A 2020 Thank You

As we come to an end of 2020, on behalf of Highlight, I would like to take a moment to say “thank you” to our valued customers, employees, and business partners. As we all know, this has been a challenging year, and you have each helped us to respond and adapt.

To our customers, thank you for trusting Highlight to help you carry out your missions. Amidst the COVID pandemic, we appreciate your flexibility and trust, as many of our contracts shifted to a virtual service delivery model. Others kept an in-person model and added safety precautions. It means a lot to us that we were able to keep our business running, and our employees fully employed and safe.

Highlight is privileged to support the SBA, and we thank the SBA for trusting us to be part of the significant effort this year to support small businesses and Americans affected by the COVID pandemic.

To our employees, thank you for your commitment to serve our customers and support one another. Your “can do” attitude and teamwork is what allowed Highlight to be successful during a year of rapid change and growth. We could not have done this without each of you, and we are grateful for your unique and collective contributions.

Finally, thank you to our business partners, who enable us to deliver the quality, breadth, and depth of services that we do. From our back-office system vendors who support our recruiting, human resources, finance, and IT systems, to our consultants and advisors, to our service delivery partners–we thank you for your seamless support to our company and our customers.

Highlight is fortunate to be able to work with a group of customers, employees, and business partners who are working hard to make a positive difference. We appreciate you all. We wish you, your families, and loved ones a happy holiday season and look forward to continuing to work with you in 2021!

Author: Rebecca Andino | CEO and Founder

An Interview with Rebecca Andino, CEO of Highlight Technologies, for National Entrepreneurship Day

Greetings friends and colleagues! In honor of National Entrepreneurship Day, I am sharing a little about my own entrepreneurial experience, growing and developing Highlight. Congratulations and good luck to all my fellow entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs!

Q: What were you doing when you decided to start Highlight?

A: I was working full time at a large consulting firm. I had also recently had a baby and also had a three-year-old, so I was juggling a young family.

Q: What inspired you to start Highlight?

A: I had worked in a smaller firm throughout my twenties and enjoyed the camaraderie and excitement of growing a business. I had gotten the opportunity to “wear a lot of hats” and I was able to climb the career ladder quickly. I really wanted to create a similar environment [to the smaller firm], to give people similar opportunities as well as to provide excellent value to customers.

Q: What were some of the challenges of starting your own business? What is one of the proudest moments?

A: It was really hard to get started. In the government contracting sector, you need “past performance” to get a contract, but the only way you get past performance is to work on a contract — it’s the chicken and the egg problem. I almost gave up, but after a few months of networking and shaking lots of hands (pre-COVID), I finally got a sub-contract. The period of performance for the first contract was just six weeks – but that was enough to get started. I will always be grateful to the people who gave me that first opportunity.

One of my proudest moments was in 2019 when we were recognized as a CARE Award winner by the Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS). The CARE award recognizes companies for their support to their employees and the community.  

One of my proudest moments was in 2019 when we were recognized as a CARE Award winner by the Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS). The CARE award recognizes companies for their support to their employees and the community. I always dreamed of building a company that could have the resources to support employees’ careers and give back, so this was extremely gratifying.

Q: Has Highlight become what you imagined? What are your goals for the future?

A: Highlight is becoming exactly what I imagined! This past year, we implemented our first Leadership Development Program, and next year we are rolling out a formal Career Development Program. I have seen some of our employees, who we hired right out of college, grow quickly and take on leadership roles in the company. This [growth] is only possible because of the excellent work our teams do for our customers, who trust us and continually give us more work. I am so pleased we are on the right path.

In the future, I hope we can continue this growth, which allows for these types of opportunities for employees. I am excited about our plans as we move into the “mid-tier” of government contractors. We are already building our team, our tools, and capabilities that will enable us to compete successfully at this level.

I am excited about our plans as we move into the “mid-tier” of government contractors. We are already building our team, our tools, and capabilities that will enable us to compete successfully at this level.

Q: What tips or advice do you have for aspiring or starting entrepreneurs?

A: First, I would advise choosing a field you already have experience working in. For example, if you want to own a restaurant, but you have never actually worked in a restaurant, you are taking a big risk. I worked in the government contracting industry for over a decade before I started Highlight. Of course, I made mistakes and learned lessons in my business, but I was able to avoid making a whole set of mistakes that I had already learned before.

 I would also make sure you are emotionally prepared for the journey. Unless you have investment capital, you probably do not have a separate HR, finance, contracts, proposal department at first — it’s all you. Try to get some support in your personal life because you will likely need to work some long hours at first. In my case, my parents were a big help and came on the weekends to take the kids on day trips or even for the weekend.

Try to get some support in your personal life because you will likely need to work some long hours at first. In my case, my parents were a big help and came on the weekends to take the kids on day trips or even for the weekend.

Finally, I would advise people to not wait forever and to just go for it! People who wait until they are sure they are ready often end up taking on mortgages and other financial commitments, and then they are not able to take the risk of starting a business. It’s never going to be easy and it’s never going to be the perfect time, you just have to jump in with both feet.

Author: Rebecca Andino | CEO and Founder

Episode #11 | 2020 in Review 

Announcement: Broadcasting from Fairfax, Virginia, you are now tuned in to The Highlight Cast with your hosts, Adam McNair and Kevin Long. 

Adam McNair: Welcome to another episode of The Highlight Cast, so this is Adam McNair and I’m joined for our special year end podcast edition with, uh, as always, uh, Kevin Long, but also this session, we’re joined with, by Ashley Nichols, Tamar Mintz, and Victoria Robinson. So this is our, uh, leadership and marketing team, um, here at, at Highlight, and wanted to get some representation from both the, uh, The Ops side and the BD side and our marketing team. So, uh, Victoria leads up marketing, uh, Tamar and Kevin are part of the leadership team, two of the leaders of our, uh, our delivery organization. And, uh, Ashley leads up corporate development here. So, uh, thank you for, uh, taking time to participate in the highlight cast. Welcome everybody. All right. So as we look at 2020 and what we are going to talk about here today. So some of the podcasts we’ve done here earlier, we’ve talked about what a strange and different year it really has been. We’ve gone completely to telework. We’ve, um, we’ve got a pandemic. Um, You know, that has really changed the way we do business and some of the kinds of business that we are doing. Um, and I think the, the first thing we wanted to talk about before we get into some of those specifics would be, uh, what’s everybody most, most proud of that they were able to accomplish this year. Uh, we can just go, uh, around the room, uh, go, go to. Tomorrow first, maybe, or there’s, what’s, what’s something that you look back on that you think is, um, you’re proud about from, from this year? 

Tamar Mintz: Uh, so that’s such a good question. I think the thing I’m most proud of is how our team has cohesively come together. I think this year has been tumultuous to say the least, and allowing for flexibility, increased communication, and letting our team be okay with, uh, the somewhat lack of structure. And being okay with experiencing whatever they have to feel in this time, um, has been something that I think our organization has done really well as a whole. And I think that our employees have really felt the fact that, you know, the priority is obviously. And we’ll always be our customer, but we can’t support our customer without the team that we have. 

Adam McNair: Yeah, I think that’s a very, very good point because I do think, um, and we’ll certainly talk more about this as we talk about some of the support that, um, specifically your team has, has been engaged in, but the whole company. Um, but I don’t think you can, Consider yourself to be a reasonable person and sit and have a conversation about acting like it’s just business as usual and just go get things done. And, um, I mean, when you’re at the point where you’re wiping groceries down with wipes and having to have conversations about, is this a thing that we’re supposed to do? Like, life’s just not normal. And so pretending that everybody is going to be able to act like it isn’t, I think is foolish. Shouldn’t it? At least when you went to an office, you could maybe compartmentalize a little bit. So if you had somebody, you know, painting your living room, you’re like, Wow, that’s a disruption, but I’m going to the office. You didn’t get out of this because you’re also working at it at home as well. Um, Ashley, how about you? What’s Uh, you know, kind of sticks out to you about, uh, about the year. 

