Innovation at Work: Executive Profile Q&A with Parsons Chair, President and CEO Carey Smith

Fairfax County-based Parsons Corporation is a digitally enabled solutions provider focused on creating the future of the defense, intelligence, and critical infrastructure markets. From Earth to outer space, Parsons delivers tomorrow’s solutions today.

Parsons Corporations Chair, President and Chief Executive Officer Carey Smith (Photo courtesy of Parsons)

Parsons Chair, President and Chief Executive Officer Carey Smith talked to the Fairfax County Economic Development about her career, Parsons, and their headquarters move to Fairfax County, and why this is a great place for the company to be based.

As Chair, President, and Chief Executive Officer, Ms. Smith is responsible for the company’s strategy, growth, business execution, and global operations. Before joining Parsons, she served in progressive leadership roles at Honeywell, including as President of its defense and space division, Vice President of Honeywell Aerospace Customer and Product Support, and President of Honeywell Technology Solutions. Prior to joining Honeywell, Ms. Smith held various executive positions at Lockheed Martin. She is on the Parsons and Edison International Board of Directors, chairs the Professional Services Council’s Board of Directors, and is also a member of the board of directors for the Intelligence and National Security Alliance and the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation.

FCEDA: Please provide a brief overview of what Parsons does.

Parsons employees arriving in Antarctica to update/rebuild McMurdo station:(Photo courtesy of Parsons)

Carey Smith: Parsons is a leading disruptive technology provider in the national security and global infrastructure markets, with capabilities across cyber and intelligence, space and missile defense, transportation, environmental remediation, urban development, and critical infrastructure protection. Founded in 1944, we have more than 17,000 employees around the globe delivering integrated, agile solutions for our customer’s national security and critical infrastructure requirements. Our national security portfolio delivers innovative solutions across the all-domain battlespace, especially in cyber and space, that outpace near-peer threats. We’re also a leader in critical infrastructure, providing solutions and experience at every step of the infrastructure lifecycle, including sustainable and digital solutions in transportation, environmental, energy, and urban development. Parsons is headquartered in Northern Virginia, and operates across the country and around the world.

FCEDA: Tell us about your career at Parsons.

Carey Smith: As the chair, president, and chief executive officer of Parsons, I am responsible for the company’s strategy, growth, business execution, and global operations. I joined Parsons in 2016 as president of the Federal Solutions business after serving in leadership roles across the aerospace and defense industry, supporting customers across the Northern Virginia region and around the world. In the years that followed, I was promoted to chief operating officer (COO) in 2018, president and COO in 2019, and CEO in 2021. My focus during this time has been on transforming Parsons into an advanced technology solutions integrator that is truly imagining what’s next on our customers’ toughest challenges and creating the future of national security and global infrastructure.  By leveraging advanced technologies, Parsons delivers integrated solutions at the speed of relevance in a complex security environment with adversaries challenging on every domain and an economy driven by digital transformation.  That commitment to innovation and a mission-focused mindset is what differentiates us.

Since joining Parsons, I’ve been focused on our growth and making our company a destination employer across our industry.  I am proud of our leading performance and continued recruiting and retention success, reinforcing the excellent culture we’ve built at Parsons. We’ve concentrated our portfolio on six growing and enduring markets including cyber & intelligence, space & missile defense, critical infrastructure protection, transportation, environmental remediation and urban development; we’ve focused on moving up the solutions value chain with great success, with metrics including 11 wins of more than $100 million in 2022 and six wins of more than $100 million announced Q1 2023; and we’ve maintained strong organic revenue growth, expanded margins, and executed accretive M&As including acquiring companies here in the Northern Virginia region.

We’ve also focused on a “People First” culture that attracts and retains talented employees. We’ve revitalized the leadership team through promotion and external hires that resulted in an inclusive and collaborative team. We’ve created an employee value proposition to define why employees are attracted to and remain at Parsons; people join and stay because the work the company does matters to the world, and our differentiated culture. We’ve also initiated a flexible work schedule, invigorated the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion council and six enterprise business resource groups, created an engineer work-from-anywhere program, evolved our secure, virtual software development environment, and defined a dual career path for technical employees. It begins and ends with our people: we invest in our employees, so they invest in us.

FCEDA: Why did Parsons move its HQ to Centreville, Va. in 2019?

Carey Smith: We’ve always had a presence in the Washington D.C. region and are proud to have worked on projects and with customers across the area for over half a century. Relocating to Northern Virginia moved the company closer to our existing and potential clients, as well as key decision-makers across our markets.

FCEDA: Why is Fairfax County a great location for Parsons?

Carey Smith: Fairfax County is the great place for Parsons because of its strategic proximity to Washington, D.C; its highly educated workforce, especially in the fields of technology, engineering, and cybersecurity; and the region’s robust infrastructure and business-friendly environment. The county’s well-developed transportation network, including major highways, international airports, and public transit options – many of which Parsons helped build – provides easy connectivity to our clients, partners, and shareholders both regionally and globally. The region also attracts talented and educated people from all over the world, providing Parsons with a great pipeline of future talent.

Parsons provides small satellite payload integration for the U.S. Space Force: (Photo courtesy of Parsons)

FCEDA: Fairfax County and Northern Virginia is a rapidly growing hub for companies involved with space. Tell us about how Parsons is involved with the space sector.

Carey Smith: Every day we’re transforming the space domain across government and commercial industries, as we have for more than 20 years. Parsons has delivered pioneering, operationally proven capabilities in the space domain for decades, focusing on end-to-end solutions in satellite ground control as-a-service; small satellite integration for launch; space domain awareness; assured position, navigation, and timing (PNT); and satellite operation resiliency mission areas. As the role of space continues to evolve, we’re excited to continue providing customized mission solutions that enable operations for 50 percent of Department of Defense (DoD) satellites and 75 percent of NASA and NOAA satellites.

Parsons employees in front of four RADBO vehicles: (Photo courtesy of Parsons)

FCEDA: Tell us about your program for recruiting transitioning veterans. What percentage of your employees are veterans?

Carey Smith: At Parsons, we’ve prioritized a culture of veteran support, camaraderie, and empowerment. We recognize the valuable skills and experiences that veterans bring to the workforce and seek to honor their service by recruiting and retaining veterans across the organization. Several years ago, we established our award-winning Military and Veteran Affairs (MILVET) program that provides resources, support, and career opportunities for veterans. Through this program, we offer mentoring and networking opportunities, career development programs, and assistance with the transition from military service to civilian careers. I’m proud that approximately 20 percent of Parsons’ U.S. workforce are military, reservist, or guard veterans, and retention among our veteran community is over 90 percent. We’ve been awarded multiple awards by the Department of Defense, Military Times, and National Guard organizations are a best employer for the veteran community. We’re also actively involved in the Department of Defense’s SkillBridge program, where we partner with the DoD to provide veterans with meaningful civilian opportunities and work experience as part of the Parsons team before leaving the military.

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