For much of his professional life in the intelligence industry, Frank Strickland, MS Technology Management ’05, has maintained a career cloaked in secrecy and marked by security clearances, guarded buildings, and top-secret documents.
And while Strickland understandably can’t divulge too much about what he does, what he can say is that he wouldn’t be where he is today without a lifetime commitment to furthering his education.
“Continuous learning is in my DNA,” he says.
Strickland is a partner at IBM, leading a practice that provides analytic services and solutions to the intelligence community. It’s a job that puts him in charge of a team of professionals helping to keep the nation safe.
Working out of a secure office in Chantilly, Virginia, Strickland’s team of government contractors works tirelessly with federal national security clients to ensure they have the correct strategic know-how and technical tools to accomplish their clandestine missions.
“Basically, what our analytic services and solutions do is threefold: helping clients create intelligence, manage intelligence, and enable intelligence,” he explains.
And if there is one industry Strickland knows, it’s intelligence.
A native of Lancaster, Kentucky, Strickland enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1980, serving as an intelligence specialist until 1983, when he then transitioned to civilian federal work with the National Reconnaissance Office, an agency tasked with designing and maintaining America’s spy satellites. While in this role, Strickland was also a member of the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service.
For much of his nearly 20-year federal career, Strickland spearheaded a number of programs focused on developing solutions and methodologies to measure and analyze mission performance for the government. For this, the CIA awarded him its National Medal of Achievement.
While working for Uncle Sam, Strickland also found time to hit the books as an adult student—a label he would wear again in the future—eventually earning a BA in management from National Louis University.
“I went to school at night, so I was in the adult-learning model before it became fashionable in the early ’80s,” Strickland recalls. “I love to learn.”
With a degree in hand and a long resume in tow, Strickland cofounded a consulting firm that used research methods and information technology to quantify the value of intelligence in the early 2000s. The company’s success caused it to soon be purchased by a larger company, which then was bought by IBM in March 2010, hence his position with the company today.
Around the time Strickland was getting his company off the ground, he went back to school to study technology management at Mason.
“I wanted a graduate-level degree. I wanted to be exposed to content. I wanted to think about how to manage technology,” he says. “What I learned was very complementary to what I do.”
And Strickland is not done there. His plans include working on a doctoral degree in George Washington University’s Human and Organization Learning program and possibly teaching at a university someday. He’s already taught on occasion in Mason’s Executive MBA and Technology Management programs.
“Two of the things I love most are learning and teaching,” Strickland says. “I find that learning and teaching are symbiotic; the best learning I’ve done is when I was teaching.”
Asked why he has dedicated much of his adult life to furthering his education, Strickland recounts a story he once heard, where a student asks a professor why he spends so many nights studying a subject in which he already is an expert.
The professor’s response, according to Strickland: “No one likes to drink from a stagnant pool.”
“I feel that today, especially, there is so much we need to do,” Strickland says. “Therefore, there is so much we need to learn.”