Jennifer Walker not only leads a Columbia-based information technology firm serving the needs of the U.S. Department of Defense and the nation’s intelligence community, but she also leads campaigns in the popular Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. (More on that later.)
A graduate of Penn State, Walker worked a few jobs while also earning a Master of Business Administration with a focus in technology management from University of Phoenix. That led to a job at Pangia Technologies, a Fulton cybersecurity firm working in the intelligence sector that was acquired by defense contracting giant CACI in 2011.
Walker, who met her husband, Chad, at Pangia, worked at CACI for two years before the couple founded Resolute Technologies and struck out on their own to provide IT and cybersecurity services on a smaller scale. She’s the CEO, he’s the chief information officer. Walker likes to say she founded the firm because of her “patriotic passion to support this great country” and because she loves taking care of people.
Employees use words like “family” to describe the company and say they like Walker’s “can do attitude.”
“Everyone has a place in the company, but the owners and managers know it’s our company as much as theirs,” one said. “They care about us and help us to grow, strive to learn new skill sets and appreciate us and we can see that every day.”
Walker took a moment from running Resolute to answer some questions about leading the firm through the coronavirus pandemic and what she’s learned from playing Dungeons & Dragons:
What are the lasting changes COVID-19 has left on your organization? Can you point to any positive outcomes from the disruption?
The Evening Sun
COVID is continuing to change our industry and our operational approach, but change is where we thrive! Pivoting the way we communicate and engage with our employees has been something we are constantly refining. The challenges we face with COVID have been a true testament of the agility and responsiveness of our organization. Throughout the pandemic, I have continually provided companywide, real-time updates affirming that our leadership team was doing everything we could to be as transparent, informative and supportive throughout this ever-changing COVID pandemic landscape.
We also discovered many new and fun ways to connect with our team through different virtual events that we hosted such as trivia nights and Harry Potter-themed murder mysteries. The COVID landscape really expanded our way of thinking on how we can connect to our team in different, unique and nontraditional ways.
What has been the biggest test of your leadership?
The biggest test of my leadership has really revolved around these last two years since the COVID pandemic began. There has been so much uncertainty, confusion, concern and fear that has affected the world. Leading my team through such an unprecedented time — providing them a sense of comfort and continued support while navigating a positive way forward in a period where there was so many unknowns was really challenging. We truly care so deeply about our people and Resolute has such an amazing leadership team that really went above and beyond to ensure that we were doing all we could as a Resolute family to help our employees.
We understand you love to play Dungeons & Dragons. What has the role-playing game taught you about leadership?
When people find out I play D&D they are often surprised at first and I love that I get to share insight into what an amazing learning experience D&D can be. D&D is a game of teamwork, cooperation, problem-solving and strategy — it has it all! You are playing in perilous situations where the decisions you make can either result in amazing success or horrible outcomes for your party. Also, each character has their unique strengths that they bring to the party and you need to work cooperatively throughout the campaign to really hone in on how the team can build trust with one another, work together seamlessly and play to each other’s strengths to accomplish your goals. I think you can easily see the parallels of this game to real-life work situations.
This game has allowed me to enhance my skills as a leader by learning to be more creative with my problem-solving, improving my communication skills and becoming more comfortable with taking bigger risks. When playing in a D&D campaign you feel way less vulnerable about every decision you make because you are role-playing, which is really freeing. In real life, good leadership is a tricky thing — the fear of making bad decisions could really hold you back from taking a great risk that could lead to great reward. D&D has taught me to focus less on my vulnerabilities, enabling me to feel more emboldened with my leadership decisions in the real world — and it’s just a great, really fun game too!