2014 GovCon Nominee Satya Akula, President and CEO of Amyx Inc., Discusses Company’s Growth

Satya Akula

Satya Akula, Amyx Inc.

On Sept. 4, the finalists for this year’s Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards were announced and WashingtonExec is bringing you its annual series with the nominees.

The winners will be unveiled on Nov. 13 at The Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and the Professional Services Council. With more than 1,000 business and public sector leaders attending the event, our series will keep you up-to-date about all the finalists for this year — who they are, what they do and why they are worthy of winning.

Our next interview is with Amyx Inc. President and CEO Satya Akula. The company is nominated for “Contractor of the Year” in the less than $25 million category. Akula is also nominated for “Executive of the Year” in the less than $75 million category.

WashingtonExec: How would you describe your business strategy over the past 3-5 years and what is your organization’s plan for growth over the next 3-5 years?

Satya Akula: While I had a well-developed five-year plan for Amyx when I became the CEO in 2011, I did not know that Amyx would become so strong in information assurance and cyber security or grow its business so greatly within our current customers. However, as the opportunities presented themselves (due to the government’s recent emphasis in these service areas) we purposefully steered the company in both of these fields. As a result, Amyx now has one-third of our direct staff in these spaces, helping federal government clients solve challenges in cyber security and information assurance.

During the past three years, I also emphasized growth in the Consulting Services areas (Program Management, System Engineering, Financial Support and Logistics Services). We have enjoyed great success in winning large, strategic agency-wide and government-wide contract vehicles: DLA Program Management Support Services ($280 million ceiling), VA SPECTRUM (we were the only small business out of six awardees for this $1.1 billion ceiling vehicle) and most recently, we have been awarded an OASIS SB Pool 1 contract (under which we were just awarded a $57 million task to support SEC). We are leveraging these IDIQ vehicles to respond to a variety of tasks orders, forming alliances with industry leaders in the process.

My plan for growth over the next 3-5 years has two focal areas: maximize the opportunities presented in the Consulting Services area, becoming one of the leading small business primes in this field; and establishing Amyx in the Systems Integration/Development area. We will also leverage our discriminating Small Business combination of CMMI-DEV Level 3 appraisal and ISO 9001/2008 Certification to maintain the highest quality in all the work we do.

But one thing hasn’t changed: our No. 1 priority is to exceed our customer’s expectations on every contract and every task. Without exceptional past performance, no marketing approach will be successful.

WashingtonExec: How has your business been able to grow as the federal market contracts?

Satya Akula: In recent times, we have seen the very challenging Low Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA) awards become the norm. Amyx, being a small business, has been able to adjust its cost structure while maintaining quality with industry best practices such as our CMMI-DEV L3 and ISO 9001-2008, to be competitive. These changes have actually improved our competitive position in this tough environment.

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

Satya Akula: Without doubt, the fastest growing component of our business is the areas of Information Assurance and Cyber Security. We have hired industry-recognized experts who will apply their expertise and field-tested experience to solve our customers’ problems. We continue to grow in the Consulting Services field and are very proud to have been the most successful of the eight companies (four large and four small) on the DLA PMSS contract. In addition, Amyx has moved into cyber security, software development and several other IT service areas, building our practice with experts supporting mission-critical programs.

WashingtonExec: What was your organization’s largest accomplishment in the last 12-18 months?

Satya Akula: We have emphasized and maintained higher quality processes and products throughout Amyx. We continued our CMMI practices across the company, resulting in a second successful CMMI Development Level 3 appraisal this past summer. We have won several agency-wide IDIQs-such as the DLA PMSS, the U.S. Army’s USAMMA and aforementioned win of the GSA OASIS SB. But our most significant accomplishment was the recent $57 million award of one of the very first OASIS SB task orders to support the Securities and Exchange Commission. This not only doubles the size of our contract backlog, but it establishes Amyx as the OASIS SB Pool 1 prime that can win and execute large and complex tasks. We have also encouraged professional development of current staff in the company, and I am happy say that 100 percent of all our program managers and key technical staff have achieved Amyx-sponsored professional certifications to provide the best support to our customers.

WashingtonExec: Given the current state of the federal contracting market, how has your organization’s marketing approach to customers, employees and future customers changed?

Satya Akula: Internally, we have tailored our Business Development and Corporate Staffing organizations to be able to quickly respond to the RFIs and RFPs that demand rapid response times. Externally, we are leveraging our current customers and teaming partners’ relationships: networking is a key factor for building new business relationships. We are also exploring social media channels to increase customer awareness of our offerings.

But one thing hasn’t changed: our No. 1 priority is to exceed our customer’s expectations on every contract and every task. Without exceptional past performance, no marketing approach will be successful.

WashingtonExec: What are the largest challenges that you predict your business will face in the next 5 years?

Satya Akula: Amyx is growing quickly and will be out of small business size standards very soon. The biggest challenge at that point will be to take advantage of the growth; invest in ever-changing technology, infrastructure and mid-level key management; and stay competitive while entering the “full and open” market.

WashingtonExec: How does your organization maintain engagement with all levels of employees?

