Industry Executive of the Year: Diana Gowen

2007 GCN Awards | Gowen's telecomm experience helps build a team to get Qwest in the game

Diana Gowen

[IMGCAP(1)]Diana Gowen has led Qwest Communications' Government Services Division into the big leagues of the federal sector during the past two years, with the crowning jewel being Qwest's inclusion on the General Services Administration's $68 billion Networx Universal and Enterprise contracts. But when it comes time to take credit, she passes it to her team.

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'It takes a village; it takes a team of experienced people,' she said.

But it also took experience and focus. Under Gowen's transforming leadership, Qwest's Government Services Division has gained significant traction in delivering telecommunications services to government customers. The results were beginning to register before the Networx victory. Prime government contracting revenues, which stood around $101 million in Washington Technology's 2004 Top 100 ranking, have grown threefold to $295 million in this year's ranking. Washington Technology, like GCN, is published by 1105 Government Information Group.

When Gowen was hired as senior vice president at Qwest's Government Services Division in June 2005, she brought a strong background in telecom, with experience at AT&T and in leading MCI's government division.

Qwest 'serendipitously was looking for a new leader at the time, and I was considering what my options were,' she said. 'The timing was good.'

Gowen's main task was to create an experienced team that could bid on and win a place on the Networx contracts ' a feat that many industry analysts considered a long shot.

She blended Qwest employees who had the skills she wanted with experienced new hires from competing telecom companies.

'We assembled a team of folks that had done it, been there before, and leveraged all of our collective experience so we could put forth a winning [Networx] proposal and certainly get the corporation behind us,' she said.

'I'm a firm believer that there are many folks who have the raw skill and talent, but they haven't been exposed and watched somebody else do it right,' she said. 'So if you seed the organization with some key individuals that are steeped in that kind of experience, then the others ' it's not exactly osmosis, but it's almost that ' watch and they see the energy level and they understand what those guys are doing, and they learn from it and they're able to go run with the next' contract.

'The folks that Diana brought together as her lead team had the DNA, as she would say, from all the other carriers,' said Lisa Bruch, director of business development and marketing at Qwest Government Services.

Gowen exhibits a fearlessness and a willingness to take risks, Audrey Hallett, director of contracts and procurement at Qwest Government Services, said of her boss. 'She's not afraid to make mistakes and that creates a little more courage in the organization.'

Gowen's positive approach and broad experience in the federal sector helped convince the Qwest leadership in Denver of the benefits of pursuing the larger government contracts ' Networx in particular ' and pursuing them as a prime contractor, Bruch said.

'You can get business being a sub to someone else,' she said. 'But eventually, if you're going to play in the big leagues with the AT&Ts and the Verizons, and at one time Sprint, you've got to be able to be the prime contractor.'

Besides capturing Networx, another major win for Qwest is a 10-year,
$100 million Defense Information Systems Agency contract to supply bandwidth transmission services for the Global Information Grid.

Stepping up a notch into a prime contractor's role, Gowen said, involves altering the mentality, culture and even the people involved. 'You have to change your risk profile somewhat when you do that, because you're taking on a lot more of the risk.'

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