Col. Thomas Cole

Responsibilities: Cole directs the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T), a $500 million-a-year operation that develops future mobile communications for the Army. He also leads the activities of four other communications programs.

What makes him a good program manager: "I think No. 1 is his ability to communicate," said his boss, Gen. Michael Mazzucchi. Cole had to incorporate new programs from other organizations into WIN-T, which required him to articulate the program's message to an audience of varied backgrounds and ranks. Cole managed this impossible task because he understands how to speak to the different interests and expertise of his listeners, and he knows how to stay on message, Mazzucchi said.

How he ended up in the job: Cole previously managed a five-year budget of more than $2 billion and was responsible for the design and fielding of the Army's Joint Future Tactical Communications network.

Best advice received about program management: When you get to a certain point in your career — lieutenant colonel or colonel in the military, for example — you should trust your instincts, Cole said. Make decisions based on your experience, education and background, and don't second-guess yourself.

Best lesson learned on the job: "Take full advantage of the very talented civilian government employees we have," Cole said. "I think there's a tendency, particularly for junior officers, not to realize how capable [civilian employees] are and not rely on them as they should."

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