Ashley Nichols: Yeah, I think that, you know, from a growth and development perspective, I think that, uh, you know, in the last, you know, half of the year, especially we’ve really been able to grow the team, you know, and that was obviously the ability to do that is based on some external factors, you know, with some other like corporate growth that we had. But to really bring in some folks, I think, who really enhance that process to, to really, I think the skills, uh, of our team have really come up in this last year when it comes to growth. And I’m talking across the board, like proposals, you know, BD, capture, especially in this environment where you can’t do all of the networking and, and normal stuff that you do. You know, folks have gotten. Proactive and creative about how they are, you know, leaning into some of the new paradigm for for how you connect with people. Um, and strangely enough, even given all the limitations, we’ve developed some of our largest best most strategic relationships during this time. Um, and, you know, that speaks a lot to the team and their flexibility.

And, uh, you know, I really liked the way it set us up for the next year, honestly. 

Adam McNair: Yeah, I, I, I agree. And I, I, I think in the business, the, um, the ability to network and have those kinds of conversations is really different. I’ve done some zoom. You know, Microsoft Teams, virtual networking activities, and I think it is, they are as effective as, as the planning that goes into them a lot of times, um, the ones that are kind of just one big room and nothing’s facilitated, it’s tough to just sit there and kind of, uh, Um, you know, big mosaic of a bunch of squares of people. Um, but the ones where they have breakout sessions or smaller groups and they allow you to have kind of the, uh, that speed dating, a few minutes with a small group and then go to another one, those seem to be pretty effective. Um, I think Kevin for, oh, go ahead, Ashley. 

Ashley Nichols: As I said, I, one of the things that I’ve noticed that a couple of the folks are doing that was really effective, you know, that Go to lunch, have a coffee is where you really cemented some of those personal relationships, because as much as you like to get away from it, personal relationships and the vibe you get from people is a lot of the reasons why people team with you or vice versa. And I think people have really been spending the extra time to try and create that personal connection in these, you know, weird new constrictions. So their efforts are, Yeah, 

Adam McNair: and I will say this much. It is, it is so much easier from a logistics standpoint. I mean, one of the things that I always really did not look forward to about networking sessions is there’s nothing worse. There are a lot of things worse, but it’s not a good thing to get done with your work day and have it be like 530 or six o’clock. All right, now I gotta go drive in traffic for an hour and 20 minutes to go get to DC to then be friendly for an hour and a half and get home at 9 30 or 10 o’clock at night. That’s I mean, some people may thrive off of that. I will tell you that that’s not that’s not something I’m crazy about. Um, but the ability to have somebody say, Hey, can we jump on a call and chat at five o’clock? Yeah, if I’m just sitting here working, absolutely. You know, I’m, I’m happy to do that. Um, and, and taking the logistical part of it, um, has been, has big, been a big impact. But I also think that’s just in general, um, the, the, the, Nature of of not having both the commute, but also, you know, offices as I look back on, um, the amount of miles I would put just either going to D. C. or Rockville or Ashburn or wherever that whole day. You’ve got a big slice disrupted out of it. And you don’t have that as much anymore. And so when you talk about commutes to the office, there’s I mean, one of the things that Kevin used to say was that you could, your commute to our office or your commute to Boston took the same amount of time. Absolutely did. And so I know there was a lot of, of changes in your operational corner of the, of the, of the company, uh, as things change. So what, what, what, what things are you proud of from the year? 

Kevin Long: Yeah, so Tamar and Ashley got the, the. All those things too. And so I’ll hit the, the logistical, uh, things. I, I’m stunned. And Adam mentioned Boston. So that’s where I’ll go. Uh, that we were able to, uh, when COVID hit in early March, uh, I was visiting our Kessel Run team in Boston. At where we had an entire office building floor set up for for software developers and folks, um, and we’re providing hardware and software tools, but, you know, hardware for hundreds of developers, uh, designed to work in a specific location and in. In a week, they put in the clutch, shifted gears, and literally was able to move out of a space, store the hardware that couldn’t be put in someone’s house, procure different types of hardware, install, configure, secure, lock down, repack, ship out, confirm they got it, and have people up and running for 600 developers? In a week, so the fact that that we were able to really help our customers move from we’re co locating and we’re working and we’re working side by side to we’re all going to work from home. We need different equipment and different technology to. simulate working side by side in, in no time at all. It was, uh, I don’t know how they did it, but they did it. It was amazing. 

Adam McNair: Yeah. And I, I agree with you. I think there’s so many, um, you know, your example, certainly. And when we start to talk about SBA, that’ll be another, I think to Ashley’s point about just the, the operations as a whole, um, there were so many things that we accomplished that would have been difficult anyway, would have been Let alone to be doing them in the midst of we’re not going to do it from the office. We’re going to do it from home and we’re going to do it with a pandemic going on and all the other things that happened with that. Um, now, Victoria, you’re, um, you, you just joined us this year, but certainly in that, this amount of time, I feel like have, Um, it really advanced the way we communicate externally and have been a real integral part of the team. Uh, and the time that you’ve, um, you know, as you look back at, at this year and joining the company, you know, what are, what are things that you’re proud of? 

Victoria Robinson: I mean, a big aspect of it is being able to even join the team amidst a pandemic. I mean, finding a job in the middle of a pandemic is already challenging. I also, uh, moved across the country this year. So being a part of a new team, also transitioning to being remote full time and, Being able to, you know, put that structure in place for a marketing department that, you know, hasn’t gotten a lot of, you know, resources recently, you know, it’s been a great transition. And it’s really cool to see all the growth this year and how we can, you know, Elevate that for next year too. 

Adam McNair: Yeah, I do. I remember, uh, as, as Victoria and I were talking, it was, you know, well, I’m, I’m here locally and I can get the laptop, but then in a couple of weeks, I’m going to be in California. And, um, you know, that that’s, that’s something that I think has been really powerful for us as a company is the, uh, the, the mindset of we can have, you Folks that are working from anywhere. And so, uh, we have, it’s interesting kind of the intellectual boundaries you set up. We’ve always had a team in Cincinnati that’s been supporting some of our internal activities. But somehow that was, that was more okay. Or that wasn’t an issue. But if you just said eight months ago or 10 months ago or a year ago, um, are, are we going to have some people that are running into their team leads and managers and functions in the company that are going to work from California? But I say, well, not California. Like, I don’t know what it is. It’s different about Cincinnati as it is California, but somehow it would have been like, ah, that seems too far, two more 

Ashley Nichols: hours. Two time zones. 

Adam McNair: And, and I think, uh, the ability to, um, draw on talent, you know, from across the country is, is important. And I think, um, the ability to have. Um, you know, different, different viewpoints and different perspectives and diversity of opinion. And, uh, I don’t know if there’s something, you know, innate to say that somebody with a Midwestern opinion or a West Coast opinion is, is going to look at something, you know, are our marketing materials going to look different? Maybe, you know, and I, I think, um, I think it’s good to get some different, you know, viewpoints and just, um, Tactically, it’s also handy because now, uh, you know, Victoria is always available in the evening because the evening’s not really the evening. It’s, it’s the afternoon for her. So that’s, uh, that’s helpful often as well. Yeah, I would, um, I’d say for something, you know, that I, I am, am proud of is that, um, there were a lot of things that were different and changed and growth and everything this year. And I think that, um, I think everyone handled it really, really professionally as a, you know, positive and, and thinking we were going to be able to do it. And I’ve worked a lot of places where internal departments screamed at each other. And, um, you know, there was a lot of, of kind of infighting or arguing and all of that. And, um, whether it be bids we were doing in the middle of this or, or the, you know, the big programs that, That we were ramping up or, you know, the, the relocation of teams in Boston, all these things. Um, I, I feel like it, I’m not going to say that it wasn’t stressful, but I would say that I felt like we weren’t creating our own stress, you know, not creating your own stress and not creating your own problems, I think is, um, Is a real testament to Just 

Kevin Long: the team not making the world any harder than it already is this year. Absolutely 

Adam McNair: Yeah, yeah, and I I think that’s um I really respect the people we have on our team because I think that’s a personal thing I don’t think that’s uh, you know, you set a corporate policy that you’re not going to be, you know Not going to be difficult. Um, I I think that’s hr policy 

Ashley Nichols: 2. 3. 1. Why did not do not be difficult?

