The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Pinnacle Awards were announced Oct. 8, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place virtually Nov. 12.
Next up is Intelligence Industry Exec of the Year finalist Ed Bachl, who’s senior vice president for Defense & Intelligence Solutions at SOS International LLC. Here, he talks key achievements and successes in his career, taking professional risks and shaping the next generation of industry leaders.
What key achievements did you have in 2019/2020?
I joined SOSi in July 2019 after Vykin Corp., a company I co-founded, was acquired by SOSi. Perhaps my most significant accomplishment since joining SOSi was leading the successful integration of both companies. The smooth integration paid dividends almost immediately, as SOSi earned a spot on a potential 10-year, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract that provides a wide range of analytic and operational support services to the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The multiple-award IDIQ contract — known as Solutions for Intelligence Analysis 3 — is the primary contract vehicle for providing analytical intelligence support to Department of Defense warfighters, planners and policy professionals worldwide. It was a significant win for our business. Not only did we enter a new tier of competition, but the award also firmly establishes SOSi as a trusted provider of intelligence services.
In June of this year, we realigned the company’s business units once again, integrating our intelligence analysts, information operations and technical collection capabilities with SOSi’s world-class engineering, cybersecurity and mission IT expertise. The new Defense & Intelligence Solutions business, which I lead, manages dozens of programs stretching across four continents. Positioning our talented cadre of analysts, developers and IT professionals within one business unit give us a tremendous market discriminator.
For example, we can incorporate actual user feedback taken from our analysts in the field to develop more effective mission applications, networks and IT solutions that meet our customers’ current and future needs. We also folded many of our commercial open source intelligence solutions into my portfolio, enabling us to better leverage these solutions to help our different defense and intelligence customers address their unique problem sets.
Lastly, the company’s investment in artificial intelligence-enabled technologies, including its investment in automatic speech recognition and neural machine translation leader, AppTek, and advanced analytics company, NorthStar Solutions, provides us with powerful discriminators that position us well for the future.
What has made you successful in your current role?
I am honored to lead a business comprised of so many immensely talented professionals with different skills and backgrounds. Without having a group of smart, dedicated and loyal people around you, you have almost zero chance for success.
I’ve learned that as a business leader, if you’re people-first and people-focused, you will have a group of colleagues who will work hard and go out of their way to position you, and the entire company, for success.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
I love the culture that SOSi has. The Setian family treats their employees as members of the family. When Vykin was acquired, I was incredibly impressed with how quickly the company adopted and took care of the workforce that supported me for so many years. This is why so many of the people who worked with me at Vykin stayed on and continue to work with us today at SOSi.
The company takes care of its people — we saw this first hand in the company’s response during the pandemic — always putting the health and safety of its workforce, partners and customers first. The company also gives back to the community — working closely with organizations that help active-duty military, their families and our nation’s veterans. It is no surprise that approximately 25% of SOSi employees are veterans — and I am proud to be one of them.
What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken?
The biggest professional risk I’ve ever taken was starting a small defense business. As any entrepreneur can attest, starting a business comes with financial risk, but there is also a tremendous amount of personal risk. For me, I had to move my family overseas with two small children. It was a huge sacrifice, but we had to make it for the business to succeed.
There was also a tremendous reputational risk involved, as I had to convince many of my closest friends and colleagues to join me, partner with me, and put their trust in me and the business we were starting. I practically had to risk everything I built up throughout my career to give my company a chance to succeed.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
The best advice I can share with any business leader is to operate honestly and put your people first. I have not had a single success on my own, it’s always been with the support of people who are smarter and more capable than me.
Creating a culture where people gift you with their time and talent has been the key to any success I have had. We all spend a tremendous amount of time working. It is so much fun and personally rewarding when you are surrounded at work by people you trust in and admire. You can’t pay for trust and dedication — they are earned.