Vaseal Montgomery, a minister and retired military officer, started Favor TechConsulting in 2007. Today, her nearly 100-person, Vienna, Virginia-based business assists Uncle Sam's highest-profile agencies--including the Department of Veterans Affairs--with everything from cybersecurity to IT infrastructure. But it might not have happened were it not for a video game and a call from one Colonel Strand.
--As told to Jill Krasny
What Makes You Stronger
Twice, when I went to meet a new commanding officer, I was told, "You're here because of a quota." One of them even said he found that his black officers weren't as effective as the white ones. Who am I going to complain to when this is my first encounter with my new boss? Those are the types of things you don't want to talk about, but you live with them. They develop you and help you get more confidence in yourself, because you're always trying to prove that you can do your job and do it as well as anyone.
A Video Game Changed My Life
When I was a lieutenant in the military, Pac-Man came out, and I wanted to know what made Pac-Man do what it did. I mentioned I wanted to go to a systems programming course, and my senior officer said I needed to speak with a Colonel Strand. But I didn't get in touch with him right away. Then one day, I got a call from a guy saying he heard I was interested. I said, "Yeah, but I have to call Colonel Strand." He said, "This is Colonel Strand, and I've already slotted you to go on this day." Fourteen weeks later, I knew programming.
Never Be Satisfied
I was chief information officer for the Army's surgeon general. The mission of health care in the military is to get servicemen and women back to their units as quickly as possible. I wanted to continue helping that effort, so I started my company. We need to have resources that allow our veterans, as patients, to be free of worry. We need to do things better and faster. And 13 percent of my company's staff are veterans. Consulting for me is almost akin to counseling. The clients tell you where they are right now and where they want to be in five, 10 years, and you develop a plan to get them there. Some people are satisfied and say, "This is OK. This is all I want." I think there's always something more. There's always something better. Something to look forward to.