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Executive Spotlight: Jen Sovada, President of Public Sector at SandboxAQ

Jen Sovada

President, Public Sector


Executive Spotlight: Jen Sovada, President of Public Sector at SandboxAQ

As president of SandboxAQ’s public sector business, Jen Sovada helms the company’s efforts to deliver its artificial intelligence and quantum offerings to the federal government. Her career is informed by over a decade of service in the U.S. Air Force, where she held numerous technology and intelligence-focused roles.

Sovada was recently appointed chair of Executive Mosaic’s 4×24 Quantum Group, where she leads the group’s mission to foster a tight-knit community of quantum experts.

In a recent interview with the Potomac Officers Club, Sovada shared her insights on the federal technology landscape, reflected on her career and detailed the values that shape her leadership approach.

Read the full interview below:

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?

I am passionate about ensuring that the global good is protected, and being a part of the federal landscape enables me to do just that. My goal is to build a team that can add value and advance the collective goals of the U.S. government and its allies. I also am passionate about teaching those who make life and death decisions about emerging technology and how it can both benefit and detract from their vision and goals.

If your career came to an end tomorrow, what would you say have been your most significant accomplishments? Where do you feel you made the most impact?

The most important accomplishment I have had is helping the next generation prepare for the future. It is vitally important that we take the time to mentor, teach and train those that come after us to advance their knowledge and capabilities and grow leaders who are smart, empathetic and knowledgeable about the importance of national security. I have been able to impact a wide range of people through teaching at Georgetown, my time in the military as a leader and commander, participating in non-profits and being an official mentor to many. 

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

The core values of a great team need to be honesty, integrity, transparency and collaboration as well as believing that everyone is coming from a place of goodness and kindness. Without these things, it is hard to drive change. We must be able to believe that each and every one of us is working toward our common goals and supporting each other.

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?

The biggest challenge is helping decision-makers and stakeholders understand what the technology can or cannot do, what issues, challenges or missions it addresses and the imperative for implementing it now. For example, quantum is not appropriate for all compute problems and artificial intelligence isn’t the solution to all optimization challenges. When combined, however, these technologies can deliver rapid breakthroughs and unprecedented insights that would be difficult or impossible to achieve with today’s classic computing capabilities. 

Another challenge is access. Small businesses looking to introduce innovative solutions into the public sector often do not have access to the leaders or users who need the technology. We need to find a way to make it easier for emerging tech companies to meet with and talk to those building requirements, buying capabilities and using the technology. We should be working together so we do not create an ecosystem with cool tech that no one will use. 

Finally, the last challenge is how the government buys. The government loves to buy services rather than products. They don’t often understand the tradeoffs and expense with buying one-off solutions vs. a ready-made, off-the-shelf commercial product. The government often balks at not having control of the IP of a commercial solution, when in reality, not having the IP enables the technology to be continuously updated and improved based on a licensing model. 

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