Satya Akula: Despite our growth, we still operate internally as a small company, with a core leadership team that communicates personally with all the employees as often as possible, both formally and informally. For example, every Friday I send out the CEO message of the week to every employee. We also organize several social and team-building events during the year by participating in community service events. In addition, we believe in one-on-one mentoring of the younger generation to build Amyx’s next level leaders, so I encourage all leadership to engage with all employees, and in turn, the employees to engage with each other.

WashingtonExec: Have millennials entering the workforce changed your corporate policies? If so, how?

Satya Akula: Amyx has implemented a more liberal telecommuting policy due to the influx of millennials hired into the company. Employees have the option of a more flexible schedule to be able to balance their personal life and work.

WashingtonExec: How is your business involved in the community?

Satya Akula: One aspect of Amyx’s mission is to advance the well-being of the communities in which we work and live through contributions of time, financial and mentoring support.

Each year, we are very proud of the fact that every Amyx project site participates in one or more community events. These have included Backpacks for Kids, March of Dimes Metro East Bikers for Babies, Thanksgiving outreach to local charities, shelters and VFW posts providing turkeys and hams for meals, Adopt-A-Family and Gift of Giving, Good Neighbors Foundation, Wounded Warriors, Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together and Healthcare on Wheels Health Fair.

Amyx employees are also active in both professional and community activities. Our employees are members of groups like NDTA, Professional Services Council, SECAF, TiE-DC, NCMS, PMI and AFCEA. Our employees also serve important roles in their communities as coaches, Scout leaders, mentors and volunteering in local shelters and other outreach programs.

WashingtonExec: What would you say are the top one or two leadership qualities necessary to be a great leader?

Satya Akula: I personally feel that everyone learns new things every day, irrespective of how many years of experience you may have, by listening to others. Success is an aggregation of team work. Before one makes any tough and long-lasting decision that impacts an organization – one should listen to his management and get a different of view of the problem at hand.

WashingtonExec: If we were to speak directly to your leadership team, what would they say is your management style?

Satya Akula: A management style that is responsive to recent changes in the economic environment and new needs of our federal customer base. With the increased focus of the federal government to do more with less, my team would say that I have reassessed the Amyx corporate structure to establish an organizational hierarchy that placed greater accountability in the hands of its managers. This provides the company’s managers and upcoming leaders with more than just financial incentive, but also the ability to establish one’s own career path guided by aggressive, incentive-based goals in customer satisfaction, individual professional development, community involvement and corporate growth.

My leadership team would also say that, while responsibility rests with the individual managers and its teams, their communications with the CEO are detailed and frequent to ensure that the health of the organization can be quantitatively measured. This ensures our teams across the company operate with some feeling of autonomy to innovate based on our client needs, yet they receive guidance through regular communications with the CEO.

WashingtonExec: How would your team describe your leadership qualities?

Satya Akula: Confident – ability to clearly articulate how strategic objectives translate into tactical measures. Conveys the Amyx brand with pride, helping instill a feeling across the workforce that we can collectively do great things to grow the company. This is critically important when workload spikes can often reduce morale. Instead, our teams feel like they are part of something big.

Ability to delegate – capitalizing on the strengths of the team to accomplish more.

Open door policy – communications are always open. This provides everyone in the company the opportunity to share new ideas, approaches, and helps drive process improvement. Furthermore, weekly corporate messages, in-person visits with the teams and informal luncheons help unify an increasingly distributed workforce.

WashingtonExec: What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?

Satya Akula: During my early career, I had an opportunity to work for large corporations, but decided to work for a much smaller business. This was a key decision and gave me an opportunity to directly work with our customers and employees. This experience helped me when I started my first business.

WashingtonExec: What is the No. 1 book that you gift to individuals?

Satya Akula: I like reading David Baldacci’s books. He is a local celebrity, famous author and writes stories related to Washington, D.C. Any of his books are great gifts.

WashingtonExec: What advice do you have for aspiring leaders in the government contracting industry?

Satya Akula: Government contracting gives the satisfaction of supporting our soldiers in the field and doing something that benefits the entire country. So please don’t look only from the business perspective, but also how much good we can do to our country.

WashingtonExec: What was your first job?

Satya Akula: My first job was a software engineering position at NASA

WashingtonExec: Overall, how did that experience shape your career?

Satya Akula: I learned several things being young engineer at NASAby experiencing both the engineering and scientific sides of the business. It also gave me a good understanding of how to work in a large and structured environment, which helped tremendously in my career.

WashingtonExec: What three pieces of advice would you give your kids?

Satya Akula: Dedication to the job at hand, hard work and taking calculated risks supported by their educational foundation.

WashingtonExec: How has your organization changed over the past year and what makes you optimistic about winning GovCon Awards in your category this year?

Satya Akula: Amyx has changed in the last couple of years – organizationally, expanding to new customers and taking on new challenges. But, this is natural for any growing company with motivation and investing in its people. One key change is that we have put more emphasis on being part of the community where we work and live in; I am very proud of our employees taking part it in community events by contributing both financially and with their personal time. I am also proud to say that one-third of our staff are veterans who now serve their country in a different capacity.

Being one of the finalists of the GovCon awards is quite an honor, whether we win or not, but it gives me a tremendous satisfaction to be supporting our solders in the field and as well as the citizens of our country.

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