The Little Train that Could Commitment that is Driving Success for one 8(a) HUBZone
Looking to understand the [Simple] behind the success of this 8(a) HUBZone small business specializing in Enterprise Cloud Transformation, we caught up with Simple Technology Solutions’ Managing Principal, Adrian Rich; Business Development Principal Betsey Hutton, and Aaron Kilinski, Principal and Chief Technologist. The team shared its insight on partnering, the alumni network, and explained what 90% of 100% and 20% delivering 80% mean.
The Antithesis of Past Experiences
From its inception, STS was established with a focus on establishing an external and internal brand that people want to be connected to, that they could trust to support, develop and evolve their careers for however long they might be with the company. The founders sought to create a company that was the opposite of those they had experienced before that lacked or had poor cultures.
Many of STS’s employees have been cultivated through an apprentice program focused on underserved communities, typically predominantly black and brown communities, and a desire to support those with dated IT skills or those looking to get into the IT field. After a rigorous six-month cloud engineering training program, graduates are ready to take on engagement projects that might not otherwise have been possible.
For those who come to STS from a more traditional path of recruiting and hiring, continuous learning opportunities, and investment in its team at an above-market standard, cements a culture of stickiness and commitment within the company.
“We provide our team with a number of benefits, including access to ClassPass as an example. We cover the subscription, and our employees have access to hundreds of options for fitness, health and wellness opportunities that they can select from based on their personal goals and interests.”
100% of 90%
Part of its culture is evident in a new podcast series through which STS is capturing the unique stories and backgrounds of its technical employees, to shine a light on the individual as a whole. “With more work and interaction taking place online, it is a way for the rest of our team, potential partners, and our government customers, to really know us and our ethos, beyond a capability deck.
”The podcasts also illustrate the company’s culture of mentoring, of applying certifications and training and evolving skillsets. “Part of this is based in how folks are awarded bonuses and things of that nature because everyone is expected to give back and participate.”
STS is also focused on ensuring people are deliberate about retaining some bandwidth for self and professional development, understanding the risk of burnout is high and no one is served if that happens. “We don’t want people to give us 100%. We ask them to run hard for that first 90% and leave that other 10% available for growth, development for mentoring, for being able to actualize that 360 as opposed to just being focused on banging on a keyboard.”
Ensuring flexibility in when and where people work, having leadership model what they want to see across the team, and a program for both unlimited PTO, and ensuring people actually take that time, confirms the importance of work/life balance.
“We want to drive to get the job done but also ensure everyone has balance that allows them to stay mentally and physically healthy, to pursue career advancement and professional development. Part of the balance is doing some really cool impactful work for clients and then taking time off and doing other interesting and important things.”
Understanding that the GovCon space is fluid, that people may change jobs to advance their careers, try different things, STS works to maintain an open-door policy, interacting and maintaining ties with former colleagues. “We want to see people thrive and shine and we celebrate their success if they have other opportunities to grow and advance, but we’ll also welcome them back if we become a next step in their career or they didn’t find what they were looking for.”
Unlike companies who may take more of a badge flip approach to parts of its team, STS brings everyone in under the same onboarding process, integrating every individual into the company, and its team culture. “From the badge change process to issuing equipment, to training and professional development opportunities, we are deliberate as we bring people into the team. We don’t see it at all as a temporal thing but rather, a starting point from which people can live and grow.”
Partnerships and Trust
Building on an extreme focus on automation, STS approaches industry partnerships from the role of the little train that could. “We don’t necessarily bring a massive group of people to our partner engagements but we get in there with a couple of people, and we demonstrate an outsized impact for the number of people that we bring. We are often the 20% of the people that are doing 80% of the work and we just get things done.”
On the government side, the company is viewed with a high level of trust. “We have a current client we are supporting. We knew their environment but not the new technology they were looking at, but they trusted us with a sizable contract which we’re in the midst of successfully executing. For another client, we stood up an innovation lab staffed with a team that could support everything from cloud, to AI, ML and language translation. It was diverse and new and the client trusted us to figure it out.”
Show Not Tell
Part of the foundation of that trust is the company’s show me vs tell me approach. Bypassing the PowerPoint deck and advice model, STS meets with potential clients to understand the problem and then will invest its own time and resources developing a protype or demonstration model with recommendations based in empirical evidence.
“That kind of commitment is the foundation of new relationships and helps solidify existing relationships. There is a lot you can’t know so we take the approach of learning more, and buying down the risk. We work to understand where the constraints are and then we’ll pivot as needed.”
This iterative, pragmatic approach is appreciated by clients and sets a foundation for long-term and successful relationships. STS is also sensitive to the knowledge and experience of the highly technical teams it may work for and with. “Rather than coming in and forcing opinions on how things should be done, we may apply carrot vs stick approach. For instance, we had a client that had to migrate dozens of applications to the cloud. By creating a path, some templates and demonstrating that they could be in control of forward movement, and could be self-sufficient, it encouraged them to embrace DevOps and what the migration had to offer, to really get behind it and want to learn.”
This latter was an example of a small group of people, injecting a new way of thinking and providing the tools for improvement across the organization. As government customers have matured, there has been a growing recognition that they may not know up front what the end goal should be, implying iterative development and partnerships will be required.
Keeping IT Simple
While there are different stories within the team about the origins of “Simple” what has evolved is a commitment to helping organizations simplify their journey, whatever that may be.
With a growing focus on cloud-native data and applied machine learning type of projects, STS is staying true to its core, evolving its own capacity and capabilities.
About Simple Technology Solutions
Simple Technology Solutions (STS) has in-depth experience helping federal & state government agencies in their Agile/DevOps/Cloud adoption & transformation. We understand how people, process, and technology work together to dramatically transform how government IT organizations improve their ability to deliver quality software & cloud-enable IT services to their end-users. In addition to being experienced government contractors, we are experienced coaches and thought-leaders guiding government IT leaders through the Agile/DevOps/Cloud mental, skill & organizational shifts. To our government customers, we are a small business with a big knowledge of the DHS mission and technology landscape. To our industry customers, we are a deeply connected, knowledgeable partner that you can trust as a services provider or strategic guide. STS is transforming complex into simple. KEEP I.T. SIMPLE!
Executive VP of GovCon Content & CX, Storyteller, Dot Connector, Helping to Shine a Light on the GovCon Partners "Doing it Right"