Claudine Adams, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bravura Information Technology Systems (BITS), runs a successful woman-owned business that specializes in System Engineering, Network Operations and Global Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance solutions for the Department of Defense (DoD) and others.
She provides systems engineering, networking and network operations to DoD, Federal Government, Intelligence Agencies and commercial clients. BITS specializes in technologies that provide persistent surveillance for military troop protection and border surveillance.
Making the choice to be an entrepreneur
For Claudine, life before BITS was a roller coaster – fun, thrilling, scary and exhilarating all at the same time. The beginning of her career was her first job out of college, where she worked as a mental health technician for a local private hospital. It was the first professional environment she was in for a consistent period of time.
Having started out studying Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, she worked in that field for a short spell, but quickly landed a job at Xerox. Claudine then got married and started a family. Trying to manage career, family and her own dreams was quite the balancing act.
“I climbed the corporate ladder in a Fortune 500 company fairly high up, and being an entrepreneur is still the best choice I have made,” she says. “Laying the foundation started with a lot of determination, a lot of perseverance, a blind eye to risks and just a little bit of crazy, I think. Seriously though, it was about wanting to be a part of something I created. I wanted to see where the world would take me if I did not have the limits of corporate structure and could make my own decisions.”
Overcome the challenges of leading a small woman-owned business
Claudine admits that it is certainly not easy being an entrepreneur. For her, the biggest roadblock was learning how to navigate in a world that may not be so kind to a small woman-owned business.
“In fact, there are times when the road gets tough, and you ask yourself if you should have stayed working for someone else,” she says. “That is a fleeting thought for me, however. Being in control of my destiny is a liberating feeling. It is one I cannot achieve working for someone else.”
BITS was one of a few small businesses serving the Army as a prime contractor on one of its largest programs. They went from a small business to a global entity very quickly.
In doing so, they improved on many of the technologies that were becoming obsolete. They also stood up many additional sites for the Government and provided well-needed force protection in austere areas of the globe.
“Sometimes challenges came from within my organization, where not everyone thinks a lady has the ‘right stuff’ to make the right decisions. I had to try to see beyond that,” says Claudine.
Leading a company to success is not an easy road to take, and Claudine believes that when you have your own business, especially when small, challenges are an everyday occurrence.
“It is just a matter of how large, how small and how many you may face on any given day. I try not to see everything as a challenge, but to make things better if I can,” she states.
For Claudine, leadership is about collaboration and cooperation. She believes that leadership is about creating an environment where people want to follow you, and are choosing to follow you because they believe in what you are trying to accomplish as a leader.
“I don’t need to be the biggest voice in the room. I want to hear from my people,” she states. “To do that, they need to know that you truly value their opinions, and that you have a true desire for their success.”
Supporting & mentoring other woman-owned small businesses
As CEO of BITS, Claudine’s regular day is a whirlwind of team meetings and some live meetings.
“I spend my time between work activities with employees, partners and clients. I spend a considerable amount of time each day in committee meetings helping other organizations to achieve their goals,” she says.
Claudine sits on two boards as chair and participates in two others. She is also a participant on the economic advisory board of her local community and on the advisory board to the Comptroller for the State of Maryland.
“In one word, I’d describe myself as persistent,” she says. “That may be both my absolute best and most annoying trait. I do everything I can to support other women. I take personal time to mentor other woman-owned small businesses.”
Claudine also provides scholarships to graduating high school senior ladies who wish to follow STEM careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
“I want all the ladies out there to know that they can do it!” she says. “I started my company when my children were little, and I had bills to pay. But I took a risk and stepped out. I want other ladies to see that they can grow and thrive in traditionally male-dominated industries.”
Claudine believes that empowerment starts with oneself and that it’s a lifelong learning experience. Learning to make your way in life is a life-long skill that takes constant attention and nurturing.
“Empowerment is a funny thing. For the most part, you must learn to empower yourself,” she says. “The most important empowerment, I believe, is what I hope I have instilled in my two girls, both very successful in their own rights.”
Claudine feels fortunate to have received many accolades, starting with a medal she won in middle school for leadership and character. She was also awarded the Northern Maryland Technology Council’s Visionary Award that recognizes exceptional personal efforts in developing and implementing innovative programs/products benefiting building a S.T.E.M. Educated Workforce
“But the best recognition was an award I recently received, the Athena Leadership Award,” she declares. “It is given to someone who has made a significant impact to the local community. It means a lot, because if others think I am worthy of such a prestigious award, then I must be doing the right thing.”
“There are many who make the impossible possible. There are just as many who make the possible impossible. Make things possible.”
Success is about making an impact in others lives
Success, for Claudine, is not about money, a title or how far you have gotten in your career. To her, success is when you have elevated yourself, so that you can help others and truly make an impact in others’ lives.
“My focus is on achievement. Setting goals and then making those goals, one step at a time,” she explains. “If you can do that, you are successful, no matter where you started.”
Claudine feels that maintaining balance takes focus, and sometimes means going a little easy on yourself.
“It is not always going to be the way you wanted. The plane is late, the meeting spilled over, you must squeeze in another meeting somehow,” she says. “I’d love to say there is a magical formula, but there isn’t. You must plan out your week and do your best to leave time between things, so you can breathe.”
“When you try so hard to put that ‘S’ on your chest, remember, sometimes the true power is in knowing when to take it off.”
Claudine believes that the best motivation is in the little things, a pat on the back, a good thank you note, some accolades and appreciation said in front of others.
“But I also pride myself on throwing the best holiday parties ever!” she states. “Seriously, I try very much to listen, and my employees know that I care about their opinions.”
For the future, Claudine hopes to continue to focus on BITS becoming a world brand. “We are continuing to expand our presence abroad. We are also focusing heavily on cyber initiatives at home,” she says.