Tiffanny Gates, president and owner of Emerging Technologies Group USA

Tiffany Gates, Owner and President of Emerging Technologies USATiffanny Gates has come a long way since her early days as a signals intelligence officer with the Navy. In 2001, she started her own company, Emerging Technologies Group USA — this at a time when there weren’t many companies with critical skills in computer forensics and technical analysis serving the government or customers in the commercial and legal fields. Today, ETG has over 60 employees, with just over $12 million in revenue last year, and counts the Department of Defense, Department of State, and Department of Justice, as well as the intelligence community, among its clients. In the following Q&A, Gates shares her tips for retaining top talent, and weighs in on hot trends in the field of data security.

What is your background and why did you start the company?

Tiffanny Gates: I’m a 1995 graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy. In the Navy, I was a signals intelligence officer stationed in Florida, Hawaii, and Maryland, responsible for briefing the station commander on daily intelligence. I worked at the National Security Agency, in close contact with other agencies in the intelligence community, and after the Navy as a consultant on a range of information operation issues. We started our company in 2001, pre 9-11, when we realized there were not many companies with the needed critical skills in computer forensics and technical analysis serving the government or, for that matter, customers in the commercial and legal fields. I then ran the operations of ETG when we started; until elected President in 2004. I would have to say that my Navy background has significantly aided me in the corporate world. Hence our small business status today as a WO (SB), SDVO (SB).

How do you think your Navy background prepared you to be CEO of your own company?

Tiffanny Gates: I firmly believe that the foundation that is put in place when you come from the military provides you with a certain set of skills, a certain perspective and sense of integrity; for instance, the importance of leadership by example. I want to make sure that anything I expect of my staff, I also demand of myself. In the Navy I learned to see a bigger strategic picture, not just tactical issues as they arise. When I left the Navy, I wanted to continue working to support our country and its interests. I know there are a lot of people who served in the military who feel the same way. I’m fortunate to be leading a company that I know is serving the interests of our country and supporting the national security needs of all Americans.

How would you describe the company now in terms of employees and revenue?

Tiffanny Gates: Currently we have just over 60 employees. They’ve had extensive experience in the military, in the intelligence community, and in business. They’re all analysts at heart – programmers, intelligence analysts, cryptologists, tactical communications specialists, and experts in computer forensics. Many of them speak other languages. Our 2007 revenue was just over $12 million. We’re targeting between $15 million and $18 million in the coming year.

Who are some of your customers?

Tiffanny Gates: We support customers in the Department of Defense, Department of State, and Department of Justice as well as the Intelligence Community. We’ve also been called on increasingly by customers in private industry and law firms to provide services like network security, electronic discovery, and computer forensics.

What is your biggest challenge in business today?

Tiffanny Gates: Finding the right people who are both technically competent and have the appropriate clearance for some of the highly sensitive work we do in areas like counter-terrorism. The challenge is finding candidates who meet these high standards and recruit them from a small and shrinking pool of professionals.

What are some of the hot trends you are tracking that will impact your customers over the next 12-18 months?

Tiffanny Gates: Data security remains a hot trend with our customers for the next 12-18 months. Data security is an all-inclusive term that encompasses data at rest and in transit, as well as data that is internal to a customer and that which is shared with the outside world (internet). Additionally, new laws applicable to archiving employee data for five year.An example of this is: Complying with federal and state laws and regulations about data preservation, data security, and data breaches is increasingly a challenge. Some laws, such as Sarbanes Oxley, require particular kinds of data to be preserved for three or more years. Other laws a breach is discovered. The recently revised Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandate 100 percent knowledge of where every data type, category, and subject matter is stored, and the ability to provide detailed descriptions or copies to the courts and others rapidly and without delay.

So, vast amounts of data are being preserved, accounted for, and kept ready for reproduction at a moment’s notice. At the same time, risks from outside attacks have increased as new vulnerabilities keep arising both in terms of software and hardware. Every new device, such as the Apple iPhone, and new piece of software, such as Windows Vista, is a new point of vulnerability being exploited by hackers. The momentum we are seeing in government and business is the need to push or share data out as far as possible while at the same time safeguarding it while it is in transit as well as when it is at rest on employees’ laptops out in the field. The need for sharing is in tension with the need for security. We are helping our customers to balance these competing needs by understanding the tradeoffs and risks associated with each decision.

How would you describe your company’s culture?

Tiffanny Gates: I’d say we’re a family-oriented culture. I want to ensure that even as we get bigger, our company continues to have that small business feel, where employees really want to come to work every day, because their work is important, and is rewarded and recognized. We listen to our people, and they’re encouraged to be open about everything. We have a history of looking out for our employees’ interests and allowing them to just do their job. I’m happy to be able to provide that type of workplace.

What will your company look like in five years?

Tiffanny Gates: In five years, we should surpass $50 million dollars in revenue, and 150 employees. At that point, we will no longer be defined as a small business. In fact, because of our specialized services, we already compete in the spaces occupied by larger firms. Consequently, we are accustomed to going head to head with larger integrators and shouldn’t have a problem making the transition.

What is your view of merger and acquisition activity in the government contracting space?

Tiffanny Gates: The Government’s trend toward the use of large omnibus contracts on an Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) basis has hurt small business directly by limiting Prime contracting opportunities and has caused medium sized business to look to mergers and acquisitions in order to stay competitive. It may potentially help small businesses with niche capabilities and experience with a single agency that may be attractive to medium and large businesses looking to be competitive on an omnibus contract with that agency. However, overall the merger and acquisition activity always comes down to what makes the best business sense for a company, potentially slower growth on an organic basis or quicker (but more expensive) growth by acquisition.

What is something most people don’t know about your company?

Tiffanny Gates: This company really likes to give back to its employees. We want to help free our employees from financial distractions, as much as we reasonably can. We cover 100 percent of medical expenses for the whole family. The employee doesn’t pay for anything.Not many companies do that. We also have a goal-sharing program that gives back to the employees based on our profitability for the year. We have a lot of fun together. Our employees are a close-knit group, and we share our concerns as we’ve grown. You hit certain flexing points as a growing company, but the company as a whole has done as well as it has because the employees believe in what they are doing and they believe in each other.

What is something most people don’t know about you personally?

Tiffanny Gates: Interesting question. Everyone knows I love being outdoors, especially with my family and closest friends. I personally enjoy cooking and discovering new wines. I am happiest when I have the opportunity to combine all of the aforementioned – I love to host events where I can cook for others, relax outdoors, sip wine and take enjoyment from seeing others enjoy themselves.

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Interview with Tiffanny Gates conducted by Lisa Singh

Read more interviews here: https://blog.executivebiz.com/category/interviews/

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