Expert Voices Thought Leader: Sounil Yu
By Sounil Yu (Booz Allen Hamilton)
Why did you choose Booz Allen?
Actually, Booz Allen chose me via the employee referral program. But I knew Booz Allen was a prestigious firm, so I was pleased to have been chosen. My old company was an accounting organization that offered consulting, but it didn’t focus on capitalizing technology as a business driver. Booz Allen was more dynamic and had a reputation for adjusting quickly to changing market conditions.
Why have you chosen to stay at Booz Allen?
The firm’s leadership has good strategic insight and a long-term vision, and that’s important to me. For example, Booz Allen had anticipated that the nation would need a homeland defense strategy, so it developed one—years before 9/11. We had the ideas ready when the client wanted to launch the Department of Homeland Security. In addition, people are Booz Allen’s greatest asset, and this is reflected in the way I’ve been rewarded and been able to grow professionally. The firm pays attention to its frontline leaders, who then guide the staff, and to its Core Values, so it can develop a community of people who share its culture.
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What type of work do you do at Booz Allen?
I design the security architecture for major networks and systems and conduct research and development activities in network analysis. Some of my more interesting projects involve helping build layered defenses around major U.S. military and government networks and root out intrusions into them. I’m often assigned difficult, complex challenges that help me improve my technical competencies and problem-solving skills.
What excites you about your work?
I enjoy projects that make a difference, and the one I’m involved in has huge impacts; I see the results of my work as it unfolds. Right now, we’re watching the security posture of a mission-critical network evolve because of specific recommendations that the firm made. Not all the work we do has that kind of impact, but when it gets headline coverage or immediate implementation, that’s exciting.
Do you have a mentor at Booz Allen?
I find mentors by being proactive and seeking out individuals to coach me. And there’s no shortage of people who are willing to help, at all levels. Most managers act as role models for the behavior they want to see in their teams. When I thanked one Vice President for his guidance, he replied, “That’s my job.”
What differentiates Booz Allen from other companies that you could work for? What makes Booz Allen special?
Booz Allen advocates that people be “mobile” in their aspirations. There was a freedom in choosing the career path I am on today; the firm gave me the resources to follow my career goals and equipped me with skills, but it’s up to me to follow through.
How has Booz Allen helped you be ready for what’s next in your career?
I look for challenges where I can use my skills to the fullest, have positive impact, and go home feeling that I made a difference. I’ve received a great deal of training, which is part of the investment that Booz Allen makes in all employees, and I’ve been given great opportunities to apply and hone my skills across a wide range of public and commercial sector clients.
How does the work you do help your clients be ready for what’s next? How has your and your team’s work made an impact for your client?
Booz Allen is building solutions that help our clients anticipate their needs. For example, in the cyber context, many companies would approach a problem by focusing only on the technology. But Booz Allen addresses the cybersecurity challenge by assessing problems holistically, using approaches beyond technology (e.g., policy development and human capital management). How we think about problems resonates with our clients.
Can you talk about a time that you saw one or more of our Core Values displayed?
From homeland security, to cybersecurity, to pandemic flu, the firm is involved in big issues. We have smart, entrepreneurial people who can identify upcoming issues that will need attention, often before other companies have even noticed them. The firm supports that kind of entrepreneurial mindset.