PART 3: Jeannette Lee saw IIa as “a very strong foundation on which we can build”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final article in a three-part series describing a recent transition in ownership of one of the Knoxville-Oak Ridge region’s most successful female launched businesses.)
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
“We saw this as a very strong foundation on which we can build,” Jeannette Lee, the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Co-Owner of Information International Associates Inc. (IIa) told us when we interviewed her recently.
Taking over from Bonnie Carroll, IIa’s Founder and former CEO, Lee already brings her own impressive set of experiences to the table. In many respects, they are very similar to those of her predecessor. Lee has worked in the government contracting and information technology sectors for more than 30 years. She founded her own company – Sytel – and grew it to 300 employees, about the size of IIa.
“When I met Bonnie, I could immediately relate to her success over 30 years,” the South Korean-born Lee told us. “The previous company I ran was serving a lot of customers in the science and technology areas, mainly NIH (National Institutes of Health), NSF (National Science Foundation), and DoD (Department of Defense).”
Lee also says she has fully embraced IIa’s tagline – “Navigators in the Sea of Data.”
Carroll, Lee and the investment banker referenced in the first article in this series first met in md-2017. Lee immediately felt a synergy with Carroll and also clearly saw the opportunity to further leverage what she characterized as the “long-term relationships with elite customers” that Carroll and her IIa team had developed.
With a group of other investors, Lee and Carroll closed the sale March 15 of this year, and the latter is now IIa’s Chief Data Officer.
“That’s what she does,” Lee says. “Her mission is to leverage what the company has done in big data and focus even more on data analytics.”
IIa’s new CEO sees that emphasis as a key component of the growth strategy, something Carroll described to us as the “next step” for the company.
“The chief challenge that CIOs (Chief Information Officers) face is they have too much data and frequently don’t even know what they have,” Lee explains. “We want to help them make proper decisions and mitigate risks in cybersecurity.”
It’s part of “helping change the way they think and also protect what they have,” she adds. “We are helping them visualize the data they have.”
What about the Oak Ridge operations?
Lee pointed to IIa’s founding in Oak Ridge and its decades of experience working with the Department of Energy.
“Our company’s heritage is centered in Oak Ridge,” she says. “We will preserve it; it is the heart of the organization.”
Noting that the local region has “an amazing talent base,” Lee believes having bases in both Oak Ridge and the Washington, DC area is “a win-win for all our customers and ourselves. We have the best of both worlds.”