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Q&A with Apex’s CIO Rob Waddell

September 2017

Apex places over 30,000 Information Technology professionals a year, across various technical skill sets and levels. One of the most frequent questions we hear from our candidates/contractors in terms of development is “What can I do to position myself for a move into leadership/management? What’s a natural progression/path into a leadership type role?” In an effort to provide career/leadership transition tips, we’re interviewing our internal IT leadership team to learn more about their path, advice, pitfalls, and more aspects of their stories, successes, and success criteria!

We’ll start with Rob Waddell, who has been Apex’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) since December 2006.

How did you come to be the CIO of Apex?

Rob: I started as a consultant the summer of 2006, where I led an assessment of Apex’s IT organization. I ended up joining as a permanent employee about six months later.

How and where did you start your IT career?

Rob: I started as a Systems Analyst for a large government contract/program that was building missile systems after receiving my degree in Business Management at Virginia Tech, which included a hybrid business and IT concentration. I was hired for my first role due to my degree and a Fortran programming internship I completed. I’ve stayed very involved at Virginia Tech, and am now on the advisory board for the ‘Business and IT’ program there, which is the modern day version of the program I completed.

Walk us through your career. What was your path?

Rob: My first role as a System Analyst focused on independent verification and validation of code which I did for about five years. I then moved into a Systems Engineer role for a number of years, where I built code for a project/program in Hawaii, provided tech training for military pilots on how to use the software, did validation/assurance, and participated in several additional efficiency projects. While at that organization, I moved into my first management role, overseeing a matrixed team as a Technical Director. Afterwards, I transferred to a large financial services firm as a senior software developer/architect. I then moved into a Director role, Vice President, and then CIO capacity.

What are your top 3 priorities/goals as a CIO?

Rob: First, to make sure I have the right leadership in place to protect the information assets of the company and ensure the stability of our systems. Second, to align IT activities with business imperatives that drive our business, including digital innovation. Third, to accomplish these first two goals while staying within our budget and time constraints.

What are your favorite IT news sources for staying current and relevant?

Rob: I follow Gartner, Staffing Industry Analyst (SIA) report/s, and CIO insights providers like Rain Partners. I also learn a lot through the Enterprise Councils I’m a part of as well as from reports/insights provided by our major suppliers (major job boards).

What are your favorite things about your job?

Rob: I love that we have the ability to impact the success of business on a daily basis by striving for optimal systems performance. I like that there’s a variety of issues/problems we can solve, and that we’re accomplishing meaningful projects that bring about ROI for the business. I also really enjoy working with our internal senior management council, and having influence on where we can drive technology to support our business.

What has been one of your biggest hurdles throughout your career?

Rob: It was during my time at a start-up firm, where after 18 months, we didn’t make it. We had great technology, but couldn’t sell it fast enough to satisfy the investors. However, I learned a lot from my time there that benefitted me in future positions. It was exciting to wear a lot of hats as a Technical Director in a start-up environment!

What are your top pieces of advice for individuals who are interested in progressing into an IT Leadership role?


  • Have the mentality that you need to do whatever it takes to succeed. I call that the grit factor! I had to put in long hours early on, and invested extra time to learn as much as I possibly could, increasing my overall system knowledge and understanding of the code.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of EQ vs. IQ, and develop your people skills along with your technical acumen! Learn to work with others on a multi-faceted team of differing personality types and varying levels of technical competencies. You need to learn how to assess your team members, and determine how to direct and lead in a way that caters to them. As a leader, you’ll need to learn how to bridge the “introversion gap.”
  • If you work hard, seek out more tasks to add value as an employee, are constantly learning/growing towards becoming a SME in your area, and developing your EQ (people acumen), you’ll easily differentiate yourself!

Outside of IT, what do you enjoy doing?

Rob: Traveling with my family. I also enjoy running marathons; I have a current count of 34 marathons completed, including 19 consecutive Richmond marathons and 12 Boston marathons. I also really enjoy the solitude of fly fishing!

Looking for a staffing partner to help you find top IT talent? Contact your local Apex branch here.

Looking for your next career opportunity? Check out our current openings here.