Reports Best Places to Work

Keeping its culture

Defense Point strives to maintain its core principles as it grows

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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A robot keeps CEO George McKenzie (right) in touch
with Chief Information Officer Josh Nacol.
Photo by Mark Rhodes

Defense Point Security and the hit television show “The Big Bang Theory” have something in common: mobile virtual-presence robots.

“We’ve taken a unique approach to our corporate culture by creating virtual connection cameras – virtual presence robots – at both of our offices in Herndon and Alexandria,” says company CEO George McKenzie.

“We have people scattered in a lot of states. This is like a portal into the other office. It’s a way to maintain a break room feel. The virtual presence helps because people don’t feel isolated.”

Employees can log into the robot – a tablet on a moveable base – and drive it into a conference room. The robot moves about the room, focusing on the person who is talking. “I think there may be some apprehension about talking to a face on a stick at first, but five minutes into the meeting, you don’t notice it any more,” McKenzie says. “We have been looking at the robot for a while. When we opened our second office in Herndon last summer, there was a genesis for doing it.”

The company’s services range from security engineering to incident response. One of its specialties is digital media analysis (computer forensics), which provides timely information to help determine whether a security incident has occurred.

The growing company last year ranked No. 1 among small businesses in the Best Places to Work in Virginia. This year it is the top-ranked company among midsize businesses.

The company opened the Herndon office when it began outgrowing its 3,500-square-foot space in Old Town Alexandria. Employees are allowed to work from whichever location is closest to their home. “Instead of adding on additional space, we are putting up satellite offices closer to our employees,” McKenzie says. “We will be opening more of these around the country.”

In 2015, the company won a couple of new federal prime contracts and also landed new commercial customers. “That was a big one for us,” McKenzie says, noting that the company has worked with commercial customers in the past, but the projects were “more transactional. Now we have full-time commercial services customers that are buying services from us on an annual basis.”

Customers include the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services and the Department of Homeland Security. Defense Point opened an office in Chandler, Ariz., in 2014 to support Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The company partners started it with their own money. “We started small and worked our way through,” McKenzie says. “We did it on our own.”

As the company grew, he and his partners decided to try outsourcing some recruiting in an attempt to score more candidates. But they soon realized that outsourcing was not feasible. “We have a rigorous recruiting process, and they don’t have the same drive and understanding so we brought it back in-house,” McKenzie says.

The firm currently has 150 employees. Two of its biggest challenges are preserving the corporate culture while it expands and recruiting and maintaining talent while ensuring quality. “It has taken us a lot of learning experience to get here,” McKenzie says. “You can’t just go out and find a cybersecurity specialist. It’s a high-demand industry with very little unemployment. So how do we differentiate our company to attract the talent we want?”

He believes the company’s focus on treating people well and establishing a community of talented professionals is the answer. “We are not just a company. We are a family, a community,” McKenzie says. “That has benefited us greatly.”

The company ranked No. 1,291 on the 2015 Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in the U.S with a three-year growth of 323 percent. Defense Point also was listed in Washington Business Journal’s 50 Fastest-Growing Companies and as one of the Washingtonian’s 50 Best Places to Work.

The firm pays 100 percent of the premium for medical insurance for employees and their families. Other benefits include additional paternity and maternity leave, an in-house gym, 24-hour access to the company’s computer lab area, which is open seven days a week, and free LifeLock, a service that monitors credit cards and credit scores.

As part of its ongoing training, Defense Point holds study groups for a variety of certifications, including Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) and Program Management Professional (PMP).

Being passionate about your work is an important key to success, McKenzie says. “If you are just chasing a dollar, you will find it very difficult. You have to be living, breathing experts in what you do. Don’t chase work that may not be in your lane. Stay true to who you are and focus on who you want to be. Early on people came to us and offered us work out of our discipline. It was difficult, but we were true to our selves and turned it away.”

Best Places to Work 2016 list of midsize employers


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