Leading Leidos Women: Rhonda Blatman, Jackie Everett, and Sangita Phelps
In recognition of Women’s History Month in the U.S. and International Women’s Day (IWD), Leidos and its Women’s Network Employee Resource Group will celebrate with a series of spotlights on influential women at the company. The spotlights will run through March, coinciding with the #BalanceforBetter campaign built around the IWD theme. This first installment features Rhonda Blatman (Senior Vice President of Business Development & Strategy for the Intelligence Group), Jackie Everett (Vice President and Division Manager in the Civil Group), and Sangita Phelps (Capture Director for Capture Operations & Excellence).
Read below, in their own words, what motivates them, what their biggest accomplishments are, and what #BalanceforBetter means to them.
Who or what has been your biggest influence in your career?
Rhonda: One of my early influences in my life was my grandmother. She lived through a time of tremendous change in the world, lived with diabetes and all the personal challenges that came with it, but she always had a positive outlook on life and took care of everyone around her. She was a great role model. She made me want to always strive to do better, always remain positive, and embrace change. I think those are the things that have driven me throughout my career – doing the things I love, thriving through change, and always staying optimistic and positive.
Jackie: I was greatly influenced by two different but incredible people – former President and Chief Executive Officer of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Meg Whitman, and my brother Jim Everett, a former quarterback in the National Football League. I admire Meg’s ability to focus on what she wants to change and her vision of the impact as she ran a $130 billion organization with 130,000 employees.
My brother, Jim, was a quarterback in the NFL in the late 1980s-1990s. He played for the L.A. Rams before they moved to St. Louis, and also played with the New Orleans Saints. His job was physically demanding and strategic on how he prepared for the opponent. He would share with me that losses were very disappointing, especially if they were out-played. However, losses that occurred because they beat themselves were more painful. I personally have competed in sports and in new business for companies. I don’t like to lose either, but what I have learned from my brother and in business is you must prepare. You need to be ready, you need to focus, know your competition, and lose the distractions so that you are providing 150 percent towards winning, and to focus on what you can do.
Sangita: My parents have had the biggest influence in my life and career. They came to America to ensure that my sister and I received a strong education where we could be whatever we wanted to be and not have any limitations imposed on us. They instilled in us that education was key and mediocrity would not be accepted. It was all about work smart and do your best in anything you chose to do.
How did you become interested in your field?
Rhonda: My parents were my biggest influence on my desire to be an engineer. My mom studied math and computers. At one point she taught computers at the local community college and I remember as a child attending one of her classes. I was supposed to sit quietly in the back of the room, but I kept raising my hand and asking questions. It really sparked my interest. My dad was a metallurgic engineer and taught me to appreciate engineering, showed me how to draw technical diagrams, how to write a resume, and he was always my biggest supporter as I went through school and my career.
Jackie: I thought I wanted to be a pharmacist until my first college chemistry course; I found it not as interesting as I imagined. I stumbled on a Computer Science class and that was all I needed. I was intrigued with electronic problem solving. I graduated with a Computer Science degree and a minor in Math, from the University of Kansas. (Go Jayhawks!).
, Capture Director, Defense Group
I was always good in math and science, and followed my father into engineering. Technology is fascinating to me with constant changes in the industry that affect our lives and make the world a better place. I wanted to be part of a field that constantly evolves and I could grow with it.
What motivates you to pursue professional excellence and achievements?
Rhonda: I am motivated by our mission and the people around me. The missions we serve are really important to the world and makes me proud to be even just a small part of it. I enjoy having a real impact on the business and creating opportunities for other people.
, VP and Division Manager, Civil Group
I absolutely love what I do. Helping our clients move to a digital experience is important work. Imagine an Amazon experience, but with Uncle Sam. Exciting right? I also enjoy the aspect of teamwork. Being part of a team, and leading a team, is much more rewarding than I could ever imagine. We can accomplish more together than as an individual.
Sangita: There are several things that motivate me:
1) I love what I do.
2) The work that I do matters -- Leidos has put their trust in me to drive company growth.
3) There are people counting on me to retain their jobs.
4) I’m a part of a team -- we work hard and support each other.
What is your biggest professional accomplishment to date?
, Senior VP of Business Development and Strategy, Intelligence Group
The easy answer to this question is winning billions of dollars of new business – I’ve had a great track record of winning business, and over the years have won increasingly larger pursuits with greater impact. But more importantly for me, my biggest accomplishment has been becoming an accepted executive leader and a successful parent at the same time. I have two kids who each have special needs, so they’ve required a lot of my time – more than I ever expected. I love to work and running and overseeing business development has required a lot of flexibility and commitment (and often 24/7 responsiveness). Having the flexibility to successfully and consistently win new business for decades, taking on more leadership responsibility, and remaining an active parent as my children progressed into college has been my greatest personal achievement.
Jackie: There are many, but a few highlights. The first was leading a 30-person growth team for Hewlett Packard Enterprise Services and growing that business from $200 million to over $500 million. This was a complex job that taught me more than I could have ever imagined. My next accomplishment(s) – has been the ability to move to different companies and provide value. I have found that I must always remain open and that what I learned in the past may not be how the current organization does business, and there are many different models.
Sangita: My biggest professional accomplishment was leading my team in winning a large portion of the Social Security Administration Information Technology Support Services Contract valued at $2.8 billion – a key takeaway from an entrenched incumbent.
What does #BalanceforBetter mean to you?
Rhonda: It means being accepted for who you are and inspiring others to do the same. It’s enabling women to explore their full potential, expanding the options that allow all individuals to balance work and family life better, and promoting more gender equality. I grew up as the only daughter with two brothers. I attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which was originally an all-male school, and was only about 15 percent female when I attended. I then entered a male-dominated engineering field and business. I’ve learned that my success as a woman is not despite my different style, but because of it – I’ve brought my collaborative nature and personal mentorship to everything I do.
Jackie: For me it means better results. I see that all organizations need balance. Too many that think alike don’t get better results – they get results that are similar to one another. I have found that people with different backgrounds and talents offer a different point of view (POV). It is all the different views and thoughts that gets assimilated in a single POV that drives a #BalanceforBetter.
Sangita: #BalanceforBetter is a reminder that women have made great progress but there is still a long way to go in achieving a more balanced workforce. I’m proud to be part of a movement that celebrates women and encourages partnerships and collaborations for a better future.