She grew up as a west coast dreamer, envisioning her life in the fashion industry of California. Her federal IT-based father, calling her “tenacious,” did not doubt his daughter’s passion and drive to live such a career.
But today, daughter Chelsey and dad Dusty Wince work together not in fashion, but in government contracting.
Dusty Wince is founder and CEO of Knowledge Consulting Group (KCG), a cybersecurity services firm with nearly 300 cyber consultants supporting several government agencies and commercial clients. As a “military brat who knew how to navigate an Air Force base,” Dusty said he got his start in the industry with EDS as a network engineer.
Today, he recounts his proudest career moment as the day KCG won its first large contract in 2003.
“We were a company of only 40 employees when we beat very large defense contractors for a $25M multiple year contract,” Dusty said. “It proved to me that we could compete with anyone and that our company was relevant in the government cybersecurity market.”
Daughter Chelsey is an account coordinator at ConnellyWorks (CWI), which provides communication services for the government technology market. Chelsey started off there as an intern.
It was a 180-degree turn from childhood aspiration to adult reality, but it comes not as a surprise to Chelsey, who always looked to mirror her Dad in success and happiness when she was younger.
“I didn’t think I’d follow as closely as I have,” Chelsey said. “[My Dad] has always been my role model, teaching me how to successfully build my career. He will probably tell you, ‘I knew she’d always be great in this industry,’ but my family would likely agree that they never thought I’d work in the government technology market.
For the few short years ‘The O.C.’ ran on TV, I swore to my family I was leaving for California to be like those characters. Then I went to college, and reality hit!”
And Chelsey’s family didn’t question her on that front.
“I never believed Chelsey would ever work in the government contracting business,” Dusty confessed. “Growing up, she swore to me she was going to live in California and work in the fashion industry. I guess that one sewing class in college changed her mind about the fashion industry forever!”
Chelsey’s entrepreneurial side kicked in her sophomore year of college, when she decided to start an Avon business.
“When I was around 19, I started an Avon business,” Chelsey recounted. “At that time, I held one job at a local restaurant and another at a catering company, while juggling school. I wanted something that I could ‘own.’ Avon was a natural choice since I’ve always been into fashion and make-up. The real trigger for my decision to open an Avon business came after my freshman year of college – girls in the dorms would pay me to do their make-up before they went out for the night. My Dad was worried I’d lose concentration on the important things like school. I think I’ve proved my ability to succeed in things I pursue.”
Dad Dusty recalled her business endeavor, saying, “I was very worried this would affect her time to study, and I really wanted to her to focus on school. I pressed her not to start the business but she refused. When I asked her why she was doing this, her response was, ‘Well you know Dad, I can sell anything to anyone.’ I looked at my wife and said, ‘This one is going to be just fine in life.’”
But when it came to imparting words of wisdom to his daughter ahead of her real world jump, Dusty did have some advice for her.
“I told Chelsey that even though the industry may seem large and overwhelming, it is actually small,” Dusty said. “Like it or not, your reputation is your personal brand, and it will follow you for years. I also told her to concentrate from her first day of work on building her professional network.”
And this is advice Chelsey has taken to heart, as today it’s similar advice she would give anyone looking to join the government contracting business.
“It’s a small industry, so get to know people!” Chelsey advised. “The best thing you can do is take advantage of your resources, including organizations like the Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association (AFCEA) Bethesda. My experience with AFCEA Bethesda has fostered many new relationships with individuals of different generations in the industry.”
So it comes as a no-brainer that when it comes to people of influence, her dad is at the top of Chelsey’s list.
“[My Dad] is just awesome,” Chelsey said. “He has always pushed me to do the best I can in whatever I am doing. The last couple of years have been extremely influential, as I’ve begun to develop a new type of relationship with my dad. He isn’t just a parent anymore, but a mentor and friend.”
As a mentor and friend, does Dad think he and Chelsey will ever work together? Dusty said yes, but believes he’ll be working for his daughter in a company she’ll start one day.
So though Chelsey may have traded in her days of sunshine and fashion in the Golden State for federal contracting, it looks like she’s all at home in her chosen industry. She’s even picked up some early, albeit fun, memories along the way.
“When I was about 16, I convinced my dad it was ‘Take Your Child to Work Day,’” Chelsey said. “After some tough negotiation, I had a note to skip school and was on the way to a KCG meeting. On the elevator ride to the client’s office my dad and his business partner, Maryann Hirsch, were prepping me about how to act during the meeting.
Apparently I had been chewing gum with attitude during my prep, because Maryann stuck out her hand and taught me a lesson about the way teenagers chew. I still remember vividly the way my dad burst into laughter. Gum has never been the same since.”
But it’s not all federal contracting for this fashionista-turned-coordinator. Chelsey has a skill not many people know about: she is also a musician.
“I love to sing,” Chelsey said. “I’ve been trained to sing classical/opera, but will sing any type of music. You can always catch me singing in the car on the way to meetings – I’m sure people think I’m crazy and that I talk to myself.”
Dad’s confession? That his daughter got him hooked onto “The Real Housewives of Orange County.”
But hey, everyone has a guilty pleasure.
It doesn’t stop Chelsey from getting asked “all the time” if she’s Dusty’s daughter. And it’s a question she not only loves, but has a ready response to:
“The one and only.”
WashingtonExec has profiled other families in government contracting, like the Curling clan, Dale Luddeke & Lindsey Littman, the Alderson family, the Downer family and most recently Dan and Tamar Mintz. Check back with WashingtonExec for future featured families in the industry.