Q&A with Brad Antle: His GovCon Awards Nomination, IPV6 and “Life or Death IT”

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Brad Antle, Salient Federal Solutions

WashingtonExec Series: GovCon Awards:

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 Awards 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., and 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 Brad Antle, President and CEO of Salient Federal Solutions, Inc., for his nomination of Executive of the Year in the $75 to $300 million division. Read on below for our interview with Antle.

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

Brad Antle: From the first day of revenue two years ago, we have placed a great deal of emphasis on developing our distinctions in the market. Distinctions are those things that will differentiate us, Salient Federal Solutions, from the competition.

We are building a new company that is designed to thrive in what we believe will be a different world for federal technology services companies. The challenges in this new market are fundamentally different from the challenges that legacy technology services companies were designed to address. The cornerstone of our strategy is to develop and hone distinctions that are relevant to where this new market is headed. So in a universe of thousands of Technology Service companies, we are building a company for today’s challenges. We are different than a “me too” provider. We have crafted a set of six initial distinctions that set us apart from the competition but we are not stopping there. Enhancing our distinctions and developing new ones as we continue to broaden and deepen our capabilities is a core part of our strategy going forward.

Our distinctions are “Life or Death IT”, “Scientifically Assured Mission Impact”, “Agility as a Service”, “Continuous Flexibility”, “Monitor Everything,” and “Assure6 IPv6 Cyber Security.” Let me touch on a couple to provide a bit of insight. I suppose that “Life or Death IT” is a bit intuitive, but when you consider our nation’s vulnerability to asymmetric threats to our interests around the world and in the homeland, it is critical that Salient’s IT systems provide essential protection to lives that can be instantly on the frontlines of the war on terror at home or abroad. We aren’t afraid to step up and accept challenges to deliver sophisticated and highly reliable warning systems that have that kind of impact for our customers.

“Scientifically Assured Mission Impact” is about matching our customers soft requirements against our very capable talent pool to get the best match for the most effect level of customer support. Everyone can match years of experience, degree, etc. to the job requirements but we go much deeper. The best way to think of this is like eHarmony for customer engagements. Nobody else does this today, and it’s an important part of building a new company with real distinction in the services part of technology services.

And “Monitor Everything” is about building diagnostics into our systems that monitor the health of not only hardware but commercial and custom software, to detect problems before they impact the users’ experience. Most companies claim to be able to improve the user experience, but by continuous monitoring and modeling, we can predict the “next user experience,” and take positive action to manage that “next experience” to exact customer expectations.

We all know the fundamental vulnerability of our nation to cyber attack. In this new world, we are being attacked by nation states, terrorist organizations, and crazed individuals. At Salient, we are out in front in the area of IPv6 cyber security solutions. Our distinct offering, Assure6TM, is the only capability that provides real security from cyber attacks exploiting the greatly expanded vulnerabilities that this new Internet protocol presents.

We are also developing a new distinction around our unique Talent Operation Centers to deliver Agile Workforce that we’ve combined with our CMMI Agile software development capabilities to deliver unique, lower cost approaches to delivering critical mission capabilities quickly. So our focus is agility in software development and in workforce to uniquely position Salient to relieve our customers of the burden of supporting the “standing IT army.” We call this “Agility as a Service.” Stay tuned on that front.

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Our distinctions are “Life or Death IT”, “Scientifically Assured Mission Impact”, “Agility as a Service”, “Continuous Flexibility”, “Monitor Everything,” and “Assure6 IPv6 Cyber Security.”

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

Brad Antle: I touched on it briefly but we have an industry unique approach to Talent Management in the government services market.  We have Talent Operation Centers that are owned and operated by each of our business units.  They look like network operation centers with the lights turned up.  Imagine a huge video wall and rows of workstations arrayed inform of this video wall, staffed by uniquely screened and highly trained Talent Ops Specialists (TOS).  Because these folks are aligned with the business units, they are intimately familiar with the customer environments, their missions and their unique requirements.  We maintain a database of over 400,000 resumes of people that we reach out and touch on a regular basis.

Our TOS professionals make hundreds of calls each week to stay in touch with candidates and develop new leads.  We try to develop rapport with potential hires so we have a better idea of who they are, where they are in their career, their aspirations, and the list goes on.  We want to know them and them us.  It makes for a better fit for everyone and a much quicker fill when the right position opens for someone we know.  Our proven processes, systems, and direct operational management keep our Talent Operation Centers focused on all our future talent needs.  This is critically important because all manner of program risk ultimately comes down to the people who are engaged to deliver mission support.  We have approached Talent Management in a way that is totally unique to our space.  We believe in , “The Right People, Right Now!”

