2016 Rising Star Awards
Lt. Themba D. Hinke
Navy Engineering Duty Officer and Project Manager for the Space and Naval Warfare Systems, Command's Space Field Activity, National Reconnaissance Office
- By Sean D. Carberry
- Nov 11, 2016
When Lt. Themba Hinke transferred from being a surface warfare officer to an engineering duty officer, he was assigned to an agency he had never heard of — the National Reconnaissance Office.
“And then when I showed up, they said, ‘You’re going to buy software,’ and I said, ‘I don’t even know what Linux is,’” Hinke said.
Two years later, he loves his job. “I happened to stumble into something that I was able to become passionate about,” he said. “I do enjoy it, but really it was chance that landed me where I am.”
As project manager for SPAWAR’s Space Field Activity at NRO, Hinke handles acquisitions of joint satellite ground systems for the Defense Department and intelligence community.
He is credited with creating an internal program that allows the agency to test current and future requirements against a secure big-data framework that includes tools for ingesting, transforming and analyzing the massive amounts of data created by the agency. The approach enables legacy programs to take on new mission capabilities and helps those programs move more quickly to the cloud, which is a priority for NRO.
“My experience with Themba is that he is one of those rare government people who puts in the extra time to actually learn the technology he’s acquiring,” said Nick Buck, president of Buck Consulting Group. “For example, his platform services were supposed to be hosted on Amazon’s C2S government cloud so Themba went out and got AWS cloud administrator-certified.”
Hinke also took it upon himself to learn coding because he wanted to “do what he’s actually buying.” He said that as a mechanical engineer by education, he is not particularly adept at coding, but trying to learn it has given him “mad respect for the people who deliver what we buy.”
Peggy King, a senior account executive at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, said that when Hinke was running into contracting obstacles, he read the entire Federal Acquisition Regulation.
“How many folks would bother to do that?” King asked.
Sean Carberry is a former FCW staff writer who focused on defense, cybersecurity and intelligence.