Adam McNair: All right. And subsection four. Please see the, don’t do stupid things clause. Yeah. Like I, you know, I, I think we’ve, um, and I think that goes back to culture. You know, I, I think that, um, there are, there have been books written about the value of culture in an organization and, uh, There’s, there’s so much that you can do from a policy standpoint and write and say, but I think as everybody acts and the behaviors they exhibit, that’s, that’s, that also sets the pace for other people. And, um, it’s just kind of a known thing that you’re not gonna, uh, what you’re not going to do and what you are going to do from a. The way that you engage and talk and everything else. And so I think that’s, that’s the whole group that has, um, it’s helped us be that way. And, um, and so I, I think, you know, going into, um, into more details on things that happened this year. And, um, you know, I think our support of, um, Our small business administration customer has been really, really hugely transformational. Um, and I mean, I, I’ve been doing this a long time and it’s the biggest, it’s the biggest undertaking that I’ve ever seen or been a part of. And, uh, you know, I, I used to be really impressed about the fact that I’d been involved in like four or five hundred person contract transitions and that doesn’t seem like it’s a big deal anymore. Um, Tamara, you want to talk a little bit about just You know, the personal experience of what it was like, because, you know, we’ve talked a little bit about it here and, um, you know, this company’s talked a little bit about it, that we’re supporting their, uh, some of the loan processing, and it was involved in ramping up, you know, hundreds and hundreds of people, but I was legitimately concerned about you or, you know, during a lot of that in a lot of our team during, during a lot of that. But personally, what was the tempo of that like from about, I guess, I guess we started, what was it, about March, I guess? 

Tamar Mintz: March, yeah. Um, So I think, you know, this program came to us sort of as a little bit of a surprise. Um, we’ve been supporting SBA since 2017 and have been supporting, um, disasters across the country since then. So that work wasn’t foreign to us. But the scale of the SBA work was, and so I think we were just starting to get into the new norm of how to communicate, how to work with each other remotely, and then the customer said, um, small businesses are being impacted. We need more help. And I think this is a true testament to that. That they came to us is based off of the relationship that we have with the customer and the work that’s been done by our staff. And I think the funniest thing that happened is, um, they said, we need you to bring 500 people, brand new people. And Adam and I talked and said, okay, what is this going to look like? We can definitely do this. And we’re like, it will take us a month. And they said, yes, a month we can do this. And then. The next day, the contracting officer called us and goes, consider, and it was very funny how he said it, consider this your first change order you have until the end of the week. And so I think what is right for them, right? And it’s. So I will say that was the start of my seven hour work weeks for probably four months. But, um, I mean, seven day work weeks, not seven hour, um, still, still, uh, getting back to normal. Um, I think, you know, the, the one thing that I would say that I, um, can’t imagine being anywhere else is that when that happens, it’s not a, Oh no, this is going to go wrong. It is, what do we have to do collectively to make it work? And I think by setting expectations with everyone internally and saying, this is going to be really hard, we’re going to mess up and then we’ll fix it, helped all of us to come together and it’s bringing everyone on board and ensuring communication to make it work. So, um, that was the first, uh, task order that we had with, uh, our SBA customer with, um, OCA and then. And because of the fact that we were actually successful in bringing on 500 people, um, and that was related to our PPP work, they said, we need more help. And I think at a certain point, it’s really hard to say no when you start seeing the impact. Um, and so the rewarding part about doing this work is that you have people reaching out to applicants who are impacted, who say, you know, because of the fact that your team was able to help, we were able to run payroll. We were able to keep our doors open. Um, and you’re also hiring from a group of people who were severely impacted. You know, these are people who may not have had a professional job. We’re able to give them benefits. We’re able to make sure that they know when their next paycheck is coming. And it seems somewhat surreal, but, um, you’re working with individuals nationwide who just want an opportunity. And so, um, Um, that’s not to say that it hasn’t been difficult at some times. Um, the big difference here is that the landscape is constantly changing. No one was really prepared for a global pandemic and no one knew what the impact would be and no one knows what the impact will be three years from now. And so I think we’re constantly just trying to, um, Continue on and that enabled us to bring on, um, over a thousand more to support the office of disaster and assistance and the loans that came about from the cares act. And so we have a infrastructure set up of remote staff, um, an amazing team of subcontractors who make it possible. You know, I completely agree with Ashley when, um, she mentioned that some of our more strategic relationships have been built during a time when we’re all remote. And I think it’s, it says something to the human factor. Like we are all showing up on video at 7am in whatever we feel comfortable wearing and you know, that’s important. Like it makes you human. And I think that’s something that, um, has been a positive of being home and working remotely is that you see the. human side of everyone that you’re interacting with on a daily basis, and it’s something you don’t necessarily see.

Adam McNair: And, and to give some context to where this started, I mean, when, when we were asked to start ramping up, I think we had closed the office for a week. I think it was the Friday, the week after we closed, um, because it was like a, it was Um, Friday evening call to start mobilizing this from, from the customer. And that was in the thick of the lockdowns were starting. So as, as companies were saying, I, you know, I’m, I’m, I’m a restaurant. I’m an event venue. I’m a, the gym, I’m whatever. How do I. You know, keep people employed with no money coming in. That’s everything that was on, on the news at that point. And also, you know, to Tamara’s point, when, when we were hiring, uh, folks, it was, they were a, A team from maybe a hotel chain that had had proactively downsized because they saw an impact of their business. And so we were finding pockets of people around the country that that were unemployed. And, um, you know, some of the things that we’re doing now, we’ve launched a career development initiative. So, um, so this year they’re going to have the opportunity to have a resume brush up session, have a conversation about how do you sell yourself for a professional job, and how do you market yourself and talk about yourself, um, and, and also some career planning about what do they want to do? Because I think one of the things that a lot of times, not just people like, you know, from, from the, um, you know, You know, this, this loan support that we’re doing, but across professional services, we see that, um, it, it’s hard for people to correlate their, their experience on one, uh, one job to another. And so helping them find some of those underlying skills versus that, well, actually, what you’re doing is you’re doing, you’re doing analysis. Of data and metrics just because you’re doing that on a loan. It could be on any number of things. They’re transferable skills. And so that’s 1 of the things we’re going to try to help the folks on those programs internalize and document so that as they as they look for for careers in the future, um, That’s easier for them. And I know one of the blog posts that we, um, we, we had recently, uh, one of the things that we do internally is we, we, uh, offer employees the opportunity to, to submit topics and, and put blog content out there for, um, employees. You know, for the community at whole, not just our company, but for people in the workforce, and one of the employees on the SBA contract, uh, wrote a blog post about the fact that this is her first, um, you know, her first time teleworking, her first time kind of just logged into a system for eight hours a day, and there’s a lot of that kind of, um, growth and opportunities. So it, it is the entirety of the support of that, that program really was at the core of everything you saw on the news every day. Um, you know, and I, I feel like, and I’m, I’m sure Tamara and her team and the internal ops team and everybody feels this way that kind of sometime in March through maybe. I don’t know, August or September was kind of a blur of activity. Um, and, and not that it’s way slower now, um, but it is a little bit more structured. I think the figuring out things on the fly and so forth, um, pared down a little bit. Now, Kevin, on your side, you talked a little bit about, um, you know, the one, the one program that, uh, where you guys moved out of space. In, you know, in your programs, um, you know, what most of them ended up working remotely, some, some on site. Well, how did that, how did that go in your organization? 

