Join me in celebrating the legendary career odyssey of Haden A. Land, Hon. D.Sc., Hon. D.H.L., a former Vice President of Research and Technology for Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems and Global Solutions. In this capacity, his responsibilities included technical solutions, strategic partnerships, global innovation centers, research and development, and emerging technology planning for a $10B business. Prior to that, Haden spearheaded engineering operations/delivery for a $5B business, held other senior executive leadership positions, and made significant contributions to other esteemed organizations like IBM and Loral.
The term “odyssey” aptly honors his eventful career journey of over four decades, which has been marked by numerous milestones. Throughout his remarkable career, he held several executive-level positions, including Engineering VP, R&D VP, CTO, and CIO, while also gaining extensive senior-level technical experience in various chief architect and chief engineer roles.
After retiring from Lockheed Martin, Haden’s thirst for exploration led him to establish an IT/Security consulting firm. More recently, he took on the challenges of the CEO & CTO roles at Safely2Prosperity, proving that retirement is not a limitation but an opportunity for further growth.
Moreover, Haden has dedicated thirty-plus years to academic board positions within higher education and other industry-related boards. His roles included serving as the Capitol Technology University Board Chairman, Prince George’s Community College Foundation Board Chairman, and Hispanic Information Technology Executive Council Board Director, among others.
Notably, Haden has been bestowed with two honorary Doctor degrees—a Doctor of Science from Potsdam University and a Doctor of Humane Letters from Capitol College. He also endowed three forever scholarships at different institutions for causes important to his legacy.
As I reflect on his exceptional achievements over the span of 40 years, I recognize how his career odyssey blazes a trail for executives either embarking on or already immersed in the journey toward the C-suite. With great pleasure, I present to you the inspiring career odyssey of Haden A. Land.
Describe your career progression from the start to where you are and what were pivotal decisions, moves you made, circumstances, and other facts that facilitated your growth.
With a passion for mathematics and computer science, I embarked on a path of intellectual discovery, earning bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and computer science as well as a minor in psychology from Potsdam University and a master’s degree in computer science from Syracuse University (this was obtained via evening/night classes during my early career period). These educational milestones coupled with various early leadership roles such as being a founding father of the national fraternity chapter, scout pack master, and youth sports head coach helped establish the foundation for the outset of my professional journey.
My first professional position was with IBM as a Systems Programmer followed by various technical roles covering application programming, database architecture, enterprise network engineering, advisory engineering, chief engineer (now with Loral), chief architect, and CTO (for the italicized positions, I lived in the UK while supported various allied nations), returned to the US as Senior Technical Staff Member (now with Lockheed Martin), then transitioned to executive leadership for two Technical Director roles, and five Vice President roles with various combinations of CTO, CIO, R&D, Engineering, Technology titles. The largest business I had functional technical leadership responsibility was 10B and the largest organization I have managed is 7500 employees.
So, in summary, throughout my four-decade career, I have held esteemed positions in organizations such as Lockheed Martin, Loral, and IBM, where I leveraged my substantive areas of expertise to support a broad spectrum of the needs of businesses and government agencies operating in the national security and related industries–and beyond. I established an IT/Security consulting firm after retiring from Lockheed Martin and more recently took on the challenges of the CEO & CTO for Safely2Prosperity.
I have held several other leadership positions in the past, which include serving as the Capitol Technology University Board Chairman, Prince George’s Community College Foundation Board Chairman, Hispanic Information Technology Executive Council Board Director, Potsdam University Board Trustee, Syracuse University Engineering & Computer Science College Dean’s Leadership Council member, Cyber Maryland Advisory Board Member, Washington DC CIO Executive Committee Chair, and World Economic Forum Member.
