The Key to a Positive Workplace Culture? "Build Bonds, Rapport, and Trust," Says Booz Allen's Bob Williams

The Key to a Positive Workplace Culture? "Build Bonds, Rapport, and Trust," Says Booz Allen's Bob Williams

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Bob Williams is a Chief Technologist at Booz Allen’s Digital Hub in Charleston, SC, where many members of the firm’s Digital Solutions Group work. We talked with Bob about what it’s like to work at the Hub, and some of the Digital Solutions Group’s most inspiring projects.

Monday, February 26, 2018 - 11:00am

CAMPAIGN: People Profiles

CONTENT: Article

Q: Why did Booz Allen open the Charleston Hub?

Bob Williams: Booz Allen has been serving clients for more than 100 years, and because we want to remain highly relevant for another 100 years, we have taken a bigger foothold in software technology services, information technology and the growing digital eco-sphere.  As part of that effort, in 2015 we acquired Sparc, a Charleston tech company, as a way to grow our capabilities in agile software development. The Charleston Hub was born out of that acquisition, and the firm’s commitment to the Charleston area, where we are committed to embed ourselves in the community.  

Q: Tell me about how the design of the office space contributes to the work of the Charleston Hub

Bob Williams: The office offers lots of open space, natural light, and high ceilings—which makes it an aesthetically pleasing place to spend time in. But beyond that, the space is very purposefully designed to facilitate collaboration and innovation. Everyone, regardless of their project or their level in the firm, sits at tables out in the open. No one is behind a closed door, and no one is in a cube. Six people work at each large table, so we really are rubbing elbows with each other—building bonds, rapport, and trust so that we can easily collaborate on problems and segue to building solutions as a team.

Every six or nine months teams pack up and move to another area in the building. So our people are frequently pushed out of their comfort zones, and forced to walk different routes in the building and meet new neighbors on their way to their new team area. We want to create collisions and interactions because we know that when we get people together, ideas morph and meld and develop into something new and exciting.

We find that we’ve created a workplace where people are more likely to say hello to each other, and get to know each other. For example, on Fridays, dogs are welcome in the office, and they certainly help break down the barriers to conversation among people who don’t otherwise know each other. 

Q. Tell me about a project you’re passionate about

Bob Williams: One of the firm’s largest contracts is working on the Veterans Benefits Management Systems (VBMS) for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Our team has employed agile methodologies to transform the VA’s paper-intensive compensation and pension claims system to a web-based, paperless system. Our work has decreased the backlog in veterans’ claims for benefits by 87 percent, and reduced the average wait time for a claim decision by 100 days.

When we’re under pressure to meet a deadline, engineers say things like, “I’m in the weeds,” or “Under the gun,” or “In the trenches.” When we’re working on the VBMS contract, we are all very aware of the fact that our work will help people for whom these phrases are not metaphors, but real life. Knowing that our work helps people who have put their lives on the line for the country is incredibly rewarding. When I go home at night I know that I’ve contributed to making a positive change in the world, and that is a great feeling.

Q: What makes for a positive workplace culture?

Bob Williams:  If you were to come to the Charleston Hub and look around, you’d see dogs, ping pong tables, scooters—a lot of the things people imagine when they think of a west coast startup environment. But culture is not about ping pong tables and dogs—these are only the artifacts of culture. Culture is what you do day-in and day-out and for us that is to build bonds, collaborate, and solve problems together.

By offering a great work life balance, stability, and truly rewarding work, we’re creating a culture that helps us attract and retain the best talent.

Want to learn more about life at the Charleston Hub? Visit: