Member News

Executive Spotlight: Nate Aiken, Senior Director, Air Force Market Leader at Maximus

Nate Aiken

SD, AF Market Leader


Executive Spotlight: Nate Aiken, Senior Director, Air Force Market Leader at Maximus

During his time as a U.S. Navy surface warfare officer and anti-terrorism training specialist, Nate Aiken came to realize the gulf between how data was managed and how it got into a decision-making process. Disparate systems required lots of effort to collect data on materiel and overall readiness, so commanders did not always have a timely or accurate view. While improvements have been made, there are ways to continue modernization programs so that integrated solutions can present the appropriate information quickly.

This observation and his passion for the defense community led Aiken to continue a career developing and implementing mission optimization solutions across the Department of Defense. In his new position, Aiken leads Maximus’ Air Force business and is charged with executing growth strategies that align with the company’s technology and consulting services offerings.

Aiken sat down with Potomac Officers Club to discuss the changes he would make to the federal government to give DoD users easy access to innovative technologies, his strategies for building an effective team and more.

What can you tell us about your background and how you’ve adapted to the challenges of the DoD landscape during your career?

I’ve seen up close the challenges facing the DoD for the past 20 years, and I have seen them evolve. After graduating from the Naval Academy in 2003, I was commissioned as a naval surface warfare officer during a time when the military placed a lot of focus on terrorism and insurgencies. I deployed to the EUCOM and CENTCOM areas of responsibility and worked with systems that were developed decades earlier for use against advanced militaries. We had to innovate in order to make the most of our capabilities for the mission at hand.

During my time in the Navy and subsequent consulting career, a consistent theme has been our military’s reliance on systems, networks, and platforms to access and share critical information in order to execute missions across multiple domains. Maintaining our competitive edge with technology is essential in the dynamic environments in which our military operates. Today, deployment of these advanced technologies is fast becoming a force multiplier. The Air Force has targeted cloud, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence as priorities for the coming years.

At Maximus, I can bring to bear a deep bench of this technical expertise and apply it to our Air Force customer. Our technology consulting services group understands the importance that technology plays in Air Force missions and how technology fits under the National Defense Strategy. On a fundamental level, it means modernizing systems and creating secure, digital environments. On an operational level, it means supporting mature cloud capabilities, deploying mission-critical applications at the tactical edge, protecting data against adversaries and vulnerabilities and integrating analytics to make the best use of that data. This is what will maximize the return on investment for enterprise IT initiatives.

If you had free reign to enact changes in the Air Force, what are the first three you would implement and why?

The necessity of advanced technology in today’s mission sets requires dexterity so that threats are correctly identified, data gets analyzed and insights are passed along to decision-makers with confidence. So, I would focus on talent management because the need for digital expertise will only increase. This means elevating the uniqueness of Air Force employment, the excitement of mission-focused projects and the importance of delivering exceptional, defense-specific digital solutions. The Air Force’s Kessel Run software factory is a great example of unique opportunities for software development using agile and DevSecOps methodologies.

Also under the talent category is continuous learning. I would create an environment with greater accessibility to virtual learning catalogs, more knowledge-transfer programs like mentorships and learning circles and additional centers of excellence and communities of practice around functional technology disciplines. This allows employees to gain experience, enhance skills, and perform in meaningful, empowering jobs that engender a connection to the service. Through these upgrades employees can envision a career path, which also supports retention in an organization that can’t have mission disruption due to workforce instability.

Second, I would ensure optimum integration of tools and capabilities that support missions and business processes. The highest probability of full user adoption and cultural integration exists when tools are accompanied by policy, governance, communication and training. End users must understand why the tool or capability is deployed, how it integrates with organizational processes, the value it will provide the end user, standard operating procedures, and the resources available if challenges are encountered.

Third is a more technically focused initiative: expand use of multi-cloud strategies and implementations across the federal government. Each agency has unique requirements that most likely cannot be solved by one single provider. A multi-cloud strategy would allow the government to design and select a high performing, cost effective, custom infrastructure that is more resilient and flexible to adapt to changing or emerging application requirements.

With emerging technology influencing the Air Force more by the day, what are challenges on the business side of innovation that aren’t always discussed?

The longevity and success of emerging technologies is very much predicated on the quality of the customer experience. Easy-to-use applications create satisfaction, trust and loyalty. As a partner and provider of technology solutions to the DoD, Maximus emphasizes a positive user experience and connects it to the mission.

For example, we supported readiness through development of the web application Deployment Readiness Education for Servicewomen for the Defense Health Agency. DRES provides female service members with deployment-related health information such as planning and packing, mental health and health care readiness. DRES modernized the process from an unstructured search for information to a simplified view of what they need and when they need it. Maximus’s research into the user experience led to understanding of particular challenges, development of the solution that made health information accessible, portable, and viewable on a secure platform and ultimately enhanced deployment capability.

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?

One of the reasons I am excited to join Maximus is the company’s set of seven core values, which capture many of the characteristics needed for team building and organizational success. At the top of the list is respect – team members must have respect for the work they do, for themselves and team members and for the customers. Respect promotes a positive work culture.

Compassion is another one that guides interactions between team members, supports loyalty, dedication and an overall productive work environment.

The third one, innovation, encourages team members to offer their thoughts, ideas and ways to improve. This comes from leadership creating a culture of innovation and willingness to embrace change.

One of my favorite values is accountability. Coming from a military background where you’re only as strong as your team, I like that team members must answer to each other for their actions, contributions and commitment to achieving the goals.

Another one to call out is collaboration. It accelerates innovation and increases efficiency; no team can function well without it.

The last Maximus value is customer focus. The team exists in order to make the DoD successful, and that can only happen by engaging the customers, understanding their particular challenges and producing solutions to solve them. We do this with integrated teams whose members have diverse backgrounds and insightful perspectives and leadership that infuses these core values into the culture of our teams.

Sign Up Now! Potomac Officers Club provides you with Daily Updates and News Briefings about Member News

Category: Member News

Tags: Air Force executive spotlight MAXIMUS Nate Aiken US Air Force USAF