Professional Development
Career development / Federal government / Software

How I Got Here: DMI’s Gary Wang shares his journey from biomedical scientist to CTO

The govtech alum spoke to us about moving through some of the biggest names in tech — and how his outside-of-work life made him a better leader.

Gary Wang. (Courtesy photo)

This is How I Got Here, a series where we chart the career journeys of technologists. Want to tell your story? Get in touch.

Sure, science and technology make up two of the letters in STEM. But in practice, they’re not quite such close relatives.

For some, though, the leap is only natural. Gary Wang, DMI’s newest CTO, began his career in the science sphere but ended up as the top technologist at more than a few govtech power players.

After graduating from the University of Science and Technology of China, Wang came to the US to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, graduating in 1998. From there, he landed a 20-year career in tech, making pit stops at some of the biggest names in the industry. As he pushes forth in his new role, he sat down with to share how he — well, you get it. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

  • Name: Gary Wang
  • Age: 52
  • Residence: Tysons, Virginia
  • Current Job: CTO at DMI

What was your first job?

Right after college, I went to work at the National Cancer Institute doing biomedical research, focusing on AIDS therapy. Back then, it was the late 1990s and AIDS/HIV was still a major problem that a lot of research activities were focusing on. 

How did your career progress from your first tech job to your current role?

Later on, I joined a European company called Tibotec. It acquired the whole research group and moved us to Rockville, Maryland. Half a year later, Johnson and Johnson acquired Tibotec and wanted to move the whole research group to Philadelphia. 

I didn’t want to go because I had a family situation: I had my first kid, and my wife didn’t want to leave Bethesda. So, I looked for another job, and because I did a lot of computer modeling it took me just a week to find two job offers to be a system engineer working at a government IT contracting company. I worked for two or three years at the company, called HeiTech Services. After three years I went to join Lockheed Martin as the chief engineer for their infrastructure and IT practice. Then, I moved on to be the CTO in Lockheed Martin’s Treasury Department IT services contract. 

Later on, I became the program manager for that contractor program. Then I went to the Lockheed Martin Corporate CTO office to be the technical director and a program director. At the end of 2015, Lockheed Martin ISGS was acquired by Leidos, so I decided to join IBM. I became the CTO of IBM’s cybersecurity and development practice in the public sector. I worked there for about a year, and then I was recruited by Unisys. I joined Unisys in 2016 and we did such a great job at Unisys, we grew the business significantly. In March 2020, Unisys Federal was acquired by SAIC, so I joined SAIC. I then was recruited by Perspecta to join as their VP for cloud applications. Then Perspecta was acquired by Peraton and that was my last job before I joined DMI. 

What’s something you’ve done in your tech career so far that you’re proud of?

When I was at Lockheed Martin, as I mentioned, I joined this Treasury Department program as a CTO. Before I joined, I knew the program had some performance challenges and the customer was not really happy about the program. But it was a risk I wanted to take. 

My first week in that program, the customer came to talk to me and he said, “Why did you want to join this program? I’m about to terminate this contract after summer.” So we worked really hard and we did a fantastic job in preparing for this data center migration, and when the date came, we worked 60 hours straight without any sleep. The transition was really smooth, with no outage, no downtime, and the customer was thoroughly surprised and extremely happy. By that mere fact, we kept that contract. 

Additionally, when I joined Unisys in 2016, Unisys only won about $20 million in new business in the practice area I was in. I worked there for three years, and in 2019, in my own line of business, I grew the business. And for that year alone we won $1.9 billion in new business. That’s tremendous growth, tremendous success.

Those two experiences are the most memorable for me because they have some commonality: Both experiences started with a huge risk, a huge challenge and a lot of uncertainties. But in the end, just by working extremely hard and working smartly, I was able to make a huge accomplishment. 

What are you most excited about in your new job?

DMI really brings commercial innovation back to the public sector and also allows us to bring the public citizens’ experience back to the public sector. And in the public sector, we can take the cybersecurity best practices, we can take systems engineering discipline back to the commercial sector. So this is really the platform. It’s really the company that can bring in a lot of innovation, a lot of modernization to benefit both the private sector and the public sector clients. 

I also know many leaders in this company and they are fantastic leaders. They have proven records of being really successful in growing the business and running a business. And the company, like I said, is really sitting at both the public sector and private sector. They give it a unique combination of solutions and best practices to allow for us to be successful. 

What advice would you give to aspiring technologists?

A lot of people, when they started out in technology, they are working hard and they liked and felt inspired to have a career in technology. But as time goes on, a lot of people just lost their drive. I try to tell young technologists to always be curious because I think curiosity, especially in technology, applies all the time. Curiosity, being bold and being willing to take risks. 

For anybody in a career, more or less, there’s some kind of career fatigue. At a certain point, you just feel like you don’t want to continue this. But I want to say it is very important to keep that curiosity, to keep that intellectual intensity to make sure you always learn and and grow yourself because, unfortunately, technology is one industry where you have to keep up. If you don’t keep up, you can fall behind and you’re going to be irrelevant very quickly. 

What’s next for you in your career? 

I’m very happy in my current job, I really haven’t thought much about the future yet. I guess when I move on to my next phase of life, it would be starting my own company. 

What interests/hobbies/activities do you enjoy outside of work?

I do a lot of volleyball coaching because my daughter and son play club volleyball. When you’re a coach of a small team, a junior sports team, there’s a lot you learn. You not only need to learn how to develop strategy, develop the players and win games and tournaments, but more importantly, you understand the psychology of the kids. You need to find ways to work with them more effectively and motivate and help the kids grow. 

That’s a huge undertaking, and it’s no different from doing my day job. Personally, I learned a lot from that process: On the one hand, you are developing the young players as a coach, but on the other hand, it’s also self-development because you learn how to deal with strategy and figure out how to grow each boy or girl. It’s very much like managing an office team. So it’s definitely development for me, too. 

Series: How I Got Here

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