Q&A with 2016 GovCon Award Finalist Julian Setian, CEO of SOSi


Julian Setian, SOSi

The finalists for this year’s Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards were announced in September and WashingtonExec is bringing you its annual series with the nominees.

The Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Professional Services Council have unveiled the finalists for the 14th Annual Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards, the premier awards event for the Washington area government contracting community. The winners will be named at a Nov. 1 gala dinner at the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner.

WashingtonExec talked with one of the finalists, Julian Setian, CEO of SOS International LLC, to get his take on leadership, among other issues.

WashingtonExec: What is your organization’s plan for growth over the next three to five years?

Julian Setian: Our goal is to become one of the largest and most successful service and technology integrators in the defense and aerospace industry. To do that, we will build on our reputation for taking on the U.S. government’s biggest and most difficult technology and program management challenges. We see our future growth path very clearly from $250 million to $350 million and from there, to $500+ million.

WashingtonExec: What are the fastest-growing components of your business?

Julian Setian: The fastest-growing area of our mission solutions business is in services that support our nation’s foreign military sales programs. They include long-range logistics and supply chain management, operations and maintenance, base services, and expeditionary medical services. In our intelligence solutions business, we are seeing increased growth in two areas primarily: multispectral image analysis and LIDAR (Light Imaging, Detection, and Ranging); and strategic information campaign planning and program management.

We are very fortunate in that, for a company our size, we have a highly diverse client base in the national security community, and we offer a wide range of proven capabilities. We work with the Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and intelligence community. We offer capabilities ranging from intelligence analysis to runway construction. This gives us the flexibility to shift our business based on customer needs and requirements.

WashingtonExec: How is your business involved in the community in terms of corporate citizenship?

Julian Setian: Each year, SOSi invests in the communities where we live and work and in support of our customers. This includes active membership in organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Executives for National Security, Association of the United States Army, Professional Services Council, and Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

We are also a lead national sponsor of Lead with Languages, a nonprofit organization led by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, whose mission it is to promote and strengthen K-12 foreign language education across the country.

Our corporate headquarters team located in Reston, Virginia, is actively engaged in community outreach and volunteer activities around the National Capital Region throughout the year, including sponsoring and participating in the Army Ten-Miler (in which I will lead our SOSi race team again this year) and the USO-Metro Reston Firecracker for the Troops race.

Customer support includes giving back to veterans, active duty military personnel and their families. Our employees donate holiday gifts for local military families in support of USO’s Project Elf campaign each year and SOSi is the major sponsor for The Mission Continues new 5th Platoon in Washington, D.C. We are also a supporter of our local branch of Team Red White and Blue.

In support of our local community, SOSi employees serve as mentors at South Lakes High School’s Annual Ethics Day, and participate in Wreaths Across America, Cornerstones and the Reston hypothermia shelter’s annual campaigns – including back-to-school backpack drives, Thanksgiving food collection and cold-weather gear donation.

WashingtonExec: How do you see a new administration changing the landscape of government contracting?

Julian Setian: Regardless of who wins the presidential election, for better or for worse, I see our government becoming more assertive around the world. I see us stepping up our involvement in the Middle East; I see us reversing the trend to downsize our military footprint in Europe; I see us continuing to strengthen our intelligence collection and processing capabilities; I see us accelerating our offensive and defensive cyber warfare capabilities; I see us increasing foreign assistance programs as a way of strengthening partner nation capacity. All of this means that overseas government spending will increase.

All of that said, however, I do not see our government becoming more efficient or effective. Many of the bureaucratic obstacles and impediments will remain intact. I see efforts to attract greater technological innovation continuing to ignore the smart, technologically savvy workforce, entrepreneurs and business leaders in the traditional government contracting industry; and I see our government continuing to ignore the fact that overregulation and the acquisition system itself are the major obstacles to innovation.

WashingtonExec: What business book has had the largest impact on your professional development?

Julian Setian: It is very difficult to pinpoint a single book that has had the largest impact on my professional development. I generally don’t read business-related books, preferring instead to read biographies and autobiographies written by and about people who overcome adversity and beat life’s odds in the face of overwhelming dissention and disagreement. I’m inspired by people, not viewpoints.

Having recently seen the Broadway show “Hamilton” in New York City, I just began reading Ron Chernow’s biography about the man himself. As “the principal designer of the federal government, the primary catalyst for the emergence of the two-party system, the patron saint of Wall Street, and the object of ardent idolatry as well as vehement loathing by his peers,” his story, while tragic, is one of unprecedented and unequaled drive, vision and accomplishment. He achieved more in his relatively short (i.e. 45-year) life without the aid of airplanes, computers, and iPhones than the majority of the rest of us could possibly achieve in our lifetimes.

WashingtonExec: How has your mother’s influence impacted your career?

Julian Setian: Watching my mother start and help grow SOSi into the large, successful enterprise that it is today has had a major impact on me – in my growth as an entrepreneur, mentor, business and civic leader.

Having put herself through college while working full time and raising a family, to then start a successful government contract business with no government small-business or woman-owned minority set-aside assistance, my mom’s business and family-focused mindset, personal commitment and extraordinary passion have inspired me to continue her legacy and grow the business into the globally recognized company it is today.

The values, ethics and commitment that she has consistently shown over the years have become the hallmarks of the company’s culture today. Her story embodies and was the inspiration behind our “Challenge Accepted” motto.

Related: SOSi Sponsors Army Ten-Miler; Hosts Additional Race in Iraq


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