Kevin Long: Yeah, it’s, you, I got very surprised to just how quickly, how many different programs that prior to COVID, the customer and everyone was dead set convinced had to happen. On site had to happen in a skiff had to happen, you know, uh, you know, only near people that have, you know, taken, uh, polygraphs and things like that. And suddenly are issuing them laptops and sending them home. So, uh, literally. 100 percent of my programs went remote, so even even ones in in Intel spaces where where the space eventually became available. But, you know, I mean, the buildings were all shut down. I mean, you know, when you work in an intelligence area, sometimes you have people going to different parts of the world, even in a pandemic and. Then they have to scrub every hard surface in the building. And they had to do that a few different times with, with some of our customers. And so we found people getting really good at finding the unclassified bits of their work that they can do at home to then be able to hand it off to, you know, a much smaller period of time in space where they. Put in special sauce, you know, the stuff that that can’t be done on an open line. And so, yeah, it’s, uh, I mean, we have, we’ve had, you know, a new, a new CIO at FCC start that has literally never met their team, like the government folks. So, I mean, they started, uh, what, uh, the last week in February and we’re Meeting. They were bringing on their staff and we were scheduled to meet with them in March and then it shut down. And so, you know, they’re trying to figure out how to do an entire I. T. infrastructure set up and, you know, office move and everything else. Having never laid eyes on on anybody that they work with. Really? So, yeah, we’ve seen everyone everyone move, uh, You know, uh, offsite remote and, you know, with a remarkable amount of success, honestly. 

Adam McNair: Well, and so I think that speaks to the fact that some of the things that we do are pretty easy and not terribly affected by Being remote, um, what I’m curious to ask is, what are the things, uh, and actually maybe if you have some, some thoughts around this, what are some of the things that you’ve encountered that are really hard to do, um, in, in the remote, and it’s not just remote, it’s also remote and pandemic, because even if it was remote, travel is a thing that you can do and do some things, you know, in person, and I know we’ve, we’ve worked in companies where, you know, The proposal shot might be someplace else. The contract shot might be someplace else. But occasionally, like for a kickoff or something, you could decide to go get everybody in a room. Are there, are there, what are some things that strike you as being significantly more difficult that you then kind of, 

Ashley Nichols: yeah, 

Adam McNair: the way we did it last February? 

Ashley Nichols: Yeah, uh, solutioning by far is, is the hardest, right?

Um, This is an activity that involves a lot of whiteboards, flip charts, and sticky notes. And none of those things work on the computer. Uh, so, you know, it’s, it’s a situation where we’re, we’re toying with some new technologies, you know, um, zoom and teams and whatnot have whiteboard features, but if you are not set up to use whiteboard features, like using it with a mouse, like that’s, Right. So I’ve just bought myself a new piece of equipment that I’m going to see how it works. One of these drawing pads, it’s going to hopefully allow me to, um, mark things up in real time, uh, whiteboard, some ideas, a race in real time, you know, as we move into it, in fact, I’ll, I’ll probably use it for the first time tomorrow with the big solution session. So I would say any kind of truly collaborative. Opportunity that involves this kind of capture of information that you’re used to doing in a room with people and also looking around and be able to see their faces and sort of knowledge their buy in. Right? Am I going in the right direction? You know, when we’re on zoom and we’re solutioning. You know, I had this one project where we started where nobody was ever on camera. Right. And I was going to force people to do that. They don’t love it necessarily. But I started being on camera all the time. And I think that had other people be on there. So I don’t have to ask all the time. Does that make sense to you guys? Because I see your head’s nodding and things like that, um, so, you know, collaboration, while there are a lot of fantastic tools will continue to be a challenge, but I will one of the kind of benefits of the remote working is that resources that you normally can’t get to during regular hours. Now can be made available like if they have a break in their custom work and they can take it half an hour to talk to you or an hour about your technical solutions and things like that. Whereas they would never dream of doing that from the customer site because you’re on the customer site, but the remote work allows them that flexibility. They need to put in their time, do their customer work, and that is the important part, but if it’s during their lunch or other times that it works for them, I feel like there’s an increased accessibility to those people, which has been a plus to this process that I might not have foreseen. Yeah, I think 

Adam McNair: that’s a good point, because I think. You know, we block out meeting times and we block out our days in hour, half hour increments. And occasionally you have a conversation where you feel like it took exactly the amount of time as was budgeted for it, but otherwise you end up in the 10 or 15 minutes of you’re just like, well, I’m already sitting here in this conference room. We’ll go ahead and chat about something else. Or you hit a lot of moments where there’s. You’ve got 27 minutes. And what do I do in 27 minutes? And those are the times that when somebody that you’ve asked for feedback on something, that they’ll hit you up on Teams and call you up and fill you in on it, or they’ll say, hey, when you get a minute, can you call me? And I know for me personally, I probably have 30 or 40 minutes free every day. I just don’t know when that’s gonna be. It’s all, it’s all booked. So 

Ashley Nichols: much of it is Hey, you, you hang out after this meeting, right? We’re already on a call. I know it was blocked until 12 and it’s only 1140. So I know you’ve got 20 minutes. Let’s pivot real quick to this. And I find that the downside to those scheduling and those increments has been. There’s no commute time. People have been like jam packing every block of time. And I have been having these conversations and I have been blocking off half hour periods so that I can mentally pivot to new discussion sometimes. Um, so that, that, that’s sort of like the downside of trying to figure out what that time is and that it’s all scheduled because there is very little time for the pop up. Like as many times I, you know, I’ll hit Adam up and I’d be like, I need five minutes. And he’s like, yes, I have five minutes and eight hours. You know what I mean? 

Tamar Mintz: the other thing that I think is beneficial is because most of us are using video now, you know, in my opinion, the days of multitasking are fewer and far between. And I think we’ve all done this and it’s not good or bad, but some of us are good at multitasking, but they say, no matter what your productivity and your ability to spend time. By being on video and talking with someone, like it’s, it’s genuinely rude. Like you can see someone who’s like texting on their phone or something else. And it forces you to be like, okay, I’m going to give you everything for the five to 10 minutes. I’m not going to be, you won’t see me typing. And I think you get more from people than, In the past, because all of us were running around, you know, we had meetings, we were on customer sites and so being able to sit and talk for five to 10 minutes and it’s like this new level of just total collaboration and respect. And not that it was at lack of respect before. But it’s showing people that we’re giving our full and undivided attention, which I think also, um, is beneficial to the organization. 

Ashley Nichols: I think I’ve been describing it as like intent and creating intent around the things that we’re doing. And I think to your point, Everything has to be much more intentional, right?

That’s absolutely 

Kevin Long: the word that I had in mind. Oh, yes. Yeah, 

Ashley Nichols: because we’re not going to pick it up later, right? And it’s the intent around, you know, solving the problem that we’re, we’re solving over the 10 or 15 minutes or a half an hour that we have. And we are much more efficient at getting things done when we are all less distracted and not doing stuff during that meeting. And then I think there’s a lot of intention that’s lost. Spreads out into how we want people to experience this COVID pandemic inside of our company, right? Like what are, what do we, what is the effect on that culture and what do we want it to be and being pretty intentional about that, um, you know, some of it happened just by default, right? You know, you realize everyone can tell when I’m doing something else. And so I need to not look like a jerk. Right. Um, but I think it’s created some really healthy habits. Around balance, around acceptance, around all kinds of things that then pervade the larger culture or can in a more intentional way, even when we go back to the office.

Victoria Robinson: Well, there’s also the point of like, usually when you have an idea, you, you just jump into somebody’s office and say, Hey, do you have 10 minutes? And you obviously see that they have 10 minutes to talk. And now you’re trying to think of what meeting do I have with the group of people? I need to, to bring up this topic that I put together. Probably should wait until we can have a discussion rather than just trying to hop in their office and then leave people out. So I feel like it almost brings more people into the conversation than usual, because you’re remembering when to have those conversations and being intentional about it. 

