T-Rex Solutions 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 between $75 million and $300 million. The winners will be announced at an awards program Nov. 5.
WashingtonExec spoke with Kelly Ralston, vice president of strategy for T-Rex. She plays a critical role in the development of T-Rex’s strategic plan and leads marketing, research, capture and proposal efforts. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the federal consulting arena working with large firms and holding several executive positions.
WashingtonExec: Why did you decide to join T-Rex Solutions?
Ralston: When you have an opportunity to work for a very large company, you learn a structured methodology for executing and winning new business. I was attracted to T-Rex because they are performing groundbreaking technical work in the IT transformation realm for large government agencies. It was clear to me that a big-company strategic approach could help them scale more quickly.
There was also an opportunity for me to be part of something that was very entrepreneurial and to test my leadership skills in a different way. I’m thrilled to be part of T-Rex as they transition from a small to a large organization. This is such a solid and agile team that has what it takes to succeed at the next level, and the next 24 months will give us a chance to demonstrate that. That agility is rare in the larger organizations I’ve worked with, so it’s a pleasure to be with an organization that can pivot quickly in support of customer needs. I’m really energized by that at T-Rex.
WashingtonExec: How has your business been able to grow as the federal market contracts?
Ralston: With federal budgets contracting, we are finding that the type of work T-Rex specializes in is exactly what many government agencies need to do more with less without compromising their mission or the services provided to U.S. citizens. Government agencies are utilizing much of their IT spend maintaining old and often antiquated systems. Our current administration recognizes this and has developed policies that make it a priority for government agencies to develop cloud-smart strategies and undertake steps to take advantage of commercial best practices and move to the cloud.
However, with missions at stake, cybersecurity and the protection of citizen data is critically important. We’ve been working with the U.S. Census Bureau since 2016 to modernize their IT infrastructure prior to the 2020 Census. Our experience from this project alone enables T-Rex to assist other federal agencies trying to capitalize on best practices and lessons learned and achieve the resulting economies available by utilizing cloud services.
WashingtonExec: What was your organization’s largest accomplishment in the last 12 to 18 months?
Ralston: We are performing groundbreaking work right now. We are implementing a secure, hybrid public-facing cloud and on-premise infrastructure that hosts a system of systems and scales to support over 600,000 concurrent users. We bring data and systems together under one dashboard so that government agencies can conduct quick and informed analysis to drive better decision making.
We have learned that this work requires technical expertise, coupled with a sensitivity to the people and the systems that have preceded us as systems owners, operators and integrators. Results are always tied to the mission, and fast implementation is usually a requirement. We’ve become very adept at things like communications, expectation setting, meeting deadlines, and providing the necessary support so that all parties get to the finish line at the same time.
WashingtonExec: What are the largest challenges your business will face in the next five years?
Ralston: We have grown at a compound annual growth rate of 89 percent over the last five years. When you are growing at this rate, finding and keeping the right talent to support that growth is a challenge. It also presents an opportunity to create a really energized and engaged team. The work that we do is an exciting draw in the IT workplace, and we see clear opportunities for new team members to grow their careers at T-Rex.
In addition, our HR leadership and staff have put several programs in place to enable these employees to continuously develop professionally. Recruiting the right team is of strategic importance to us.
WashingtonExec: How does your organization encourage employees to engage and become good corporate citizens?
Ralston: T-Rex’s heritage is as a Historically Underutilized Business Zone business, and as a result, we are committed to hiring locally and servicing that community. We think it makes good sense to find meaningful opportunities for employees to give back, so they immediately have ways to focus their precious volunteer time. We have three pillars that drive our philanthropic efforts: 1) Increasing employment opportunities, investment and economic development; 2) Providing help and assistance to those in need; and 3) Contributing to the community’s long-term economic growth and independence by investing in youth.
Recently, our leadership team has been studying charitable organizations they admire for their ability to design programs that address specific pain points in their community. In 2017, we hired a corporate responsibility program manager to incorporate the lessons learned from our studies and identify ways employees could apply their talent to provide hope and change in underserved areas.
While new initiatives are taking shape, T-Rex and our employee volunteers remain proud supporters of Dream Big, Fisher House, Streetwise Partners, Capital Area Food Bank, Washington D.C. Central Mission, and Thrift Store Detour which align perfectly to our three pillars for philanthropy. Any new initiates we announce will do the same.
WashingtonExec: Have millennials entering the workforce changed your company’s strategic plans or corporate policies? If so, how?
Ralston: Millennials are an important part of our growth strategy, and therefore we have created a corporate culture that is as flexible, responsible, inclusive and nurturing as it can be — while still supporting our customers’ needs. The breadth of the work we do in systems integration, cybersecurity, cloud, big data and mission critical systems means that career development opportunities are built in. The interesting thing about the current state of T-Rex is that we are maturing as a large business. That means that prospective employees have an opportunity to impact the company culture as we evolve.