I have numerous achievements, including two honorary doctorates, recognition as one of the Top Hispanics in Business and Technology eight times by HE&IT Magazine, and the Most Influential Hispanic by the HITEC. I also received the prestigious Global CIO Executive Top 10 Breakaway Leader Award by EVANTA, the Minera Professional Lifetime Achievement Award by Potsdam University, and an Honoree of Who’s Who of the Industries by Unified Brainz Virtuoso. I have served as a respected Trustee, Director, or Member of several prestigious industry and academic boards. I have been Board Chairman for two organizations and currently hold the rare distinction of Trustee Emeritus at Capitol Technology University, one of only seven, in their 97-year history. Also have earned lifetime memberships in the Upsilon Pi Epsilon and Epsilon Delta Pi Honor Societies.
What are the key skills and qualifications that aspiring tech executives in the tech industry should focus on developing to enhance their career prospects?
One should gain experience in as many industry domains as possible and do not hesitate to consider lateral position changes if the role will help you demonstrate/optimize other skill sets. I personally like to see individuals with experience in both the private and public sectors. Participate in volunteer organizations to help hone your networking skills and on occasion, leadership opportunities may evolve from some which will improve your marketability. Over time, having established this type of background, you will likely get exposed to future opportunities to participate on paid corporate boards.
What are some key milestones or achievements that tech executives should aim for at various stages of their career to demonstrate their growth and readiness for higher-level roles?
My career started in the technical ranks, and I rose to the top of that ladder prior to transitioning into management and leadership positions. This background included many assignments as chief architect and chief engineer. On a handful of occasions, given my deep technical background, I was asked to take over as the technical lead to recover red programs while still executing my leadership responsibilities. This type of behavior demonstrated I was willing to make sacrifices when called upon to do so. Throughout my career, I worked hard to establish a reputation as one who can solve some of the most challenging problems both here and abroad. This has been demonstrated many times whether it be focused on technology/engineering implementation, research/development innovation, or management/leadership excellence. Of considerable importance is developing a keen sense of risk management assessment from both a probability of occurrence to the level of potential impact so you can effectively mitigate challenges working with your team.
My other advice is not much about key milestones but rather about sharing my practice that I created years ago and have shared with many of my mentees. I embrace a holistic approach to balancing endeavors, by leveraging a unique life mapping framework to ensure harmony between career, personal life, memberships, and self-care. This philosophy enabled me to navigate challenges and make informed decisions.
How important is it for tech executives to actively seek out mentorship or coaching opportunities to advance their careers? What benefits can they derive from such relationships?
It is important to have well-trusted mentors (there is no magic number of them), they are great to have to ask questions or advice that you may not otherwise seek. It is preferred to have mentors that are at a more senior point in their career along with having more professional experiences than oneself. Additionally, unless you are in an entry-level role, having a mentor(s) should also be complemented by having mentee(s). I have always insisted that any individual that I mentor must also have a mentee. I have a sane that I typically share – “Each One Reach One”. I have been mentoring people for over 40 years and I get high satisfaction in keeping track of them and seeing how successful each of them has become.
In your experience, what role does professional networking play in the career progression of tech executives? How can tech executives effectively build and leverage their networks?
Professional networking can play a tremendous role in tech executives’ career progression, the six use cases that I successfully utilized to expand my own are listed below:
- Visibility and introductions to organizations that I subsequently participated in and in some cases advanced to leadership roles within them.
- Being a thought leader in subject matter areas where I have been at the forefront has attracted individuals to approach me and our professional relationship grew from there and worked together to advance a common passion/interest.
- Ongoing engagement in either educational pathways which lead to various academia industry advisory councils and/or academia board of trustee roles.
- Being historically interested in mentoring individuals over the years and as their network grew relationships were established through them and their knowledge of me.
- Having several years of international experience supporting numerous allied nations in various warfighter preparedness or national security endeavor.
- Having delivered numerous keynotes, commencement speeches, and high-profile international press conferences attract people that you may have never been acquainted with.
An important ritual that I leverage is to get to know the people, understand their background, and establish a sound understanding of their value system. There will always be differences in political, religious, and other environmental factors but having alignment in foundational value system attributes is important for me to put an effort in expanding my network. Being ethical, trustworthy, accountable, performance-oriented, intelligent, passionate, sense of humor, and caring, are what I look for.
Are there any specific certifications, advanced degrees, or executive education programs that can significantly enhance the career prospects of tech executives in the tech industry? Which ones would you recommend?
