Interview with Contractor of the Year Nominee CSSI, Inc: High Impact Teams and Making a Difference

Cindy Castillo, CSSI

WashingtonExec Series: Want To Be GovCon Executive Of The Year?

The finalists for this year’s Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards were announced last month, and as promised, WashingtonExec is bringing you its annual series with GovCon Award nominees all this month before the winners are unveiled November 1.

The winners will be announced at the annual gala at Marriott Wardman Park hotel in Washington, D.C. The Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, Professional Services Council (PSC) and Washington Technology magazine will present the awards. With over 1,300 business and public sector leaders attending the event, our series will keep you up-to-date with all the finalists for this year–who they are, what they do, and why they are worthy of winning.

Today’s series presents CSSI, Inc. for its nomination of “Contractor of the Year” in the $25 to $75 million division. Below is our interview with CSSI’s President and CEO, Cynthia Castillo.

WashingtonExec: How do you differentiate your company from its competitors? What is unique about your approach?

Cynthia Castillo: CSSI has provided solutions to some of the nation’s most high-consequence, mission-critical problems for more than 20 years. We help make our customers’ systems safer, more efficient, and more cost-effective.

Our approach is unique in that we deliver high-impact teams who bring market-leading research rooted in deep operational experience.


Our approach is unique in that we deliver high-impact teams who bring market-leading research rooted in deep operational experience. CSSI is also special because it offers the unique combination of large-company capabilities and skillsets with small-company responsiveness and agility.

WashingtonExec: How have you grown the company as the government asks the private sector to “do more with less?”

Cynthia Castillo: At CSSI, we make sure that value is inherent in everything we do – both internally and externally. We constantly reexamine our products, services and processes to ensure we’re offering what our customer needs today and anticipating what they’ll need tomorrow. We’ve also used this approach to become leaner and more responsive as an organization.

Most importantly, CSSI relentlessly focuses on our clients’ successes.  We address their challenges and deliver on our commitment.

WashingtonExec: What is the fastest growing component of your business?

Cynthia Castillo: CSSI has experienced phenomenal organic growth over the past several years. It’s been an excellent testament to the quality and caliber of our services: our customers keep coming back. This growth has largely been in the Federal Aviation Administration, and we have customers in just about every part of that organization.

Today more than ever before, we have a greater focus on how we can leverage our unique capabilities and great reputation into new government and commercial markets.

Today more than ever before, we have a greater focus on how we can leverage our unique capabilities and great reputation into new government and commercial markets.


WashingtonExec: Obtaining top talent in government contracting is fierce -how is your company able to not only recruit top talent, but also retain it?

Cynthia Castillo:Our value proposition to our employees is similar to our value proposition to our customers. CSSI offers its employees a unique mix of a small company culture and big company benefits and opportunities. We also offer extensive leadership development opportunities and a program called REALab that encourages (and rewards) individual entrepreneurship.

WashingtonExec: What is your corporate culture? How do you maintain satisfied employees?

Cynthia Castillo: CSSI is a community of smart people making a difference. Smart people want to work with other smart, dedicated people, and we offer that environment here. Of course, we also offer very competitive pay and benefits packages. We know that certainly helps keep employees happy, but it’s not why they stay.

WashingtonExec: How has the government contracting industry changed since you entered the sector?

Cynthia Castillo: Government contracting has changed immensely since we entered the market in 1990. Like every other industry, government contracting is more competitive now than ever before, with more players and more challenges. But that’s a good thing – it pushes us (and everyone else) to be their best. You simply can’t make it in this industry if you’re not the absolute best at what you do and if you’re not offering your customers more value every single day.

WashingtonExec: Does your company have a Bring Your Own Device Policy (BYOD)? What has been your largest challenge with this policy? How is the “mobile workforce” changing the way you conduct business within your company and with the federal government?

Cynthia Castillo: CSSI allows any employee to participate in the “BYOD” program with the understanding that IT will not support their device.  Additionally, we do not allow personal devices to access the internal LAN for security reasons, but we allow them access to the guest wireless LAN to access less secure and hardened services.

Our biggest challenge has been to deliver desirable applications that are compatible with various mobile platforms. Keeping pace with technology is a real challenge.

The mobile workforce is driving us to “cloud” services to better support anytime, anywhere availability. Working with the Federal Government adds complexity because of compliance and security considerations.

WashingtonExec: How is your company involved in the community?

Cynthia Castillo: CSSI is heavily involved in both the industry community (government contracting and aerospace/defense industry) and the Washington, DC community (where the company is headquartered). For example, I am very involved in the Air Traffic Control Association, and serve as chairman of the ATCA Scholarship Fund Board. We are also very involved in organizations like the Small and Emerging Contractors Advisory Forum and others like it.

CSSI contributes a great deal to local organizations, as well. Something that illustrates this: earlier this year, we supported an innovative organization called the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship – a group that helps low-income DC students learn valuable business skills.

CSSI also has a very active charity committee, and employees gather to give time to local charities. In fact, for the past several months, groups of employees have volunteered to sort food for Bread for the City. This is a great team- (and morale-) building activity.




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