Director of Operations
Cloud Lake, LLC
Jay Ahn is the director of operations for Cloud Lake, LLC. She has been with the Akima family of companies for one year.
Washington, D.C., native Jay Ahn had always been bold, dreamed big, and refused to settle. As a college student at James Madison University, she studied Latin, philosophy, and writing in hopes of one day making a significant impact. “I was 18 at the time, I was a punk and I wanted to take over the world,” she says. “I said to myself, what it is that governs how people and the world operate?” She decided it was language and philosophy, and she also added writing to her studies. “I thought if I had the core fundamentals right, I could do anything that I wanted,” Jay says.
Jay left college with an inkling of what that was. She had interned in sales her junior year and realized it was something she could see herself doing. So when she was offered a job as a recruiter for an information technology staffing company, she took it because it would give her the chance to get into sales. “It’s very competitive and you have to grind, and it would teach me project management and how to talk to people,” Jay says. “It drew me to be a hard-working professional.”
Being around IT folks also opened her eyes to the field. “In speaking with IT professionals with various skills, I got very interested,” Jay says. “I wanted to have meaningful conversations with them and not just on the surface, ‘Hey, I have this job, do you want to come work for us?’ type of deal.”
After a few years, Jay ended up at a job interview for a services company looking for someone to run its commercial staffing group. She was brutally honest with the CEO, telling him it would be a waste of money to hire her only to do commercial staffing. “I told the CEO, ‘I’ll take this job if you give me a chance to get into business development if I do well at this,’” Jay says.
And that’s all it took for Jay to course correct and get into business development. It was the perfect fit; sales excites her and allows her to chase her passion of solving problems, she says. In her BD role, she continued to pursue her knowledge in technology and a few years later, she went on to work as a researcher at NIST helping secure connected medical devices and build risk assessment platform that was later adopted by DHS.
Last year, Jay was working for CSRA supporting law enforcement when a friend suggested she talk with Barry Smallwood, general manager at Cloud Lake Technology who has now become her biggest mentor. They met for lunch and Barry asked if Jay wanted to come on board to help build the company.
“Just listening to his goal and his vision, I was sold,” says Jay, who serves as Cloud Lake’s director of operations. “I saw it as a big opportunity for me to make that big, meaningful impact I’ve been looking to make.”
When she recounts her most significant achievements, it’s the people Jay thinks of first. Helping others grow and accomplish things they didn’t think they could, “I can’t put that into words how amazing that feels,” she says. “If I had any small part in helping them see something they didn’t before, that’s what gets me out of bed every morning.”
As for those would-be leaders who are still emerging, Jay always advises them to think about the importance of their personal brand. “You need to be the boss of your brand—don’t let anyone take control over what your brand is,” she says. “Don’t expect others to build your brand for you. If you want to be a boss, a leader, or a manager, you have to learn how to be the boss of your own brand first.”