Kevin Long: It is, I will, I will admit, I do miss the chance encounter for problem solving that. Where you have where we have all these people in the meetings and when you have all of the people in the in the virtual room, you can do that. But it’s, it’s at least around HQ, you know, where, where everyone was there, even if someone wasn’t necessarily in the conference room, I can talk pretty loud. And so someone may be right. See, I see that tomorrow, then someone may, someone may poke their head. And it’s like, you know, I have something for that. And that you miss the, I, I do, I do, I do miss that, but you know, having the pickup meeting, right? Yeah. Um, you, that in MBWA, you know, management by walking around, um, is, is, uh, is, is something that I do miss, but I, I do love watching, you know, uh, Tamar’s Adam’s and Victoria’s, you know, attention as, You know, when you’re working on something, and it’s not just, at least not anymore, overcoming the technical hurdles of how you can do that, but around the problem that you’re trying to solve, and it’s, I 

Adam McNair: think the, the, the spontaneity of being in the office and being able to stop in and say hello to somebody is, is something that we do lose. I think that, Being intentional and finding spots to make sure that you’ve talked with those folks that you, you need to check in with at least weekly has become much more intentional for me. I know a lot of the things that are on my calendar are, you know, making sure that, um, we’ve had a venue to talk about a topic or, or, or just with the, with the person. And sometimes those are the ones where it. They literally might be five minutes. It’s like, no, there’s nothing going on this week. Okay. But I feel like if we don’t have that on the, on the, on the calendar, it’s very, very easy. I know about a month into this, uh, one of the people from our, our office, who’s, who’s, who, who’s, his actual office is down by the, uh, like the, the break room and coffee machine. I realized I hadn’t talked to him in about four weeks. I was like, oh, I, we need to create a mechanism for Yeah. Cause I That just doesn’t happen. And the one thing that I do think is, is helpful, and this goes to Tamar’s point about, um, kind of focus, is it would be very, very common, certainly for me, and I think a lot of us, that you’re sitting at your desk doing, um, You know, quote, your job or work and somebody says, Hey, do you have a minute? What you do, but what you’ve done is now stop, change gears, stop working on what you were working on. Try to unpack that out of your head, engage on something else. And I don’t know if everybody is this way, but it’s very hard for me if I was in the middle of, oh, here’s how we’re going to do service desk ticket management or, you know, I’m looking at financials for something or whatever.

And now it’s, hey, this employee is interested in advancement. Where do you think we can have a team lead spot open up in the next six weeks? They’re totally different things. And to try to, A lot of those feel to me like when you’re at the airport back when we used to go to airports and they have those little people mover things and you step off the the moving walkway and there’s this kind of weird inertia thing that catches up with you and it’s almost jarring going from one topics to the next and then trying to get back into it you just it it feels very very different and so I think the ability to have someone say hey can 10 minutes absolutely love to it allows you to kind of Find a natural stopping point in what you were doing and then have a conversation and, you know, like Ashley, like you were saying, I’ve tried to book almost transitions or work time in my schedule because it’s so easy to say, okay, we have to hit these topics and those topics and maybe by Thursday I’ll actually have time to sit down and put, you know, put some work on, on paper, you know, digitally. Um. 

Ashley Nichols: But then to that point on Thursday, like I’ve had to start and this was just, you know, something I’ve been working on, like Monday of this week, like yesterday, I looked at next week and plugged in all of my transition and blocks of time for things I needed to do, because if I started on like this week to do it, this week’s done for right? Like it’s done for already. People have filled in every nook and cranny that they want to for the most part, Part so, um, you know, like you, there’s a lot of meetings that I need to be in. Right. And I, and I like to have at least enough time to change pivot to what this meeting is about so I can be focused on it when it starts, whether it’s like just 10 minutes or something, but there’s, if I have to ideate on anything, right, solutions, you know, working on better defining highway for Victoria. I can’t do that in an hour, you know what I mean? I need, I need to work through some stuff and so I gotta block that time off or I won’t get it. 

Speaker 6: Yeah. 

Ashley Nichols: Uh, because I think as managers of people too, we’re probably all hyper vigilant about trying to be available when people do need us and reach out to us. Um, and so it’s finding that balance. I think that has been one of the challenges of this and why it really feels like when you’re working eight hours, like if you work a full eight hours, it feels like you work 12 hours. Like if you’re just cranking out all day, you’re like, I’m just going to fall over. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to take a nap at five o’clock for like half an hour before I can finish doing chores or whatever. 

Tamar Mintz: I’m still trying to figure out why I’m in the same chair that I purchased for casual dining. I think I’m, I think I need an OSHA audit. 

Adam McNair: Oh, God, God, God forbid, and I would like to go ahead and officially offer that I would be happy to bring you a chair. You tell me what chair you want. I will be happy to bring it right over. Um, well, and I will say, you know, we, as we do the podcast, we, we connected. You know, on video here so that we can have that interaction, but we strip that out and just put the audio format out. But, uh, Tamar definitely wins, I think from the, the artful background. Uh, my, the room that I’m in is so, so kind of not appealing that I use a digital background. Um, you know, Kevin uses a digital background. Victoria’s, you know, is, is certainly classing it. It wasn’t 

Victoria Robinson: at first, though, because the first three weeks I was living in this apartment, the only thing behind me was a lamp. And every time I got on video, he was like, how’s apartment, uh, set up going? And he would go, the lamp hasn’t moved yet. 

Adam McNair: Yeah, I have enjoyed watching Victoria’s apartment, like, start to get, get furnished and the pictures would go up and now she has a chair and all of that. But yeah, definitely, uh, actually, Kevin and I are, are more in a, just. You know, extra room of the house as opposed to the, um, I’m impressed by people that can have that, uh, kind of, I think you call it mees on sin maybe. Um, for, 

Tamar Mintz: actually it’s actually 

Ashley Nichols: called, um, limited room rating. What people, it, it a big thing on Twitter and everything now called room rating and people rate your room that you’re Oh, rate, oh my gosh. So this is actually 

Tamar Mintz: the, the result of limited space. So because there’re so limited space, I mean, they’re here. Or I’m in my kitchen or I’m in my bedroom. And this felt like meetings from my kitchen. 

Ashley Nichols: It just looks like this. 

Victoria Robinson: Before I moved my first week highlight, I was literally at my parents house because I hadn’t moved yet. And every time I got on a call, I had this ugly curtain behind me in this like. Forbidden chair because it was the only place in the house that I couldn’t get bothered during a meeting. I was like, I’m so sorry. I had not discovered the custom backgrounds yet. I was like, well this will do. 

Adam McNair: And you know, it’s interesting going to one of the other things that I think is difficult during this time. One of the things that we’ve had very limited success and we’ve actually stopped, stopped really trying to engage with them for a little while is during the pandemic. Obviously recruiting fairs. Are all virtual now, and we’ve found that they’re not as well attended. Um, the interaction is not as valuable as as when you have an event in person. And I think, um, whereas the way that they used to operate where everybody would sign up and attend in person now they can. Sign up electronically and they can show up and have a a person to person session, but a lot of the candidates don’t bother. They feel like if they uploaded their resume they’ve they’ve attended and that’s enough. Um. There’s nowhere near as much buy in. And so, so I think, you know, recruiting, we’re doing more of the, just the typical recruiting. It is certainly easier to get a hold of candidates now than it, than it used to be. Um, but I was curious at asking, so, you know, Victoria, you’ve got a unique perspective on, as you mentioned, um, joining an organization during COVID and, um, what was the, Like the new employee experience, like, like, how, how did you, how did you meet everybody? Like, how did, you know, I know you, you were technically here, you know, locally when you, when you, you signed on. So I think you got to see the office in person, maybe. I did. I don’t know if you were allowed to go inside or not. That was during like major lockdown time. But could you talk a little bit about what that was like?

