An inspiring businesswoman is genuine and comfortable in her own skin, Melissa Koskovich believes. She knows what her “superpowers” are, Koskovich said, but also values the talents of others. She is humble and kind, because she understands every person matters. She is a “change agent” and “unafraid of conflict,” she added. “She helps others along the way and gives back to her community.”
Koskovich aims to be this type of inspiring businesswoman as Senior Vice President and Director of Communications & Marketing at Leidos, a Fortune 500 technology company based near Washington, DC. The company’s mission is to make the world safer, healthier, and more efficient through information technology, science, and engineering. When she describes the type of work Leidos does, she often asks people to think of the hardest, most important problem they can. “Leidos is there and likely excelling,” she then explains.
In her personal life, she is the mother of twin boys who start college later this year. Through motherhood, she has learned what she is capable of when it matters most. She’s learned how to be creative and efficient in achieving desired outcomes. The lessons she’s learned as a parent have made her more comfortable with herself, her abilities, and her value. “When you understand your value,” she said, “very little can rattle you.”
After earning bachelor’s degrees from the University of Maryland, Koskovich spent the first decade of her career in the U.S. Air Force learning about “sweat equity,” a term she uses to describe getting your hands dirty while working as part of a team. The Air Force taught her that while “sometimes it’s your role to lead,” she said, “other times it’s your responsibility to follow.” She believes both roles are equally important, and that individual accomplishments are never as great as what a talented group of individuals linking arms can do.
Koskovich deployed numerous times throughout her military career. During her last mission, she was a liaison in to embedded journalists in Afghanistan and Iraq, and supported the commander of air forces for U.S. Central Command. During this time, she became highly skilled in addressing the media in high-pressure, sensitive situations. She also furthered her education by earning degrees in public affairs and aircraft armament systems technology.
Later, Koskovich earned an M.B.A. from the University of Maryland. Today, with more than seventeen years of experience, she is a seasoned expert in media relations, crisis management, and internal communications. She oversees a $4 million annual philanthropic program, and has led major communications efforts including support to her company’s initial public offering (IPO) and headquarters relocation, as well as the spin-off of then SAIC’s technical services business in 2013, and the company’s subsequent merger with Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems & Global Solutions (IS&GS) business in 2016.
Leadership Style and Philosophy
Koskovich is an optimist who believes in turning adversity into growth opportunities. As a leader, she is motivated by team goals over individual goals. This mindset allows her to be propelled by others instead of threatened by them. Her entire model of leadership centers on teamwork. She believes in bringing everyone along for the ride so they share in the team’s success. She said the most important decisions she makes involve recruiting, professional development, and succession planning. “Building the right team is everything,” she said. “It defines success or failure, and determines if you enjoy walking through the office door each day.”
Reflecting on the state of her industry, Koskovich said she sees change everywhere. She believes major improvements in things like innovation and cost structure can no longer be achieved by re-engineering the wheel. “We need to blow up the wheel and start over with a blank sheet of paper,” she said. “We need to shoot for the moon, not just the horizon.” But she’s not intimidated by change or even chaos. Instead she sees them as opportunities, and believes managing change is the true test of effective leadership. In the face of uncertainty, her challenge to those around her is simple: “If you’re not comfortable with change, get there.”
Part of her role as a leader is to encourage creative thinking and innovation. She emphasizes that differentiation cannot be achieved through sameness, and pushes her team to be forward-thinkers. “If what you’re doing makes people a little uncomfortable,” she said, “you’re probably on to something.” She said that if you’ve done your homework, and have the support of leadership, it’s okay to make bold moves. “More often than not,” she said, “that’s when you get the big payoff.”
When she thinks about the future of women in business, she hopes for equality across the board. She hopes to see diverse environments where everyone feels safe and flourishes based on merit. To achieve this, Melissa encourages women to have faith in their abilities. “The landscape and people that surround you will always change,” she said, “but strong performance shines in any environment.” She also encourages women in leadership to be genuine and vulnerable. “When people see you for your true self, individuals can truly connect,” she said. “Those connections yield trust and the potential from there is limitless.”