Andy Hilger was recently named as our new president, where he will drive initiatives that deliver industry-leading growth and foster a shared vision across the Allegis Group companies. While many of us know Andy as an engaged, approachable leader, some of you may not know how lucky we are to have such a respected, trusted individual taking the helm of our growing, global enterprise. So to help you better understand what makes Andy the right person to build on our strong foundation and create a brighter future for all of us, we recently sat down and asked him some questions. Here’s how the conversation went.
Q: What was your first job?
Andy: I held many of the typical teenage jobs: I did landscaping, I worked in a deli, and I worked in an ice cream shop. Later, when I graduated from college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I eventually wanted to get my graduate degree in creative writing, but before that, I just wanted some real-life experiences.
I was fortunate to grow up in a stable, loving family. I attended good schools and had great role models. After completing my undergrad, I came across a booth for Boys Hope Girls Hope at a local volunteer fair. A man named Chris Karpinski explained the program to me, and it just felt like the right fit. I worked for two years in their Cleveland chapter as a residential counselor. Basically, I lived in a group home with really talented kids who were facing some significant challenges at home or in their community through no fault of their own. At age 22, I went from being your average college kid with responsibility for myself to being a proxy parent to eight teenage boys – tutoring, cooking, cleaning, shuttling kids to extracurricular activities, and going to parent/teacher conferences. It was an incredible experience to help these kids through these challenging years. The organization means a lot to me. I met my wife through Boys Hope Girls Hope (she was a residential counselor for the Detroit chapter) and made many friends with whom I remain in touch even today. I also am in touch with some of the kids who were there at the time. To this day, I stay involved in Boys Hope Girls Hope and believe the program changes lives for the better. It certainly changed my life.
Q: How did your tertiary education focused on English and philosophy impact your career goals or help you today in your role with Allegis Group?
Andy: For me, college needed to be about following a passion – not just completing tasks and performing rote memorization. I didn’t wake up and want to go learn accounting, for example, but I was excited to go read a book by William Faulkner, so that’s what I did. And I think pursuing my passion then really helps me now in two ways. Having spent years learning to recognize patterns and themes in text and understanding contextually what an author intended – or didn’t know they intended – helped me develop analytical skills that serve me well today. Also, I find that so much of my job is about creating context so that people understand intent and are empowered to solve problems and win. The best way to do that is through storytelling. Every day, as leaders, we tell stories to show people how their journey fits into the broader company journey and how together we can accomplish something great.
Q: What are you reading right now?
Andy: You strike a passion with this question! I generally read more than one book at a time. I’m currently reading a Gartner book called Digital to the Core — kind of an instructional guide to competing in a digital era. I just finished an audio book by Barry Schwartz called Why We Work that explores motivations in the workplace beyond compensation. And I recently finished Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove, which was a sort of comedy about a man who was considering killing himself but realized all these people around him actually needed him. It was quirky but a good read! In terms of my favorite fiction writers, I really like Jonathan Franzen, Zadie Smith, Richard Russo, and Richard Powers. I loved The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. In terms of nonfiction, I’ve read all the Malcolm Gladwell books. I’ve enjoyed the Freakonomics books by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. I just read Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed, which was excellent. There are so many great leadership books out there, too. I like the Lencioni business fables. They’re easy reads with clear, actionable takeaways.
Q: How do you spend your free time?
Andy: While I don’t have the time that I once did to write much fiction, I still read quite a bit. I also enjoy a lot of time with my family, cheering on the sidelines of lacrosse and softball fields. Also, I play golf – mainly with my son. Beyond that, I don’t love beach vacations. My wife and I enjoy outdoor activities, love to travel, experience different cultures, and get to know a city.
Q: What skill would you like to learn & why?
Andy: There are two skills that come to mind. First, I think a lot about how we get work done. I’d like to take a Scrum Master class. There’s an opportunity for Allegis Group to think about applying Agile principles beyond our IS department. It fits well with our culture of transparency, our desire to break work down into manageable chunks, and our need to adjust to changes somewhat on the fly. Second, I had a stretch where I started to learn to play the guitar. Given the time, I wouldn’t mind dusting it off.
Q: Is there a teacher or person who made the biggest impact on you?
Andy: This is a harder question than you’d think because there are so many people. I had a high school biology teacher who was also my wrestling coach. He stands out as someone who really pushed, challenged, and believed in me. At Notre Dame, I took a Mark Twain class and my English teacher was one of the best I’d ever met in terms of engaging people; I learned a ton from him. Another professor of mine was a PEN/Faulkner Award winner. He scared most people, but he helped me to realize that writing is about revision and rewriting. The importance of simple hard work, persistence, and perseverance has translated into every success I’ve experienced.
Q: Why did you join Allegis Group?
Andy: My wife and I decided to move to Baltimore in 1997. I had worked with Kris (Underwood) Rutkowski (who currently works for TEKsystems) for a few months when I’d lived in Syracuse, and I called her to see if she knew of any opportunities since she had moved to Baltimore. She recruited me to Allegis Group. Honestly, I originally joined because I just needed a job, and it seemed like a reasonable opportunity with people who were fun. The company also aligned well with me from a values standpoint. But over time, it became clear that this was so much more than a job. It was a cause and a mission to grow something special with people you really cared about. I went from thinking about it as a means to a paycheck to a way to do some exciting things, to learn about myself, and to challenge and be challenged with others who were equally passionate about winning in the marketplace and in life.
Tony Diekemper was my first boss. He pushed me to take on challenges I thought I had no business taking on. I remember once we were in a meeting with about 15 other people. It was going nowhere, and Tony dropped a whiteboard marker. He asked me to pick it up for him. When I did, he moved my chair out of the room, forcing me to stay standing. He asked me to use the marker to take over the meeting and get the group where we needed to go. So I did my best! Later, Mike McSally (a current vice president at TEKsystems) was a huge influence, too. Back then, most leaders came up through sales or finance. Mike saw beyond that paradigm and pulled me into meetings. He valued my perspective and taught me the business. Because of him, I received access and opportunity to influence people who otherwise might not have valued my perspective. I’m forever thankful to him for that.
Q: Is there anything you’d do over?
Andy: No. I look at things without a lot of regrets, but I do learn lessons every day. One insight that I consider significant is how we react to failures, especially in positions of leadership. How we think about problems will ultimately either create a culture that allows you to get better and move forward or one that devolves into a blame-centric, political hotbed. Blame stifles growth and creates a place in which no one wants to be. It’s important to me to create an atmosphere where we see failures as teachable moments, celebrate lessons learned, and drive each other to always get better. The more I learn, the less I know!
Q: What has played a big role in your happiness at work and your continued career success?
Andy: I’ve always found that if you approach things from the perspective of “what’s the right thing to do for the company,” there’s no limit to what you’ll get involved in and the opportunities in which you’ll get to make a difference. My happiness at work is 100% tied to making a difference with people I respect, like, and care about. I’ve been fortunate to be put in positions to make a difference with people I think the world of for the past 19 years and know that will continue. When I think about how many people have invested in me, I feel a tremendous responsibility to make sure that people who join Allegis Group today have a similar experience and can realize their potential, creating opportunity for themselves and those around them.