On the retention side, we are building a new company with a new culture.  One that is flat in structure, highly responsive to our customer and employees, and informal in feel.  We want to stimulate our 1100 employees to be entrepreneurial.  To look for opportunities each day to Make A Difference for their customers, with their teammates, and in their communities.  When employees are fully engaged, the difference is palpable.

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?

Brad Antle: Salient does support Bring Your Own Device for mobile phones and tablets.  We provide Salient owned laptops and desktop systems for all employees and are replacing the few remaining personal laptops that have been acquired by individuals.

Salient eMail and related information that happens to be on personally owned mobile devices is controlled by our internal IT department using the ActiveSync Administrator controls provided by our hosted MS Office 365 system.  This control allows us to:

·Automatically delete access rights when an individual leaves the company
·Control which devices can be used to synchronize with a Salient eMail account
·Require use of a PIN or Password to lock the device when it is not in use
· Require eMail and Exchange data to be encrypted on the device
· Initiate remote wipe if the user loses their mobile devices or the next time the devices connect to ActiveSync

Read WashingtonExec’s interview with David Helms, Vice President of the Cyber Security Center of Excellence at Salient, on Mobile Security and Trust Management.

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“We all know the fundamental vulnerability of our nation to cyber attack. In this new world, we are being attacked by nation states, terrorist organizations, and crazed individuals. At Salient, we are out in front in the area of IPv6 cyber security solutions. Our distinct offering, Assure6TM, is the only capability that provides real security from cyber attacks exploiting the greatly expanded vulnerabilities that this new Internet protocol presents.”

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WashingtonExec: How is your company involved in the community?

Brad Antle: Our focus on making a difference extends into the community.  The very best way to contribute to our community is to build a strong company.  By doing so, we help build the local economy.  Many of our employees are eager to take their skills, time and talent into the community.  Salient provides a wide range of opportunities for employees to volunteer and contribute to national and international organizations.  We encourage groups of employees to come together for a common cause.  Volunteer projects help build community within and outside of Salient.

WashingtonExec: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Brad Antle: I have been the lucky recipient of great advice and counsel throughout my career from many terrific mentors so it is difficult to select one piece of advice.  However, I will say that one article that was given to me as part of the General Electric leadership training program was about the role of a manager.  I think the title was something like, Manager as a Servant. The article went on to explain that the proper attitude for a leader or manager to have was that of enabling those for whom they were responsible; removing roadblocks and impediments.  The article was a only a few pages long and perhaps fairly intuitive, but it had a profound effect on me by crystallizing in my mind what my jobs going forward must encompass.  Sure there is strategy and planning, and many other functions we must accept as leaders, but if we don’t prioritize the enabling of our employees, we can’t succeed.

WashingtonExec: What is something most people might not know about you?

Brad Antle: I am pretty much an open book, but I enjoy learning new things and generally can’t settle for mediocrity.  After moving to Virginia in 1992, since this is “horse country”, I took up riding and jumping horses.  I rode for about five years straight, once or twice per week and made it to comfortably jumping 4-1/2 feet and even jumping smaller jumps bareback. That’s when I knew I had developed a much stronger leg. My kids got into sports so I switched to coaching.  Working my way through many sports, eventually I coached travel softball for six years.  I took up snowboarding in my mid 40’s, later than most but I think it’s a blast.

I use to switch back and forth with skiing but I have totally abandoned skiing.  I am a Master Scuba Diver and enjoy diving vacations.  I also took up flying four years ago and am a Multi-engine, Instrument rated pilot that has earned an SIC rating in an Embraer Phenom twin engine jet.  I do own a single engine Cirrus SR22 Turbo airplane I keep at Manassas.  I fly up and down the East Coast.  I tell people that if they can remember how liberating it felt when they got their drivers license, it’s the same thing with a pilot’s license.  Only instead of a 50 mile radius as a teenager, it’s now 1,000 miles.  Just drive to the airport, jump in and go.  Like riding horses, flying is totally a different set of skills.

WashingtonExec: What book do you recommend to young executives?

Brad Antle: I am a big Jim Collins fan.  I just think he get it right on most things.  I have leaned on his writings for many years.  But better than a book, I think every executive needs a mentor.  Someone who has been where they are and already learned the lessons that can be passed on.  I have had many in my career.  Ray Oleson, my friend and business partner has been a mentor for the last dozen or so years.  There needs to be chemistry.  You can’t force mentorship or it won’t be real.  Each generation of leaders owes it to the next to help them along, if they want it.  I think it is important that we all give back. That is what makes a community strong.

 

 

 

 

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