Meet 2017 GovCon Award Finalist Susie Sylvester of Dev Technology Group

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Susie Sylvester, co-founder and CEO, Dev Technology Group

On Nov. 1 the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Professional Services Council will hold their annual Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards. This gala honors the leaders and legends of the government contracting community.

Dev Technology Group is one of seven nominees for Contractor of the Year ($25 million to $75 million).

Harold Jacobsen of Cushman & Wakefield, a sponsor of this year’s GovCon Awards, described Dev Technology as “an exciting company that has grown tremendously over the past several years.”

WashingtonExec sat down with Co-founder and CEO Susie Sylvester to discuss obstacles and innovation within the industry.

WashingtonExec: What inspired the creation of Dev Technology in 1998?

Susie Sylvester: We started Dev Technology based on the desire to work directly with our clients to support their mission. We saw a need for niche technical expertise coupled with the desire to leverage that expertise to support our clients’ mission, and we knew we could do that. We also wanted to establish a company that puts its employees first.

With a background in human resources, I knew that if we could focus on supporting our employees and making a great work environment, they would be best positioned to support the complex needs of our clients and willing to go above and beyond. We spend a lot of hours with the people we work with, so it is important that we enjoy the company of our coworkers and work in a supportive culture.

WashingtonExec: What sets Dev Technology Group apart from its competitors?

Susie Sylvester: As mentioned in the previous question, we founded Dev Technology with a focus on putting our clients and employees first, and we still hold true to this today. This enables us to provide a high-level of technical expertise while supporting our clients mission needs. Our employees are proud to support government missions, making their work more than just a job to them. Our employees often comment in employee feedback surveys that they enjoy feeling like they are part of something important.

This level of dedication enables us to provide unrivaled service and to constantly look for ways to make improvements for the government. Our teams focus on identifying innovations that enhance our clients’ ability to meet their mission; we always look to find the best long-term solution rather than the easy solution.

WashingtonExec: Where are you looking for innovation in technology?

Susie Sylvester: We rely on our employees to fuel innovation. We depend on their individual expertise and areas of interest to share knowledge across the company. Innovation is an expectation, and we encourage our employees to share new ideas or methods and to attend training and conferences.

This year, we formally established our Center of Innovation and opened our Innovation Lab that includes both a physical space in our new corporate office, as well as cloud-based labs in Amazon Web Services and Azure. Our Center of Innovation is a hands-on opportunity for our employees to gain experience in areas such as DevOpsSec, cloud, open source technologies and even natural language processing.

One of the fun projects that has come out of this lab is our Amazon Alexa skill called U.S. Border Wait Times. With this skill, you can ask Alexa about the crossing times and delays associated with any border crossing point along the Canadian or Mexican borders of the United States.

WashingtonExec: What are some of the biggest challenges the industry will face in the upcoming years?

Susie Sylvester: The government is challenged with trying to find opportunities to save, and agencies are often faced with having to do more with less. This reality has hastened the commoditization of IT services including those where there is limited talent.

For example, experienced application developers are hard to find, especially in the D.C. area; however, we see some pressure to push down their labor rates. Because the developers know their skills are in demand, they look for higher compensation, which often does not match the government’s mode of reducing costs. Dev Technology has a history of using a smaller number highly skilled resources to get a job done, and it will be increasingly essential to focus on identifying innovations that can help the government reduce costs.

WashingtonExec: What project(s) is Dev Technology Group most proud of accomplishing this past year?

Susie Sylvester:  There are many different areas that our teams have been working on this year that we are really proud of. One example that is going to have significant benefits for the government is our work to modernize several mainframe applications for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We are consolidating three separate human capital systems into one enterprisewide web application.

The mainframe systems are expensive for the government to run and maintain, and this effort is projected to decrease operational costs by over 75 percent per year and support the federal IT modernization initiative. Our team has been doing this work under tight timeframes and working tirelessly to get this modernization complete. It’s not uncommon to see the project team in the office late on a Friday night or over the weekend; their dedication at working through this modernization has been impressive.

Another exciting accomplishment is the work we have been doing with the departments of Homeland Security, Defense and State to support the government of Mexico to improve the exchange of biometric information between the U.S. and Mexico. We have architected and designed the data sharing solution for the government of Mexico through our support at DHS. This solution has the potential to provide other countries with a template to develop an effective and affordable solution that can greatly improve homeland security and data sharing.

WashingtonExec: What are you looking forward to most in the future?

Susie Sylvester: Our team has established a set of goals called Dev 2020, which includes both financial goals as well as goals related to being a leader in the markets we are targeting. I think achieving these goals  —while challenging — will be exciting and provide many opportunities for our team members to take on new challenges. I look forward to seeing our whole team thrive led by our leaders who are committed to continuing to exceed our clients’ expectations while fostering our culture.

 


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