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Executive Spotlight: Jarrod Gazarek, Director of DOD & IC Business at HashiCorp Federal

Jarrod Gazarek

Director, DOD & IC

HashiCorp Federal

Executive Spotlight: Jarrod Gazarek, Director of DOD & IC Business at HashiCorp Federal

Jarrod Gazarek currently serves as director of HashiCorp Federal, Inc.’s Department of Defense and Intelligence Community division. Guided by extensive experience in the U.S. Navy, Gazarek is working to expand the business and bring HashiCorp’s cloud offerings to federal clients.

In a recent interview with the Potomac Officers Club, Gazarek shared his career background, offered his insights on team building strategies and discussed the challenges that exist on the industry side of government contracting.

Read the full interview below.

What can you tell us about your background and how you’ve been able to adapt to the ever-changing challenges of the federal landscape over the course of your career?

I enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a machinist mate in nuclear submarines in October 1998 under the Delayed Entry Program and arrived at Navy Boot camp on Jan. 7, 1999. My first duty station was with the Navy Nuclear Power Training Command. Though I may not have been the most intelligent in my class, I did have ambition and perseverance. I applied to the United States Naval Academy and was accepted into its Naval Academy Preparatory School. Following NAPS, I entered into USNA in the class of 2005, where I graduated in May 2005 with a bachelors of science in Oceanography.

I served on board the USS Tennessee in a number of roles before moving into shore duty as a ROTC Instructor at Norwich University. There, I pursued and completed my Masters of Arts in Diplomacy and International Relations, and after that, I applied for and was accepted into the U.S. Navy’s relatively new foreign area officer ranks. I learned how to speak Malay and served as the N3/N5 and CNO’s desk officer for South East Asia and the South Pacific.

In 2016, I departed active duty and entered the Navy Reserves. Additionally, I found employment with Penn State Applied Research Labs. There, I worked at the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence in the Defense Intelligence Innovation Office as a contractor. After that, I was hired into the private sector as a solution engineer with a company called Decision Lens. My ambitions drove me to pursue a sales position at the organization, where I was able to stand up and formalize an Intelligence Community sales business. Following Decision Lens, I joined HashiCorp, Inc in June of 2020 to help stand up its IC sales business. Currently, at HashiCorp Federal, Inc., I serve as director of the DOD and IC arm and am looking forward to growing the business with our amazing team.

When did you decide to pursue a career in the federal landscape and what were the key tasks that you wanted to complete? Any bigger goals you still want to accomplish?

This is a funny story – I decided to move to the private sector following a bad commuting situation, where I was commuting to and from the Pentagon from Chantilly, Virginia for about five years. On Halloween 2017, I left work around 3pm – which I thought was early – to head home and celebrate with my family. I got caught in the “Tysons Mixing Bowl” and it took me over three hours to get home, so I missed spending Halloween with my family. That next work day I informed my government lead and my PSU ARL boss that I would be seeking other employment. This really was the first time that I made a decision without really having a plan, but it ended up working out for the best.

What do you believe are your core strengths as a leader and what lessons taught you the most about driving success?

I learn lessons everyday, some more prominent than others. If you are not willing to learn continuously, in and out of a classroom, from superiors and subordinates then you will likely struggle. These are the roles and places I’ve learned extensively from:

  • Military Leadership
  • Corporate Leadership Roles
  • Program Management
  • Project Management
  • Department of Defense
  • Intelligence Community
  • Sales, Account Executive
  • Sales Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • International Relations
  • Multi-Lingual Trained

How would you describe your management style and core values towards building a winning culture?

What I have learned in the private sector is not so different from what we do in the military. First is that a team is much stronger than any individual. As a leader you must do everything possible to enable your team. You should also be humble – you don’t know everything. Use your team to improve success potential. Next, don’t burn bridges and treat everyone with kindness. Some won’t reciprocate, but always think about how anyone you encounter may help you in the future.

Positivity is also key. There will be “tough” times, but you should always look for the light however dim it may be.

What are the core values that you believe are essential to build a great team and establish a foundation to drive success in such a competitive industry?

We had to memorize “The Qualifications of a Naval Officer” during Plebe Year at USNA. This has stuck with me across my life since then. I use it more as a guide for life and leadership.

‘It is by no means enough that an officer of the Navy should be a capable mariner. He must be that, of course, but also a great deal more. He should be as well a gentleman of liberal education, refined manners, punctilious courtesy, and the nicest sense of personal honor. He should be the soul of tact, patience, justice, firmness, kindness, and charity. No meritorious act of a subordinate should escape his attention or be left to pass without its reward, even if the reward is only a word of approval. Conversely, he should not be blind to a single fault in any subordinate, though at the same time, he should be quick and unfailing to distinguish error from malice, thoughtlessness from incompetency, and well meant shortcomings from heedless or stupid blunder. In one word, every commander should keep constantly before him the great truth, that to be well obeyed, he must be perfectly esteemed.’

– Compiled by Augustus C. Buell from letters written by John Paul Jones.

How would you advise someone entering our industry to build their resume and advance their careers to be in the best position in the years to come?

Don’t expect to get everything you want right away – you have to earn where you want to be. Be willing to learn and listen. Be willing to work hard. Go above and beyond and don’t just operate in the “box” you are provided. Step outside your comfort zones. Learn others’ roles and understand their “daily grind.”

With emerging technology influencing the federal government and industry more by the day, what are some of the challenges on the business side of innovation that aren’t always discussed as often as they should be?

I love working at HashiCorp and HashiCorp Federal. It is a grind sometimes, and sales was not what I expected to do in life. However, the products that HashiCorp provides to the DOD, IC, federal agencies, state and local governments and some of the largest commercial companies on the planet are critical to cloud modernization. Specifically for the DOD and IC, there is a real desire to operate the cloud more efficiently for a number of reasons:

  • Growing and accelerating skills gap in IT
  • Governance across multiple Cloud Service Providers
  • Scalability across CSPs
  • Untenable costs
  • Hybrid/Multi-Cloud Adoption
  • Cryptographic Challenges – Secrets Sprawl

I truly believe that HashiCorp is a company that helps resolve these challenges and does so in such a way that is not deprecating to other companies and vendors. Instead, we take a workflow and personnel first approach to meet customers where they are at, start small and help drive their end goals and objectives – supporting the warfighter and mission. So staying close to supporting the mission of customers is always of the utmost importance for me.

Another challenge I will mention is the over use of Open-Source Software across the DOD and IC. OSS certainly has its benefits, most notably that it is free, but it is typically meant for small projects, small teams and Dev/Test environments. In production environments, the government should really push to invest in fully supported, licensed and enterprise-level products for reasons like security, compliance, risk reduction, speed to mission, information technology personnel experience and more.

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