Victoria Robinson: Well, it was unique because I remember us having a couple interviews and I remember talking to Ashley and it was both of the times I talked to both of you, it was probably the most, it felt like very informal. So you probably got more of the, you know, uh, authentic like person you’re going to work with than you would normally would, cause you’re not sitting in an office freaking out about an interview and then. I think it was most of the jumping on calls going, Oh, these are the people I work with now, and then trying to figure out, okay, where’s the org chart so I can figure out what, like what level of the organization are they in, who do they work with? I’m still probably working through that, but you know, uh, luckily the nice thing is that because I’ve come on later in the year, uh, Fiona, our HR person, and then, um, A couple other people have put in Paycom and those kinds of things to help me understand where things are. I think it was easier than I expected it to be, but it was definitely some of those moments where it’s like, well, this is not normal. 

Adam McNair: Now, as far as meeting people, was it mostly just sitting in group meetings that you had been invited to? Or were you reaching out to people individually? Are people individually reaching out to you? Kind of, how did that, how did that go? 

Victoria Robinson: Um, at first it was mostly going to group meetings and then trying to figure out, Okay, well this is the person I need to follow up with to know this topic. And it’s kind of like you’re playing a big investigation game. And I know the first week I was, I asked around and I was like, Well, who’s in charge of this? And then I would schedule 30 minutes on their calendar and they’re like, I don’t know who this person is. I was like, I’m the marketing manager. And they were like, we have a marketing manager again. That’s awesome. Here are the 30 things I’ve been waiting for to give to you. 

Adam McNair: Well, yeah, that, that, and that is, I think probably. As far as meeting people specifically, you know, in your, in your position, you work with so many people in the organization that it, it probably drove some of that, um, some of that interaction with everybody kind of off the bat. And, uh, it wasn’t, you know, it’s not, I don’t have any of these jobs we have like this, but it’s not just as good go sit and. You know, do your own job and you receive an input and send something out. There’s no real, uh, kind of, kind of cross pollination across the organization. That’s that’s really required. Um, well, so we’ve got probably, uh, you know, 10 or 15 minutes here more to talk. And I just wanted to ask the question as far as. Um, for, for your kind of personal work goals for, for next year, um, you know, and I’m not talking, you know, corporate goals, we’ve, we’ve, we’ve been working on those and communicating them and so forth, but, um, now that you’ve been working remotely for, I don’t know, I guess, nine months now, and, um, we have some amount more, you know, going, you know, going forward, but, you know, what are the kinds of things that, that you, um, And, you know, maybe actually if you have any, um, if you want to want to start, but from, uh, things that you think you want to, you want to start doing next year, things that you want to stop, you know, you want to do differently. Um, any thoughts about. You know, kind of the, the things that you, you’re doing going into next year. 

Ashley Nichols: You must’ve been a fly on my wall the last couple of days. I feel like that’s all I talk about. Um, you know, time management has a big thing I’ve been learning about, you know, during this, during this period. And we talked a little bit about, um, making sure that I’m setting up times for my meeting transition and just like my thought transition so that I can be giving, um, my best. Participation to what’s happening next. Um, and some of it, you know, and as we, as we look at, maybe on the outset, looking like adding more meetings for next year as we talk about accounts and line of business and stuff is taking a look at those collection of meetings and finding out, um, how much of it needs to be in a meeting. Right? And can they be 45 minutes? Can half an hour meetings be 15 minutes, um, and actually scheduling them for that. So people know what kind of time they really have to work within their day. Um, because it’d be very easy to get overwhelmed with all the meetings and leave very little time for, for some of the work that we talked about. So I find time management and, you know, I’ve already made some changes the way that I’m doing it, you know, for myself that hopefully is going to yield some better results. You know, better participation, but I think too, with some of the changes that we’ve made in the organization this year, um, and really sort of delineating a bit between like the day to day BD operations and the strategy and development and how to spend more time on those things. And what’s a valuable, you know, use of my time, it, it, it, figuring out how to spend those times on ideation. What needs the most. Um, focus, what groups need the most help, you know, how do we really, you know, lines of business is one of the things we’re talking about that is going to have such a huge impact on strategy and how we define that and the materials that we create around it are going to be a huge part of the way our folks go out in the world and talk about what we do. So, you know, I think, you know, letting go of some of the stuff that I felt like I was trying to stay on top of for so long and letting it sink in. Sort of exist in this other space and really spending the time and focus on those so that we have this toolbar of, of things for how we present ourselves out there and not just marketing stuff, but really like how we tell the highlight story and making sure all of our people know how to, how to tell that story effectively. So 

Adam McNair: I, I think that, um, I think that makes, you know, a lot of sense, probably for a lot of us. I think those ideas around intentionality and, um, also I think being able to divide out, you know, what the real expectations are, um, is, is certainly something that I think is a good point for, um, Certainly for me for next year and dividing out the kind of the daily, um, the daily activity and the strategic activity. I mean, to quote, I mean, I, I, something that it was impactful to me years ago, Vish Varma, who we used to work with, um, said that, you know, the things and it’s probably. Probably not, not originally attributed to him, but it was something that he said frequently is that the things that are urgent are often not important. And the things that are important are often not urgent. And, you know, I think the, those things that just have to happen on a regular basis and you’ve got, you know, we’re shipping equipment to Boston and we’re onboarding and we’re off boarding and all of those things. Um, Making sure that that becomes routine and as error free as possible has been a big area of emphasis for us and I think will continue, um, in the next year. That you have to, the fundamentals of what you’re doing, you have to be able to, to execute on and not have to have it take all your attention, but it’s just so easy for it to take all your attention. 

Ashley Nichols: So to think about that is like, do we strategically to be able to shift and be like, okay, the operations run, right? So now we can think about, um, strategically, is this a line of business we want to be in? And if it is kind of skills and qualifications, do we have to add? Right. Um, and cause I think there’s a lot of that in our future. You know, is the, who we want to be when we grow up that, I mean, it takes some people sitting around noodle and some things out and spitball and ideas with each other and being like, okay, we agree. These are areas where we want to focus. And so we want to get some people certified in this and that. And that’s part of it. Part of how those lines of business are going to grow and and then super important to the opportunity owners and the capture and the marketing, uh, of what we do. So they’re sort of, you know, just intrinsically intertwined. They’re, um, going forward 

Adam McNair: for sure. Um, Yeah. So Kevin, um, I see that you’re, you’re, you’re off mute, uh, which is either, either a digital signal that you had some thoughts or inadvertent lack of mute button. But, uh, your thoughts for, for things like that for next year? 

Kevin Long: Uh, I, I couldn’t agree more. Right. I mean, 2019 2020 was about making sure that we were doing the right things day to day. And I think that we focused a lot on that. Um, you know, how do you take the hill and, uh, With uh, next year really looking at, you know, what hill do we want to take, right? It is taking the time to look at, at, you know, how do we want to, to position ourselves if doing, you know, DevOps, DevSecOps, right? How are we going to Be able to, uh, compete in, you know, a world where tech challenges are more and more, uh, common and things like that. And the ways to, to put, uh, highlight and in a direction that is, uh, good for the government. Interesting to me. And good for the, the folks that, uh, that, that, that work with us, uh, are, are really the, the things that I, I’m looking at, at, for, you know, making sure that we get 20, 21 squared away with that. And it’s, and, and, you know, for someone whose motto is you. Often solve today’s problems today. It’s a, it is a, uh, it’s a different part of my brain. Right. And so it’s, it’s exciting. So, 

Adam McNair: yeah, I, and I, I, I agree with you. I mean, I’m, I’m often in that, that camp. Well, because I, I think, you know, our business, especially where. The capture and BD side of things and the operational side are related. And we’ve, we’ve done a lot of work to try to make sure that we only propose things that can truly be executed and that we’re not going to go to a price. We can’t do the work and any of those kinds of things. Um, so I, I think we’ve, I think we, we bid, bid work that is more executable than, you know, maybe other places I’ve been in the past or, you know, people I’ve worked with. But. There are still details that you’re not going to be able to work everything out during that, that, you know, BD phase, you know, and I look at things like, well, we have to find a facility for the, you know, to do this workout. We have to find a hardware provider. We’re going to have to find a real niche technology expert. You know, we’ll just have to cross that bridge when we get to it. And, uh, those, those kind of problems that, that are, you know, either winner’s problems or opportunities that aren’t there yet or any of those things, you know, like, well, when do, you know, sometimes you inherit a whole bunch of those and you end up having to solve a lot of that. Um, you’ve certainly had also quite the year, um, in an unparalleled way that I could ever certainly have seen. Are there things, you know, other than not working seven days a week, are there, are there, are there, you know, and maybe getting a chair that is not a casual dining chair. Were there, were there things that you were thinking about that you wanted to do for next year? Thank you. 

