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Executive Spotlight: PTR Group CEO Russ Berkoff

Executive Spotlight: PTR Group CEO Russ Berkoff - top government contractors - best government contracting event
Russ Berkoff, The PTR Group
Executive Spotlight: PTR Group CEO Russ Berkoff - top government contractors - best government contracting event
Russ Berkoff, The PTR Group

As president and CEO of the PTR Group, Russ Berkoff is responsible for pushing the company to stay ahead of the technology market curve.

In speaking with ExecutiveBiz, Berkoff outlines the next steps the company will take to keep pace with innovation and places his role as a behind-the-scenes figure in making technology and the business machine come together.

ExecutiveBiz: What are the PTR Group’s core values?

Russ Berkoff: The PTR Group specializes in real-time, embedded engineering and design solutions. We’re a software services company. The work that we do is done at the least common denominator or at the circuit board level of machines. We are classic engineers of systems who know how to read schematic diagrams.

When you talk about devices for a particular machine, or something that you’re trying to make work that someone else has designed, that’s what we do. We make it work. Our values are embedded in our passion and enthusiasm to do real-time, embedded engineering to the best of our ability, and to continue to learn and update our craft.

ExecutiveBiz: What has changed at the company since you first joined?

Russ Berkoff: I’ve been here for about eight months now. We've redesigned the PTR Group's strategic plan and integrated it into our business development, operations and in our efforts to advance our technical education. Every morning when I wake up, it's my job to make sure that we’re executing on our roadmap.

This entails discussions with the chief operations officer, the business development vice president and the chief technology officer. We implement and execute the vision and strategies that we put forth to make the company succeed and drive our mission. I believe it's critical that I seek to fundamentally change and improve the company by looking to challenge ourselves and break any self-imposed constraints.

ExecutiveBiz: What is the company trying to achieve on its roadmap?

Russ Berkoff: The key piece of the roadmap is to get in front of technology. There are a lot of new things coming out in the way of new operating systems, new chipsets and new drivers, protocols and hardware. There’s a move toward these innovations and trends in the marketplace and in the government. Some of those trends include mobility, the new Internet Protocol, the Internet of things and new wireless capabilities in Bluetooth 4 and ZigBee devices, to name a few.

We want to stay in front of these trends. We’ve heard folks say to us, “My client hasn’t asked for it. I’m just waiting to hear from him, he will tell me what they need, and we’ll work on it then.”

We’ve taken a more proactive posture by identifying what is around the corner. We are getting our people up to speed by educating our employees, writing papers, being engaged with both the commercial and government clients to understand and demonstrate the implications of the next new things and how to improve their particular systems, software or just the way they do business.

This drive to learn goes hand-in-hand with our training division in the company. We’re the preferred vendor for CiscoWind RiverIntel, MontaVista and Mentor Graphics to train their engineers; we create our own IP to do this. At the PTR Group we believe we need to be experts ourselves before we can create and teach the classes – this is also one of our core values.

As an example, we train Cisco’s engineers in embedded Linux, embedded Android, Android applications and IPv6, all at different levels of capability. It's a very nice balance in the company because we train both externally and we train our own people internally.

ExecutiveBiz: Are there any specific projects the company is working on that you’re particularly excited for?

Russ Berkoff: We’re very excited to be selected by Cisco and Intel to train their engineers. Those are people who shape the market. They’re the people that the rest of the industry looks to see what’s going to happen next. We’re very proud to play a part in educating the engineers that are going to do some of that shaping.

Also, the PTR Group developed the software that powers the next generation robotic arm selected for the future NASA and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency spacecraft servicing missions.  We’re very excited to play a role with NASA in this national effort for unmanned spacecraft.

We also do cyber-space work. Based on our unique capabilities as engineers of systems and working at the circuit board level, we have been able to integrate ourselves with others to create some very unique solutions in computer network operations and exploitation.

ExecutiveBiz: What originally brought you to the PTR Group?

Russ Berkoff: I came to the company because they had an enormous amount of talent working in very relevant areas in the commercial and government sectors. I saw a growth opportunity where I could engage and push them as the leader into areas to reach their full potential by seeking out more challenging and difficult problems.

We are a company that gravitates toward challenges and high-end work, the hard problems to solve. We have numerous senior people with broad experience; this is our special sauce, to apply our multi-dimensional approach to problem-solving. This approach is very successful for us and our clients.

The whole world is moving toward more connectivity. Everyone has a cell phone.  Everyone wants to run everything from their iPad and cell phone. The PTR Group engineers are the guys inside your cell phone and iPad adapting new technology and making this happen.

Arriving at the company, I saw an opportunity to explore new trends and challenges for technology and innovation in the commercial and government spaces. That’s what we’re doing right now. We’ve refocused and re-geared the company to train in these trend areas and use this information as a value-add to our customers and to ourselves.

The PTR Group is on a great trajectory for the future. Everybody is highly committed and we have a lot of successes to build on. We support the large systems integrators as the guys behind the scenes that get called in to do something a lot of companies don’t have the expertise to do.

ExecutiveBiz: What goals do you have in your position?

Russ Berkoff: I want to create an engine for success. We want to have a nice balance in the company. We want to bring people onboard and be able to give them a career path as engineers and be able to tap their passion. We want to keep everybody’s fire burning in the company.

My goal is to grow the company. I think it will grow because of the uniqueness of the kind of people that we bring in and because we seek out the tough jobs to work on. We’re looking to market ourselves and position ourselves to address our clients' trend toward connectivity. We want to be at this leading edge of relevancy.

With all of our talent, our company and culture centers on our Chief Technology Officer Mike Anderson, since it’s a technology company. He is the technical leader of the company, but he is also the guy that is out presenting papers and speaking around the world as an accomplished and recognized embedded engineer. He offers a unique interface with the commercial sector and then brings this knowledge back into the company to help keep our engineers refreshed. This, combined with our business development efforts, provides us with solid insight as to our next steps for investing in our people.

As a learning company, we want to tap the passion and curiosity of our people and continue to immerse them in new experiences to foster innovation. We believe that this is our engine for success in providing relevant solutions to our customers.

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