a newly built conference room, a cutting-edge fitness center and a tenant lounge. 

Earlier this month, V2X was awarded a seven-year $440 million contract for aircraft maintenance services from the U.S. Navy

“As federal agencies and the military continue to modernize, V2X sees this new home as a commitment to serve the current and future needs of our clients and the missions we are privileged to support,” Prow said.

V2X will continue to house significant operations in Colorado Springs, Indianapolis, Orlando, Madison, Miss., and Greenville, S.C., according to the company.

Keith Loria can be reached at [email protected].

Gizmodo: NASA Turned Its Giant Swimming Pool Into the Moon for Artemis Astronauts

A Virginia-based company has transformed the section of a submerged training facility to help Artemis astronauts train for upcoming moonwalks.

Teams at an underwater facility in Houston, Texas, are making preparations to train astronauts who are preparing for future missions to the Moon. This facility is being modified to recreate the harsh lunar environment by submerging future moonwalkers in a pool that’s 40 feet deep.

Astronauts have been training at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) at NASA’s Sonny Carter Training Facility for more than 30 years, with the buoyancy of 6.2 million gallons of water simulating the weightlessness of zero gravity. As NASA prepares to send astronauts back to the Moon for its Artemis program, the bottom of the massive pool is undergoing a makeover to replicate the conditions on the lunar surface.

“We are in the midst of installing sand that mimics the lunar regolith,” Clay Tomlinson, V2X program manager, told Gizmodo. This will “allow astronauts to traverse through that environment just to have an understanding of how it will feel.”

Moonwalking simulation, and it’s doing so by building a replica lunar environment at the bottom of the tank. Aside from the sandy floors, the bottom of the pool is being equipped with boulders and rocks, both real and manufactured, to recreate the Moon’s rock-littered surface.

Astronauts making their way through the simulated lunar surface will also be trained to work in the dim-lit conditions expected at the Artemis landing sites. V2X is in the process of recreating the lighting conditions found at the Moon’s south pole, where astronauts will land as part of the Artemis 3 mission scheduled for later this decade.

Divers are currently testing the underwater lunar environment in advance of the Artemis training. “The main focus right now is perfecting our technique for making sure that we can weigh out at one-sixth [of the Earth’s] gravity,” Tomlinson said. “As we perfect that and as mission requirements demand, training will become more and more specific and the environment itself will become more high fidelity as needs are identifying.”

During the days of Apollo, astronauts trained at the Water Immersion Facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. NASA needed a bigger pool, however, to train astronauts for upcoming missions on board the Space Shuttle and for long duration flights aboard the International Space Station. That’s when NBL came into the picture—a massive diving tank that’s 202 feet long (62 meters), 102 feet wide (31 meters), and 40 feet deep (12 meters).

Until now, astronauts used the facility when training for missions on board the ISS. In addition to using it for spacewalk training, astronauts use the pool for simulated landing and recovery exercises; at the completion of their missions, astronauts make their way back to Earth aboard capsules that splash down in the ocean. Teams also used the facility to practice for the recent Orion spacecraft recovery, which splashed down in the Pacific Ocean after completing the inaugural Artemis mission in December 2022.

Future ISS training is still planned for the shallower end of the pool, while Artemis astronauts will train at the very bottom in their simulated lunar environment. “We’re not just simulating zero-G in the middle of the water column,” Tomlinson said. “We’re utilizing the top of the water column on the surface for landing recovery activities and now we’re also executing at the bottom of the tank for lunar surface activities.”

Most of the training that takes place at the facility is for familiarization purposes, especially for newer astronauts. The pool also hosts targeted training for specific missions, in addition to training emergency responses in the event something goes wrong.

For now, ISS training is the main focus at the NBL. “We still have an astronaut crew aboard the space station 24/7, so they are in [a] real time mission at all times and that has to be the mission focus for now because we play an integral part in their success and their safety,” Tomlinson said. “However, now we do have lots of additional focus on Artemis as well.”

Aside from training astronauts for moonwalking, the underwater facility will also be used to prepare them for the future orbital outpost around the Moon known as the Lunar Gateway. “There are just so many different exciting things in their infancies and beginning to develop, it’s just an extremely exciting time,” Tomlinson said. “I love being a part of history, I love being a part of the excitement.”

