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Curtis Sawyer ('92)

Alumnus Curtis Sawyer wearing a face mask

Curtis Sawyer
Senior Director, Gartner
Class of ’92

I was born and raised in Virginia's Augusta County. Watching old Star Trek episodes after school, I developed an interest in technology and entered Virginia Tech in 1987 as a computer science major. After graduating in 1992, I worked in the metro-DC area for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) for four years, during which I met my wife, Cheryl, who was a senior at Georgetown in 1993. We got married in 1996, which is also when I left DIA and started a 12-year career at Booz Allen Hamilton. We made a big move to Manhattan in late 2001 when my wife was hired by the United Nations. I initially joined Gartner in 2008, and after a short stint at Citigroup, I returned to Gartner in 2013. I am currently a senior director in our state and local government consulting practice. We relocated to the Jersey Shore in 2016 where we enjoy sailing on our boat and spending time on the beach. We have two children, Liam (15) and Katy (12), as well as two cats, Tug Boat and Gossamer.

How did the department equip you for the ‘real world’...

Co-oping for Inland Motor in Radford gave me excellent 'real world' experience, however it was my knowledge of Unix that landed me my first job. I will be forever grateful that the department both pushed the co-op program and also focused on (what was at the time) a cutting-edge operating system. The classes I took taught me that programming was not what I wanted to do. At the DIA, I was able to focus on technical product evaluation and systems architecture, although it was impossible to completely get away from programming! Although I mainly manage projects now, my technical background uniquely enables me to add value as I can draw upon decades of technical experience.

Being a Virginia Tech alumnus means...

Both my parents graduated from Virginia Tech and earned their Ph.Ds there. While my master’s degree was earned elsewhere, I do treasure that shared connection. One can find alumni nearly everywhere across cities, companies, and organizations. It is always a nice surprise to discover fellow alumni in the regular course of life. I am quite proud to be part of the larger Virginia Tech community.

My fondest memory from my time in the department is…

Being surrounded by people who shared my interest in computers and technology was a tremendous, positive change for me. I grew up in a rural part of Virginia, and having the group of people who shared my interests suddenly expand from less than 10 to dozens was a real eye-opener for me. Meeting people in classes, sharing the latest computer games everyone was playing, discussing interesting aspects of the Unix operating system, and of course, sharing a love for Star Trek (old and the new) made me feel part of a much larger community.

Qualities of a good leader/manager in tech are…

I think the qualities are the same no matter what the field:

  • Clearly providing expectations

  • Being available

  • Being a good listener

  • Sharing praise

  • Quickly providing development feedback

  • Helping employees advance in their careers.  

Early in my career at Booz Allen, a vice president commented that the secret to his success was hiring good people and letting them do good things. I've taken that advice to heart and I try to let good people do good things, providing the minimum amount of my involvement necessary for them to be successful.

My favorite project I've worked on is...

My first project at Gartner was to help the New York City Board of Elections replace their old mechanical lever voting machines with optical ballot scanners across all five boroughs, to be in compliance with the Help America Vote Act. This project involved a huge range of activities, from helping select equipment to training poll workers, designing poll-site layouts, as well as helping to acquire and renovate warehouse storage space. Working on a successful project that affected literally every New York City voter (including me!) continues to be a tremendous source of pride and satisfaction.