Any education to complement your professional experience is a wise path to take. Ongoing education demonstrates a passion to continually learn – this is not only being a student but also a teacher/professor and/or having board positions in academia. I have been fortunate to have experienced all of these. But be sure to focus on certifications and advanced degrees that are centric to your career interests and expand/complement your previous degree(s). One exception may be an MBA, as this is useful for someone who really wants to establish a solid management skilled foundation in preparation for more senior leadership roles, and, most definitely, any type of Executive Leadership training can also be helpful.
Can you share any examples of notable tech executives who have successfully transitioned from one role (e.g., CIO) to another (e.g., CEO) within the same organization or industry? What factors contributed to their success?
A good source of several examples of this are past and present members of HITEC. I was fortunate to have participated in this organization from 2012 to 2016 as a Board Director which was one of the best groups in expanding my executive-level professional network. Beyond myself who has successfully transitioned, others include, Alberto Yepez, David Olivencia, Guillermo Diaz, and Timothy Campos. Another good source is Safely2Prosperity’s Advisory Board – John Norris, Takahisa Karita, and Reginald Daniel.
How important is it for tech executives to cultivate a personal brand and establish thought leadership within the industry? What are some effective ways for tech executives to showcase their expertise and gain visibility?
This is very important. The better your personal brand, the more others will want to be in your professional network. Some effective ways to showcase expertise and gain visibility are:
- Senior-level customer visibility and successful performance on key programs/projects in the industries that you support.
- Public speaking exposure which over time your skills and depth of knowledge will evolve into keynotes, commencement addresses, and other notable opportunities.
- Working close with the communications and marketing organizations to in effect become one of the go-to resources for media-type engagements. I have done an extensive amount of this throughout my career as evidenced by being on the cover of Hispanic Executive, CIO Today, Forbes, World’s Leaders, Life Sciences, Healthcare Business Review, Capitol Chronicle, and countless other featured articles or press interviews.
- Getting leadership experience in multiple areas within the business/industry, demonstrating success in both internal operations and customer performance/delivery, knowing the company’s mission/culture/customers better than anyone else on the slate, having excellent financial acumen, having external board leadership positions, establishing impressive, name/brand recognition, having masterful communication/presentation skills, establishing an amazing network, knowing how to work a room when entering, having a handful of optimal leadership example stories, perfecting body language and being able to interview as you walk on water.
Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring tech executives who are looking to accelerate their career progression and make a lasting impact in the tech industry?
Here is a set of bullets to weave a good message. Feel free to select a subset if you wish.
My advice: There is an excellent career and personal value in:
- Establishing and growing an effective and trusted professional network while honing and perfecting one’s communication and presentation skills.
- Fostering an environment where excellence is not just an aspiration but a principle that empowers you and your teams to pursue continuous improvement and prioritize the execution of value-added high goals and related activities.
- Possessing a strategic mindset, combined with a keen simultaneous understanding of market dynamics, and exercising a set of critical risk management expertise.
- Establishing a clear global perspective on opportunities/challenges while simultaneously taking both an inside-out and outside-in view of and approach to addressing them.
- Taking a brief time each day to assess a day’s efforts to see what can be done better tomorrow.
- Carrying always with you the understanding that “It is not so much what you accomplish in life but rather more about how you go about doing it.”
My advice: There are excellent career and personal rewards in understanding that:
- You must be willing to take risks and step out of your comfort zone but do so knowing today’s technology = yesterday’s magic = tomorrow’s given.
- Being successful is a rewarding feeling for you and your team, but knowing the success was achieved with integrity, accountability, trust, passion, and humility, makes it even more memorable.
- Being passionate about what you do and understanding its positive impact on others is its own reward.
- Listening more than talking, thereby helping you to understand that while complex, most challenging problems are solvable with effective teamwork, which can be created by strong leadership.
- Surrounding yourself with passionate, intelligent, and thoughtful people who can inform, guide, and, most importantly, challenge, you in your leadership role makes you a better leader, not a weaker one.