M6 Leadership Spotlight: Hank Hanna

M6 Leadership Spotlight: Hank Hanna

This week, M6 is pleased to share our Leadership Spotlight with Hank Hanna. A man of many talents, Hank brings a diverse set of professional experiences, an unquenchable curiosity about the world, and a wry sense of humor to our team. He has been with M6 for two years supporting the Defense Security Cooperation University’s Irregular Warfare Center as the Head of Technology Services.

To kick things off, what’s your background, and can you tell us a little bit more about your role at M6?

So, it’s funny, I’ve heard people use the term Renaissance man when they describe me. I tell people I’ve had my hand in a lot of cookie jars. I majored in Spanish in college, but in my senior year of college, I started working in a computer lab on campus that nobody knew about. I was spending these long hours in the computer lab and I started teaching myself web programming. I started out with basic HTML, cascading style sheets. Then I started getting a little deeper into web based data. And, so that’s how I got into the technology world, but I was too far along in my college career to change majors and formally study computer science. So, I basically taught myself, graduated, and went to work for a very large steamship line in international logistics. 

I quickly realized I wasn’t cut out to be that type of desk employee, left that job, and started my own web design company and several other entrepreneurial pursuits. This is when I first crossed paths with Gavin McCulley, who I worked with on some pretty cool projects. I eventually sold my interest in these businesses and started a brewery, which was doing well but then COVID hit, and that had a decimating effect on the food and beverage industry. So, I started to figure out what my next thing was going to be, and I started pursuing the idea of creating my own defense contracting company for cybersecurity. That’s when Gavin and I reconnected, and he told me about a new project he was getting ready to launch. That’s when I started my time with M6.

Initially, I was brought into M6 to help stand up the Irregular Warfare Center, mainly from a web perspective. Then, I pretty quickly morphed into more of a general technology services guy for the IWC, managing their services and problem solving for them. My role has grown from there and my list of responsibilities is pretty extensive. 

There’s a big shift with going in-house after having your own thing for 20 years. There’s a lot of learning and growing. I was terrified to come back to work for someone else, but knowing Gavin and then meeting Paul Thompson, who I think the world of, I thought ‘if I’m going to have to work for someone else, these are the guys I want to be working with.’ I don’t feel like an employee at the end of the day. I feel like a team member. And, that’s a good feeling.

What’s been your most rewarding experience at the company so far?

Working with a team that is so exceptional has been so incredibly rewarding. When I met with the IWC team in Washington for the very first time, I felt overwhelmed by the level of intelligence and experience that was in the room. Dennis Walters is just this amazing person. When I met him, I said to myself, “I don’t care where this guy goes, I’m gonna follow.” Just being a part of an exceptional team that’s making a real and tangible impact on our nation has been incredibly rewarding. I’m working with a team that truly cares about our mission, which is changing the way we do conflict – it’s apolitical and not an agenda of some theatrical making. 

The new war is not being fought with bullets and bombs and tanks and guns. It’s being fought with information and it’s being fought with influence. I see our adversaries using our own enthusiasm against us. So, we’re looking at everything with a cultural anthropology mindset – a de-escalation mindset, and we’re having a real and tangible impact. Being able to be a part of this underlying shift to help to create more security in our world…that’s incredible. 

Are there any specific projects you’re doing at the IWC that you can tell us about? 

One of the projects that I’ve been a part of that I thought was really cool, which is pursuant to our mandate from the National Defense Authorization Act, is the building and strengthening of a global network of irregular warfare experts and practitioners. I was tasked with figuring out a way to basically database this network that we’re looking to build. Over the past year, I built a custom tool to not only capture information about the subject matter experts, but also it allows them to enter their own information and list their subject matter expertise and their regions of influence. My eventual goal would be to have it integrated with a large language model so that our analysts can actually use natural language processing to say, “Hey, I need an expert in critical resources from Central Africa, who also has a Ph.D. Show me a network and then show me two degrees of separation within our own network of these experts.” Ideally, it then will produce that information based on the new direction for artificial intelligence and machine learning. I feel like you could go a lot of different directions with that [technology], too.

How do you personally resonate with the M6 core values?

Each day, I’m ensuring our operations are ethical and transparent and that I’m always delivering top tier results, so I’m really influenced by and aligned with all of our values. But, the unyielding integrity value really resonates.

I worked for myself for years and years and years. And, somewhere along the timeline, I came across this list of goals and values that was produced by a guy called Rufus Barkley, who started the company Cameron & Barclay, which nobody outside of Charleston has probably ever heard of. It’s a huge electronic component distributor based in Charleston. Rufus Barkley had this list of values, and the top value spoke to me. So I adopted it as one of my own mantras: integrity first, last, and always. I’ve lived or tried to live that mantra out throughout my professional career. Knowing that Morgan 6 has that as one of its values, there’s alignment for me. It tells me I’m in the right place. 

In what ways do you think M6’s values set it apart from other organizations?

A lot of organizations have a list of values and missions, but they don’t always adhere to them. At Morgan 6, we actually embody these principles in our daily operations. That ensures that our values aren’t just words, but they’re a lived reality. They’re foundational in our corporate culture. I have yet to see a situation with anybody in our leadership where our values weren’t truly on display.

What aspects of M6’s mission or operations keep you engaged?

The dynamic environment that I’m in at the IWC presents new challenges and new opportunities on a daily basis. And, that’s something that gets me up in the morning – I thrive in ever-evolving settings. 

One of the things that Gavin and I first connected on is the idea of startup culture. And, so I find myself getting really excited about the chaos that is startup culture, and then kind of bringing this beautiful chaos into just a little bit of organization so the heartbeat in the company starts growing. That’s what gets my engine running.

Rapid Fire Questions

What’s the best title you’ve ever had, personal or professional?

Person of Interest. There was a period of life where I had divested one project and had not quite gotten to the next project yet. So I was doing a lot of conferences. I was researching a lot. I was networking a lot, but I didn’t necessarily have a job. So, I made up some business cards that said “Person of Interest” because I feel like that’s kind of what I am, an International Man of Mystery.

What can we find you doing in your free time?

I live in Colorado now, and I like to sit on my back porch and watch the sunset over the front range. I like getting out in nature. I’m 45 minutes from Rocky Mountain Park, so I love going out and seeing if I can find moose, elk, marmot, and other types of critters. I’m also a blue belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu – it’s a good physical outlet but also a mental health outlet. I’m a woodworker – I love making stuff. And, I love traveling and having experiences with my family. I’m a father of 3. I married my best friend. I like spending time with my family.

Are there any books or movies that you’ve read or watched lately that you want to tell people about?

The Princess Bride is the top of the list of movies that everybody should know and see. The second Dune movie was phenomenal. I also read a lot of fiction. I love spy fiction and crime noir like Michael Connelly. 

Who would you most like to have dinner with or be stuck on a desert island with?

This is a difficult question! I would love to get [my colleague] Paul Thompson two beers deep and start asking him about his experiences in life because I bet he has some wild and crazy experiences. And, I think having dinner with Barack Obama would be a very interesting experience.