A Conversation with 2018 GovCon Award Finalist Erik Wittreich

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Erik Wittreich

Erik Wittreich, Ridgeline International

Ridgeline International is among the finalists for the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Professional Services Council annual Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards in the Contractor of the Year category for companies up to $25 million. The winners will be announced at an awards program Nov. 5

WashingtonExec spoke with CEO Erik Wittreich about his company’s approach to millennials, how it’s involved in the community and how it cultivates the STEM pipeline. 

WashingtonExec: What’s the fastest-growing component of your business?

WittreichOur Systems Team, comprised of full stack developers, systems engineers and systems administrators, has tripled in headcount since the start of the year. Collectively, the team solves highly boutique networking and software engineering problems on behalf of our growing customer base.

Recently, we delivered a solution and critical high impact win for a customer whose existing system was fixed to sunset in 90 days — we delivered a hardened communications network benefiting 30 global locations on time with more robust technology.

WashingtonExec: Have millennials entering the workforce changed your company’s strategic plans?

Wittreich: The millennial talent pool affords a huge strategic advantage if managed correctly. Through a young hire, we benefit from a relatively less expensive labor cost combined with more diverse thought and approaches to tackle our engineering problems. Our strategic plan has focused on those hard problems that keep our workforce engaged and directly positioned alongside our customers and the mission. We have steered clear of pursuing large enterprise solutions work in lieu of maintaining a cadre of employees who are empowered to apply their craft on a creative canvas even early in their career.

WashingtonExec: How’s your business involved in the community?

Wittreich: Although our company only exists in a small corner of the world, we strive to make a sincere and significant impact in our broader community. We aren’t “contractors” — we are brothers and sisters that are interwoven into the fabric of our community. In the spirit of our culture of community, we’ve found it critical to involve employees in the decisions where to donate. Our executives have committed to personally matching employee contributions as well have made a significant donation of time to several nonprofits. In line with our corporate mission, our executives and employees volunteered with:

  • Service 2 School – helped transitioning veterans apply to universities by writing resumes and essays along with interview prep
  • NOVALUG – mentor junior careerists in Linux
  • Planet Aid – led a clothing and household electronics drive to support those in need

WashingtonExec: Is your business involved in cultivating our local pipeline of young STEM professionals?

Wittreich: Every school year, we employ high school students who have demonstrated the discipline to self-learn a number of technical skills outside of the classroom. We then provide an enriched environment for continued learning across a number of technical disciplines. They work alongside our staff and are challenged to solve core problems to our business and customers — nothing they support is “busy work.”

Separately, each summer, we run a week-long STEM Bootcamp for middle school students. This past iteration, we focused on 3D printing, drones and robotics. It’s our sincere hope that these young students find STEM fun and simultaneously provide each participant insight into an industry their parents are likely involved in.

WashingtonExec: What was your first job and how did that shape your career?

Wittreich: As a teenager, I worked at a batting cage and baseball field complex. My roles varied from landscaping, to umpiring, to running the cash register, to operations and maintenance of mechanical equipment. Besides learning general business-savvy, the most important attribute I developed was an ability to pay attention to detail.

Later, as an adult, after completing my undergraduate studies, I enlisted in the Army. I was constantly exposed to a great number of both strong and weak leaders. This allowed me to reflect on the attributes that mattered most to me and through my own development I formed the shell of the leader I am today.

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