‘Like most Aptimists, I work hard, but we value our families.’ – Tom McKenna
Meet Tom McKenna: Aptima’s CFO and Newest Board Member
Aptima’s CFO and newest Board member discusses the value of working hard, having fun, and sometimes getting a little crazy.
Tom McKenna joined Aptima in 2000, just as the company was doubling in size from 20 to over 40 people in the space of 6 months, moving into what became its corporate headquarters in Woburn, Mass., and opening its first satellite office in Washington, DC. Starting as Director of Accounting & Finance, Tom has worked his way up through the ranks, following Aptima’s “promote from within” philosophy. Today as Aptima’s CFO, he leads a 17-person A&F division providing contracts and security, information systems, and accounting services to four offices east of the Mississippi and a variety home-based employees across the country. In April, Tom was named to the Aptima Board of Directors.
HF: How did you first hear about Aptima?
Tom: I started my career with DCAA [the Defense Contract Audit Agency] where I progressed to Tech Specialist. One of the companies I audited was ALPHATECH, where [Aptima founders] Meg Clancy and Daniel Serfaty worked. They were leaving to start Aptima and Meg asked me if I would be interested in being the Controller at ALPHATECH to replace her. The Government is always looking for the companies who do the wrong thing and screw up and don’t abide by Government regulations. But ALPHATECH was different because its executive management and Meg always did the right thing. I had no intentions of leaving DCAA at the time so I said, ‘Okay, if I was ever going to work for a Government contractor, ALPHATECH would be it,’ and left DCAA. I worked under Meg for a few months, and got to know her and Daniel, who sort of had his feet both in ALPHATECH and Aptima at the time. Eventually, I left ALPHATECH and went back to DCAA when my daughter was born, and all the time I stayed in touch with Meg, and Meg kept saying “When I grow Aptima big enough, I’m going to bring you on board,” and I said “Yeah, yeah, yeah…”
Well the phone call actually came—and because of Meg and Daniel’s adherence to doing the right thing, I knew that this was the right move so I came onboard at Aptima as Director of Accounting & Finance and progressed my way up the ranks over a 15 year period to where I am today. It’s all been extremely rewarding and I’m grateful for the opportunities that have been given to me.
HF: Do you have any stories from those early days at Aptima that you can share?
Tom: Just the craziness of trying to grow a smaller company—today we have better processes and systems in place to support the work we do. We’ve matured a lot over the years. But we still have great parties—the annual holiday parties and summer picnics are always fun, and people have a really good time getting together outside work.
HF: And your life outside of work – you’re a husband and a father, and you’re at a different point in your career. How do you find work-life balance?
Tom: Like most Aptimists, I work hard but we value our families. The time that I am at home I do stay focused on my wife and daughter because that’s important. The quality of time that we do spend together is that, it is quality. Joyce works full time as well so she understands the same thing. To me staying mentally and physically fit is very important, and one way I do that is to workout most every day. My daughter has acquired that trait as well and so a lot of times we work out together. She’ll call me and I’ll say “Okay, I’m on my way home, I’ll stop at the gym, meet me there” or I’ll go home and she’ll say “You want to go to the gym after dinner?” so the time we have together is quality and we all know how important that is. It’s important to work hard but it’s important to have fun and be a family. Emily’s 18 now and driving, and she’s very independent but we still go on vacations, too. Emily still—I believe!—enjoys going on vacation with us as a family even though she’s 18 years old!
HF: Speaking of having fun, accounting and finance people always have this reputation for being dead serious but you always seem to be smiling and your team always seems to be smiling. You seem to know how to have a lot of fun—where did you get that from?
Tom: I think I get that from my mom. Growing up my mom always placed fun to be the most important thing, which went well with my father who was very serious, very “get the job done,” so she was a great compliment to him. What I learned is that you can get a job done, but you don’t have to be so serious that it’s painful. At Aptima, we work hard, but also have fun together. We get together to celebrate each other’s accomplishments. We hire really smart people, but people who you want to get to know better, who are interesting to talk with, who really enjoy doing what they do. I try to make everything as fun as possible, even in the role as CFO.
HF: So last but not least, when we make the Aptima movie, who’s going to play Tom McKenna?
Tom: I guess I would have to say Robert De Niro. He’s in a lot of movies where he gets things done, but gets it done in a fun way, a little on the crazy side. I like to be a little crazy myself once in a while. It doesn’t show that often at work but in my home life, I like to be crazy.
HF: So long as everyone who reads this knows that you’re much younger than De Niro, you can pick whoever you want. All I have to say is, he better start getting to the gym now…