Booz Allen Hamilton has spent more than a century helping to solve some of the world’s most complex problems, from the US Navy’s preparation for World War II to the corporate merger that gave rise to the Super Bowl. And according to Patricia Porter, vice president of talent acquisition at Booz Allen, the company’s success is often due to one key group of people: the talent acquisition teams who comb through thousands of the most skilled, experienced, and talented job candidates in the world and narrow the search down to the one individual most capable of—and passionate about—driving the success of an organization.
Porter herself has made the success of Booz Allen a lifelong passion, joining the consulting giant in 1999 following her graduation from Marymount University and staying there to hone her HR skills for the past twenty-one years.
“I’ve grown up at Booz Allen Hamilton,” Porter says. “I joined the organization in an entry role, probably not much different from many other people who have just gotten out of college, and I’ve never had to leave the company in order to learn about new roles, new businesses, and new clients.”
Over the past two decades, Porter has had a few distinct career changes within the broader Booz Allen company. After working as a senior recruiter in Virginia for close to five years, Porter relocated to Atlanta to support growing businesses in the southeast and abroad as the mid-Atlantic/Southeast recruiting lead. In 2013, she moved back to Virginia to serve as a senior recruiting manager and was subsequently promoted to engineering and science talent management lead, director of talent acquisition, and finally to VP of talent acquisition.
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“I’ve always been willing to try new experiences—my father worked in the government, and we relocated several times during my childhood,” Porter says of her career transitions. “So I’ve always been very open to taking a new assignment, and that has certainly paved the way for my growth here at Booz Allen.
“But at Booz Allen, I wouldn’t be considered a particularly long-standing employee,” Porter goes on to add. “There are several of us that have been here for twenty years or more, and it’s because of the people we get to work with—people who are so smart and so passionate about what they do.”
However, with so many intelligent people—and so many strong personalities—all around, it is critical that you find your own authentic voice, Porter says. “When you get a seat at the table, you have to be able to take part in the conversation,” the VP emphasizes. “And I think that growing up as an African American and having a lot of different experiences because of my father, and then joining Booz Allen in my early twenties and growing up here as a professional, has helped shaped my ability to have the level of courage and support that I need to be a leader in the organization.”
And in her two years as VP of the talent acquisition function at Booz Allen, Porter has certainly demonstrated her talent as a leader, empowering her teams to deliver top-level talent to Booz Allen’s clients as well as ensuring that each and every team stays aligned with the company’s overarching business strategy.
“The business strategy is key,” Porter says. “We need to continually evolve our thinking about how we deliver to our clients, not just today but in the future. What is our growth plan? What type of talent will we need in future? What has changed as a result of market competition? We have to find a balance between sustaining what we have and building for the future.”
And that is no easy task, Porter says. There is no “secret formula” to achieving that balance—or to finding the ideal fit between a job candidate and organization.
“We are often looking for people to fill highly technical positions,” the VP notes, “positions which in many cases require government clearance or an ability to be on the road 80 or 90 percent of the time. And on top of that, we have to be able to quickly identify, hire, and deploy that talent.”
Booz Allen Hamilton’s talent acquisition teams continually rise to meet that challenge, according to Porter. She credits this in part to the diversity of the teams themselves, which has “allowed us to address a variety of unknowns and be flexible in our approach to problems that are never one-size-fits-all,” but primarily to the company’s dedication to connection.
“It’s the relationships, first and foremost, that have made us successful,” Porter says. “It’s the relationships we have built within our teams as well as the relationships we have cultivated with our clients—it’s because of the relationships we have with our clients that we gain such an in-depth knowledge of their businesses, and it’s that knowledge that makes us a differentiator in the market.
“We truly understand the challenges our clients are going through and what they are trying to achieve,” the VP continues. “We work to deeply understand what the individuals that we hire are going to do within the organization, how they’re going to impact the organization’s mission, and how their work will ultimately affect the growth and success of the organization. Because it’s only when you have that level of understanding that you can find the exact right solution to meet a client’s needs.”