Tamar Mintz: Yeah. So I think if you’ve ever worked on a program with me, um, my biggest challenge is if it’s not perfect, it’s done wrong. And I think, you know, this past year has, I see a lot of smiles. I’m tough. I know it. But, um, I think the big thing for me is that this year has really shown a lot of like actual problems, like real things we have to worry about and it provided a lot of perspective. So it allowed us to collectively say, okay, what’s actually the most important thing and has helped prioritize. And I think that’s something that I hope that I’m able to continue with over the next year. Um, yes. And I, um, Perfect is the enemy of good. And that’s something that I’ve heard from many people. And I know that that’s a reality. We’re all imperfect people. Um, the second thing is every year, I think my goal is always to get a little smarter. And I think that means different things to different people. So personally, it’s how do I help support the PMs? that work in the mission support organization. How do I support them better? How do I help them think outside the box a little more because they all have different challenges and that’s something that is an exciting opportunity for me. And also bigger picture. How do we increase our ability to support the customer? Like what are we not bringing to the table now? And I think some of it is just a lack of knowledge. I don’t know if it’s technical, I don’t know if it’s. Just not thinking about it, having the discussion. So kind of forcing our collective group to be uncomfortable with, um, comfortable with being uncomfortable, sorry, comfortable with being uncomfortable in that setting, because if, um, the more standard things are, the less. The less we’re really helping ourselves. And I think that’s one of the biggest challenges that I think happens is you get used to the day, the day to day. And so every year I tell myself, okay, I need to get smarter about something. Otherwise I’m going to be, I’m going to become complacent. And, um, it’s, it’s one of my. Biggest, um, nightmares to happen. So I’m hoping that this year that I know it sounds silly, but I think we all want to be the best we can be. And so I think for me, it’s always, what can I do better that I didn’t do last year? How can I be smarter? So, you know, and I know that we work with a lot of really smart people. So how can I leverage that? And 

Adam McNair: here’s one thing that I will say, and I think that goes, you know, it’s another part of my previous comments about the culture of the organization is. I think all of us really are constantly trying to do things better. And, and I think that there’s a lot of organizations, you know, that I’ve been exposed to where you maybe don’t find that as uniformly across the board. And, um, you know, this is not a. I mean, to, to, to look behind, you know, the kind of the way that we operate, you know, just from a service delivery standpoint, uh, I’m never calling anybody and asking, um, you know, are you doing what you’re supposed to be doing? Oh, our organization’s not like that. It’s, it’s, if there’s, you know, call me if I can help, or if we need to talk something over, because I, everybody here is really trying to push in the right direction and, and do the right things. And, and so I think that’s, that speaks again to the, to the, you know, to the people that, that we’re all trying to get better on, on an ongoing basis. And I think that’s, um, I think whether it be the SBA work, whether it be the, the, the Boston work that Kevin mentioned, you know, some of the things I, I think about all the programs that we’ve won in the last several years. And some of them it was like, Hey, look, we, we know, we know, and have done a lot of this part of this work lots and lots of times, but every program is always a little bit unique, a little bit different. It’s like, okay, we’re going to go figure that out. We’re going to go learn that. And that was the fun part, the exciting part. It wasn’t just like, Oh, no, I can’t believe we have to go, you know, do something new. And you look for an opportunity to learn something and get better. Um, now, Victoria, just, you know, what are your thoughts about things that you want to do going into next year? Thank you. 

Victoria Robinson: Well, I luckily have the luxury of being on the West Coast in three hours behind everyone else. So I think one of the big goals is getting all my meetings in the morning so I can have uninterrupted, like, three or four hours of work in the afternoon and trying to figure out the balance between having that informal meeting time where I can just touch base and go, Hey, I thought about this thing. What do you think? Or, Hey, we haven’t talked in a while. Let’s talk about something while we both have 15 minutes. And then. Having those structured meetings of, Hey, this is the strategy going forward, or this is the message we’re trying to push and trying to figure out that balance of having those intentional conversations versus those informal. And, you know, still trying to meet everyone and make sure everyone’s needs are met from an external and an internal. Kind of perspective and making sure those messages get out. So, it’s kind of a mishmash. 

Adam McNair: Yeah, well, I, I think that, that, you know, that intentionality, and I do think that that’s, you know, being a more mature organization, there’s a piece of that. Being a more mature professional, it plays into that. I, I will say that the couple of things that I, I’m going to try to focus on next year. The first one is, and we’ve been doing a lot of this, is the mature fundamentals of the business and so that those things that are supposed to happen on a recurring basis are happening on their own on a recurring basis so that we’re not having to slow down and figure out what didn’t get done. Not that we’re having those problems, but a lot of the things that we’ve been trying to do internally, like we We know what agenda we’re going to have for the conversation we’re going to have on Mondays at 11. And if we’re going to stagger what we talk about there that we remember that and do it and it’s intentional and just things like the agenda and the artifacts for that conversation they’re going to come out 24 hours ahead of time so that if somebody wants to read ahead they can do it. And those are just the, the, the organizational maturity that I’ll say I, I’ve not really Been around that much. I don’t know if there are some of the kind of marquee names in, in technology or GovCon or wherever that, that, that operate that way. But certainly the places that I’ve been were typically not that way. There were some, I would see some like big BD meetings when you CCI back in the days, you, you might get a read ahead and get some things before then. But um, I think at the time I viewed it as like, well, this is just more stuff that I, I need to do, but I think there’s a way you can do it where, and this is where you make sure that people aren’t overtasked, hopefully, that if you can have people where it is part of their job to do that, and it’s part of the time that they’re supposed to budget. And it’s not just saying. This is somebody else’s, you know, not ninth extra responsibility, uh, and setting up those kind of routine organizational structures, I think is a big, um, a big area of focus for next year. And then the other one, but which is, I think much more esoteric is, I think When you look back in government contracting, there have been groups of people that were influential and you look and you would hear later on that that was the group of people that was together at whatever company, uh, BTG back in the day. was one of those. There was an STG group of people back in the day, um, RSIS, um, Indus. These were companies that grew back, yeah, some to the size that we are today, some larger, um, ISS, which was a company that got acquired by, uh, CSCI years ago. And if you watched the leadership teams of those organizations over the course of their career, um, you could come back and say that there was a common thread that they were, they picked up skills and experience and were positioned for the remainder of their career with real leadership success. And it kind of came back to a common. Worked at that company and it creates a cohort mesh kind of across the industry, I think, and you’d look back and you go, those, those people that worked there were immensely successful and, uh, Whether the company stayed together or, or, or it, it, you know, sometimes there’s acquisitions and, you know, 10 years from now, who knows what, what highlight will will look like or not. Um, but even if, even if we are all still together, it’s looking at, there was a period of years where the, this team was, you know, Impactful to government contracting as a whole and advanced government and did impactful things. And so I think we, I think we’re kind of at one of those inflection points where I’d kind of say, I think we may, may be there at some level already. And, um, you know, when you’re at a couple hundred million dollar, you know, business, it’s, um, You certainly are on that playing field, and I think looking at lining up people’s objectives, because there’s a lot to this business, and some people want exposure to a lot of different parts of it, some people want to specialize in different areas, and I think we have a An opportunity to make sure that, um, at this scale, people can have the experience, whether it’s being involved in the pipeline or involved in solutioning or ops or financials or, you know, contracts or whatever piece, because I know a lot of times when people a super large business. It’s like, well, I was never allowed to touch pricing, right? And we don’t have to be that way. And so I think this, this coming year of making sure that, um, that we can use the corporation to provide expanded experience and, and backfilling skill sets for, uh, for the people in the corporation is, um, It’s something that I, I want to figure out how we continue to do or how we expand doing. And I think that’s one of the areas that the virtual remote work really helps because when you have somebody on a project and they’re on a project and like, as Ashley was saying, they don’t have 20 minutes. Well, they can’t drive out, you don’t want them to sit and do some corporate activity, and you don’t say, okay, well, if you have to drive from DC to Ashburn, I don’t want to ask you to stop midway in Fairfax at 530. Those things are easier now. And we’ve, we’ve had an opportunity to engage some people from our Cincinnati team. And, uh, one of our employees from a project that’s, that lives in West Virginia. And some of our BDM proposal efforts, um, giving, you know, other folks that are, um, working delivery, working, whatever, you know, part of the business that we’re going to price something. Hey, you can come sit in to the strategy session for that and talk it, talk it over, um, That’s something that I think is good. We have a, there’s a potential for a unique opportunity to give people that exposure to the inner workings of the company, especially because it’s remote. Like we just, it just, you just couldn’t, you couldn’t get there, uh, in the same way that you can now, uh, with allowing people to be able to flex into other areas. So I think that’s, um, you know, certainly something that, that I’m looking for next year. Um, Well, anybody have any, any, um, You know, kind of final thoughts, I think, as we wrap up here. We appreciate the, uh, you know, everybody’s, uh, time and, uh, and engagement on, uh, on, on the highlight cast here. Um, any, any final thoughts, uh, before we, uh, before we wrap up? All right. Well, thank you. Um, I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to listen to the HighlightCast. If you take a look at our LinkedIn page for Highlight, we have, uh, content that we, uh, we put out there as well with, uh, some of the, uh, updates from the company. And if you check our website, HighlightTech. com, we put up news articles and so forth there for, uh, other ways to, uh, learn more. Learn about and engage with the company. Thank you everybody. Thank you for your time and I look forward to talking to you on the next Highlight Cast. 

