Paul Strasser serves as the Senior Vice President of Strategic Development for Dynamics Research Corporation. We had the opportunity to discuss his new job and some of the challenges he faced during his transition. We also spoke to Strasser about his strategy to build up DRC’s cybersecurity portfolio and what he believes are some of the keys to his professional achievements.
ExecutiveBiz: Can you briefly tell our readers about your new job and why you are excited about this position?
Paul Strasser: My title is Senior Vice President of Strategic Development, and I report directly to the Jim Regan, the CEO of Dynamics Research Corporation. In my role, I will help our senior management team set the strategic direction of the company. My initial focus is to set up strategic planning around key market areas, most notably cybersecurity services for the federal government.
ExecutiveBiz: Can you talk about cybersecurity a little bit? How is the company positioned to help the government as the government figures out the long-range plans and priorities around cybersecurity?
Paul Strasser: DRC has a tremendous background in cyber security. We have done a lot of work with the Department of Defense (DoD), the civilian government and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). At DHS we work directly for the CIO's Office in areas such as governance, policy, certification and accreditation, and FISMA compliance and auditing.
Today there is a move towards “continuous monitoring“, which is an adoption of some good techniques that have come out of the State Department –namely from Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) John Streufert. The State Department developed risk profiles around the Consensus Audit Guidelines that they use to constantly monitor and review their information security risks across their IT networks and devices. DRC sees this as an important initiative for the future because continuous monitoring not only helps the federal government have greater visibility and response to vulnerabilities in real-time, it should also save the taxpayer's money over the current system built around document compliance. We are excited about the potential here as it fits nicely with our work in engineering solutions, training and performance support, and business transformation that we currently deliver to the federal government.
“One thing that I think the general public misunderstands about our industry is that the contractor community is an important part of the team that delivers on the missions of the government.” – Paul Strasser
ExecutiveBiz: Can you talk about the different challenges that you face while moving from a larger company to a small private company and back to a public company and how that has worked out for you?
Paul Strasser: I think that big companies employ a lot of really good practices. When I was at Titan, there were many good practices implemented in operations, business development and engineering. When I went to Pragmatics, I was able to make a big difference because I brought that “large business thinking“ with me. It was a really good experience for me to go to a smaller company and make such a large impact so quickly. This led directly to an acceleration of growth. The growth we experienced at Pragmatics over the five-and-a-half years that I was there was absolutely tremendous, well over 30 percent per year. There we were able to be very successful in expanding our markets, maintaining good customer satisfaction, and growing our infrastructure simultaneously. As we grew the company, we also had to grow the infrastructure.
Going to DRC is a very different situation. DRC is a great company with strong customer reputation and robust infrastructure. So in my role leading strategic development, having a really good customer reputation is extremely valuable. I know it is never simple to grow and deliver quality solutions, but it is certainly a lot easier to make a company grow at a good pace when delivery and past performance are solid. DRC presents a wonderful opportunity for me to bring my growth-oriented nature, combining business development and strategy, with my extensive experience in operational execution. It is also challenging because DRC has established business processes, is publicly-traded and larger than Pragmatics. That said, it is nice to have that big company capability and still be of a size where everyone can make a difference.
ExecutiveBiz: Can you say what some of your challenges might be and your plan to overcome them?
Paul Strasser: Right now, it is about getting to know the company, getting to know the people, getting to know what we do well and what we do really, really well in order to distinguish ourselves in the market. As I develop an understanding of these things, it will help me craft a plan to take those nuggets of opportunity and determine how to bring those to existing and new customers. There is a lot of good work that is going on at DRC. I'm still coming up to speed on all of that.
My job is really to connect the dots, look at how we are doing, what our value proposition is, and figure out how we get from where we are today to where we want to be. There are some challenges because DRC is a mid-tier company and we have many geographical locations. So bringing that all together, enhancing those capabilities and then bringing those to market, in a way that we sell the entire corporate capability to all customers ““ that's really the challenge. I love challenges and I'm confident we will have great success.
ExecutiveBiz: Are acquisitions a part of your strategy to build up your cybersecurity portfolio?
Paul Strasser: Absolutely. Part of my charter is to work with the chief financial officer (CFO), the CEO, and other Senior Management to target specific opportunities on the M&A side that promote strategic development and synergies in target markets. For example, I think cyber security is a high-growth area right now and there is great interest in acquiring cybersecurity companies.
ExecutiveBiz: What do you think are two or three keys to your success that has allowed you to achieve the leadership positions that you have held so far?
Paul Strasser: We are in the services business, so I have to remind myself, and others, that it is really about people. It is about finding good people who are passionate about achieving the mission and working collaboratively as a team to deliver results. One thing that I think the general public misunderstands about our industry is that the contractor community is an important part of the team that delivers on the missions of the government. These are some of the greatest missions in the world. Mission success is what keeps people like me energized and engaged whether it is supporting the war fighter, protecting the homeland, or keeping our banking systems safe. These are the missions we care an awful lot about as Americans. For me, it is about finding others with the passion for supporting those missions, who have the right skill sets and intelligence, and ensuring that they are given the proper environment to be successful.
The other thing that I think is important is to be a part of the community. Washington, D.C. is a big place, but what's surprising is that it is also a small world and people know each other very well. Reputation is a big deal. For us, it is about being a part of that community, giving something back, and achieving the reputation that comes from quality delivery. What that says is that DRC is a company that delivers better than the rest of the crowd, DRC cares about the mission, and DRC will go to all lengths to make sure that we support our customers and our community.
The last point I would make is that I'm a huge believer in collaboration — open collaboration. I'm currently reading a book called What Would Google Do? It is really interesting when you look at Google as a company and how they engage with their customers and employees. I'm a big believer in collaboration, both internal and external, and if we can involve our customers and employees in dialogues everyday to come up with the right answers — not just the politically correct answer, but the right answer“”the ones that really solve the problems or challenges that we are faced with, that's got to be job one. It's about getting it right and doing the right thing. Collaboration is the way to get to that point. So people, collaboration, support to the mission and community ““ those are things that I think are really important and have helped me as a leader.
ExecutiveBiz: Those are all of my questions. Was there anything else that you wanted to cover or talk about that we didn't address in our interview?
Paul Strasser: The only other thing that I would mention is that I am really excited about the three primary initiatives DRC is focused on, in the near term: cyber security, Health IT, and financial regulation and reform. Besides cyber security, Health IT is an area in which DRC has developed strong capabilities recently, and I'm excited to see that we continue to leverage Health IT in places like the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the military health arena. The third area in which we are very interested is our support to customers such as Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). FDIC's mission is very important right now with all that has occurred and with recent legislative activity on the Hill to reform financial regulation. From a market perspective, these three key areas will receive much attention as we develop strategic action plans in order to get to organic growth rates that will be equal or better than our peer set.