As area vice president for Dell’s defense & intelligence field sales team, Joe Ayers has witnessed first-hand the growth of government contracting. Since his arrival at Dell in 1999, Ayers has been involved in sales and support for DoD and intelligence customers worldwide. With his background in aviation with the U.S. Army, a bachelor’s degree in engineering management from the United States Military Academy at West Point, and training that includes Flight School, Ranger, Airborne and Air Assault, Ayers knows what government agencies need.
Joe Ayers: This is my 12th year. I was an Army Officer prior and I was looking for a transition into the corporate world. There was a chance meeting with a neighbor and I learned about an opportunity at Dell, and that’s how I ended up getting my start.
ExecutiveBiz: When you started, did you go straight into the defense business end?
Joe Ayers: I did. I ran a team of engineers, systems consultants supporting our defense customers.
ExecutiveBiz: When you began, what challenges was Dell facing in that particular market?
Joe Ayers: Our challenge when I first started in 1999 was we were rapidly growing and our challenge was to continue to build the team to meet demand and continue to support our customers to the level of support and expectations that they had become accustomed to.
ExecutiveBiz: Along the way, in the last 12 years, how have you seen this department grow and expand?
Joe Ayers: My focus is the Department of Defense. Our business is probably four to five times the size it was when I first started. The big growth is that we’ve really gone beyond the perception where we just sell the 399 PC to home users. We’re now into many things; whether it be servers or storage or data centers and our professional services. We’re much larger than we were a decade ago.
ExecutiveBiz: Right now, the buzz word is cloud. Where does Dell fall into that?
Joe Ayers: We support customers both on a public and on the private cloud side. We are a large supporter of the infrastructure for a lot of our cloud providers out there in industry, so whether you are talking about the telcos or just some of the larger Internet companies, Dell serves as the backbone behind a lot of that infrastructure. We also are supporting a lot of our customers through a private cloud. That would be defined as we are now building modular data centers and supporting our customers at their locations. If they are just consolidating within their agency and putting it on their site, on a government location, we are now building those large data centers for them.
ExecutiveBiz: You are in a highly competitive market. What makes your company stand above the others?
Joe Ayers: I’d say it’s a mix of our people, our strategy, which is to provide open capable technology at the most affordable prices to our customer. And the last is probably our focus on our customers. We’ve got some great folks. We’ve got the right strategy in terms of how we go out there with our open capable technology and then the last piece is supporting those customers in their mission.
ExecutiveBiz: Tell us a little about you, personally. What makes you tick?
Joe Ayers: For me, personally, I love the challenge. I love the defense customer base. I really enjoy my job. I get up every day and I work hard to make our business a little better every day that I come to work. Whether it be after our acquisition of Perot or some of the other acquisitions we are doing, I come in every day and make our business a little bit more effective and a little bit more meaningful to our customers.
ExecutiveBiz: Would you say your military background has had a positive impact on how you’ve been able to grow your division?
Joe Ayers: Yes, I think so. I think my background has provided me with the cultural understanding of my customers, to fully understand their mission and what they are trying to accomplish. I also think I benefited from a lot of Army training and chances to lead teams that you would not get to do in industry at such a young age. I had served for eight and a half years in the Army and that time significantly benefited me and set a good course for when I joined Dell.
ExecutiveBiz: I think that is all I have. Is there anything I didn’t ask that you would like to discuss?
Joe Ayers: I think the only thing that I would add is we are working on the cloud initiative . . . you will have deployable type networks, where you can use various sizes of containers; whether they be a nine foot ISU90 container, 13 foot containers up to 26 even up to 40 foot conexes. We will design solutions that are readily deployable via aircraft or ship with our customers. When our defense customers deploy or are in remote locations they can have a package built by Dell that will support them in theatre, wherever they may go. I think that is something beyond just the commercial use of the cloud technology that you asked about before – it’s our ability to take those technologies and help put it into technologies that will support their mission.