The views and opinions expressed in this episode are those of the hosts and do not necessarily reflect Highlight Technologies and or any agency of the U. S. government.

Transitioning to Telework During COVID

Back in March 2020, millions of Americans transitioned to remote work. Working from the comfort of your own home almost sounds too good to be true and in certain aspects, it is. Many began working from home for the first time and had to learn how to cope with a whole new set of challenges.

When working remotely, it is easy to lose work-life balance as the two slowly blend and a clear-cut routine collapses from the picture. Distractions can become more noticeable, lack of physical interaction becomes routine, and overall satisfaction can decline.

One of Highlight’s employees, Desiree Reynolds, described to Highlight Inspiration her experience transitioning onto Highlight’s SBA remote loan processing team. After securing her position, she stated that “[my] position was what I had been dreaming about since completing my bachelor’s degree.”

Ms. Reynolds transitioned from being constantly surrounded by people in the fast-paced service industry to teleworking independently from her home. She recounted how she transitioned from being on her feet 10-14 hours up to 7 days a week to SBA’s structured 5 days a week from the comfort of her own home. In addition to so many others across the nation, this world of remote work was a struggle that required new thinking, and new coping mechanisms to face the transition.

Ms. Reynolds utilized a few different techniques to help with her new work environment. She took up daily journaling to help ground her as “there is something about getting pen on paper that creates a calming effect on my psyche.” She also mentioned the positive effects of exercise through daily walks which helped “break up my day and facilitated the rest of it go that much smoother.” She also turned to short dance breaks to songs to get her pumped up for her meetings or the workday. Ms. Reynolds leaned on her significant other and team chats to get human interaction during the day.

Realistically, not everyone knows how to manage the effects of teleworking on their own. Highlight wants to ensure every employee feels comfortable working and cope with their individual workday during this remote experience. Highlight is dedicated to providing important and useful resources to our employees to help with this transition.

Highlight has created company-wide channels to allow our employees a space to communicate and participate in activities. Our Communities of Interest channels allow employees to share information and discuss for those interested in specific career development/related topics. In addition, Highlight has rolled out Special Interest Groups, providing a safe space to employees to discuss topics such as wellness, being a working parent, diversity & inclusion, and specifically coping with working from home. Highlight has also rolled out a weekly meditation group for employees to promote mindfulness and stress-relief during COVID. To help employees with interaction, our Human Relations and Internal Communications team has also held a variety of virtual team events, and held employee contests to promote employee engagement, team building, and interaction during this challenging period. Highlight understands when struggling to cope and facing new challenges many individuals benefit from professional assistance and advice. Our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides confidential access to professional counseling services and a 24/7 hotline. The EAP is also intended for immediate family members of employees at Highlight.

This year has been a unique challenge for everyone. Working remotely is not a welcomed transition for all, however, at Highlight, we are happy to provide tools and activities to our employees to ease the transition. As Ms. Reynolds said, “the transition [to teleworking] was not an easy one at first, but one that I am incredibly grateful that I made. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take care of yourself mentally and physically regardless of the position that you are in.”

Author: Victoria Robinson | Marketing Manager

Highlight Commemorates ACT-IAC Associates Program Graduates

(DECEMBER 9TH, 2020) Fairfax, VA – Highlight Technologies officially announces our ACT-IAC Associates Program Class of 2020. Highlights Internal Operation Manager, Mary Padberg, as well as Highlight’s Human Resources Manager, Fiona Sityar, were both accepted into ACT-IAC’s Associates Program last year and have recently graduated from the developmental course.

The ACT-IAC program is a prestigious 10-week leadership development opportunity that facilitates professional and personal growth, cultivates mastery of skills, and prepares associates for future roles as leaders within the government and federal information technology industry. The Associates program objective is to prepare rising star and early career professionals for future leadership roles. The program consists of coaching, classroom training, and independent and team exercises. The program is centered around subject matter experts within the government IT community.

“The Associates Program was an engaging, collaborative experience that facilitated meaningful relationships with peers and mentors in government and industry. The most impactful aspect was gaining exposure to different perspectives through other people, educational sessions, and the COIs” said Mary Padberg, Internal Operations Manager.

“I had the opportunity to enhance my knowledge and understanding of the collaboration between government and industry, I was also able to develop great relationships along the way. I’m so grateful to the Associates leadership team for their support throughout the year and to my team at Highlight for championing my professional development and continued investment in my growth!” said Fiona Sityar, Human Resources Manager.

Highlight is a continued supporter of government and industry collaboration through groups like ACT-IAC and AFCEA. Our COO Adam McNair, himself an ACT-IAC Fellow, said “We’re in this business to support our nation. We take every opportunity that we can to further the collaboration of industry and government. We’re so fortunate to have a platform to concurrently support government services and career advancement for our dedicated employees.”



The American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC) is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization established to improve government through the effective and innovative application of technology. ACT-IAC provides an objective, trusted and ethical forum where government and industry executives can communicate, collaborate, and learn.

About Highlight

Highlight Technologies is an award-winning woman owned, ISO® 9001, ISO 20000, ISO 27001, ISO 44001 certified, ISO 56000 certified, CMMI-DEV Level 3, and CMMI-SVC Level 3 appraised small business that provides IT development and transformation, secure IT operations, and mission support services to more than 20 U.S. federal government customers. Our customers include National Security (DHS, State, Army, Navy, DISA, the Joint Staff, DTRA, Intel), Health IT (USAID, USDA, NIH, HRSA, EPA) and Citizen Services (FCC, FDIC, FTC, GSA, HHS, SBA, Education, Labor). For more information, please visit www.highlighttech.com.