Space.com: Underwater spacewalks recreate the ‘moon’ in a giant NASA pool

By Elizabeth Howell

A famed NASA facility that trains astronauts has a new pool area designed for future moon missions.

Before walking on the moon, future astronauts may go for a swim.

The famed Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) near NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston has trained hundreds of spacewalkers since 1992. All International Space Station crews spend many hours by simulated space modules in the large, indoor pool of water. There, they gradually get used to floating, turning screws, mounting hardware and other activities — all within reach of trained safety divers.

But with NASA now aiming to put astronauts on the moon, a part of the underwater facility is rapidly changing. 

Nearby the ISS training area is a growing lunar-like world. Simulated sand and boulders (both natural and artificial) ornament the pool floor. Prototype spacesuits and lunar vehicles take dives. 

Even the strange sun conditions on the moon are coming into focus, as company V2X experiments with the lighting that NASA astronauts will face at the moon’s south pole in 2025 or so, when Artemis 3 goes on the surface. 

As NASA expands its Artemis program at the moon, the agency expects that commercial companies will quickly follow it there. Already an agency-supported program called Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) has a set of payloads, landers and rovers aiming to touch the surface as soon as this year.

V2X expects the demand to quickly grow, and they want to be ready with their underwater moon world for whoever needs to train for spacewalks in a strictly monitored environment. 

Walking underwater, on the moon

Two spacesuited test divers work in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in an underwater, simulated lunar landscape. The lab is already used by NASA for International Space Station missions, and early-stage work is ongoing by V2X to ready part of the pool facility for moonwalks.

The company emphasizes that the work is being done carefully and procedurally to keep all participants safe and aware of the environment, just like other clients in NBL training (as the facility serves both NASA and commercial customers.)

“Everybody has to be laser-focused on safety at all times,” Clay Tomlinson, V2X program manager, told Space.com in an interview.

“It’s a very, very important thing to do not only for our people, but if you think about the astronauts who are training, we supply their breathing gas. We supply their cooling water. We supply all their videos,” he added.

Other moon work is also ongoing at the water surface level of NBL: V2X participated in simulated landing operations of the Artemis 1 mission after years of practice in the pool. That uncrewed 2022 mission not only sent the astronaut-rated Orion spacecraft around the moon for the first time, but had a flawless splashdown in part due to years of training and preparation for recovery operations.

“It could not have gone better,” Tomlinson said of the recovery, which happened after plenty of NBL practice to shelter from outside conditions in pristine, calm waters. As the team gained experience, they moved to the Gulf of Mexico “to simulate some more realistic states” in open water so the team would be ready for an Atlantic Ocean splashdown.

The NBL was not available to astronauts in the 1960s and 1970s when the Apollo program last brought people to the moon, so a lot of new things are being learned to simulate moonwalks. Weights and flotations are used to keep spacesuited divers at one-sixth of the Earth’s gravity, similar to the moon’s conditions. 

Lessons learned are drawn from all the literature available, too. For example, NASA has been practicing underwater excursions for years during its NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) missions. Swims and simulated ‘spacewalks’ happen near the submerged Aquarius habitat in coastal Florida. Astronauts and divers alike have partnered there for futuristic asteroid missions by humans, among other things.

The NBL moon training will take advantage of a more controlled environment, however. Engineered sand, lying on the pool floor, is designed to mimic the regolith astronauts will step upon while on the lunar surface. Panels in the bottom of the tank are also being inserted to create inclines and declines, to help astronauts prepare for the sandy and steep slopes moonwalks require.

“It’s really becoming an impressive environment,” Tomlinson said, emphasizing the team will keep adapting and making careful safety adjustments as more experience comes in.

NASA has not put out any call for proposals yet for moonwalking training, but given how quickly commercial space is ramping up, V2X expects private customers will also need underwater simulations.

“We’re in a daring time,” said Tomlinson of the new moon push. The maturing space industry, he added, means customers are acting more like partners and working collectively to reach goals.

“You can feel that throughout the entire center,” added Tomlinson, who has been at NBL for eight years. “There’s excitement around the exploration and new challenges … it’s more [now] than I’ve seen previously.”