Tarik Reyes oversees program delivery, strategy and execution in his role as operating unit director for civil information solutions at Northrop Grumman‘s information systems sector.
Prior to this role, Reyes held a business development leadership role for Northrop’s civil federal and select defense markets and his career also includes stops at Microsoft, Visalign and Bechtel.
In this conversation with ExecutiveBiz, Reyes describes his inspiration for going to work in the government services market and trends in the data analytics field. He also traces his career origins to his nuclear engineering education.
ExecutiveBiz: When did you start your current role at Northrop and what have been some of your priorities since?
Tarik Reyes: I have been with Northrop Grumman since early 2005 and have been in my current role since October of 2011. I have been extremely fortunate that I have seen significant growth in my portfolio in a tough market. I firmly believe that this has been due to our fundamentals and focus: to deliver solutions that exactly meet our customer’s needs at the right value.
The way Northrop Grumman has been able to consistently deliver on this is to remain vigilant in understanding our customer’s mission and priorities better than anyone else. Staying lockstep with our customer and the broader market has enabled us to make the right decisions around strategy and investments to accomplish our customer’s mission.
ExecutiveBiz: What led you to decide to work in the government market?
Tarik Reyes: I have grown up in the Washington DC area most of my life. My father is retired from federal government and as a child was always in and around the federal government. My earliest fond memories were my visits to the Library of Congress reading room staring up at the dome infrastructure in amazement and standing in front of the Nation’s Capital inspired by what it represented.
This was a natural progression that led me to the federal market and strong desire to make a difference. Being first generation US born and the son of immigrants, I have a strong desire to give back and contribute to making our country great.
ExecutiveBiz: Within data analytics, what are some areas that you see increased demand from agencies in?
Tarik Reyes: There has been a shift in just what is meant by “data”. There is a constant stream of both structured and unstructured data inbound and the volumes are increasing exponentially. This has brought with it not just a growth in the amount of data to be managed, but a growth in new techniques for how that data needs to be analyzed. Our responsibility is to help our customers make sense of these changes and exploit new technologies in practical, cost-effective ways.
One specific example of this is an increased demand around anomaly and fraud analytics. The ability to execute analytics in real time in order to identify anomalies or fraud is an enormous asset for both regulatory compliance and security situational awareness. There is a huge demand and the ROI and risk returns are easily measured. This is an area that we at Northrop Grumman have been heavily invested in and seen great strides in our solutions that have been adopted by our customers.
ExecutiveBiz: Can you identify the central problem in anomaly analytics?
Tarik Reyes: When I said that “data is not a problem”, I meant that the challenge is finding the needle within the stack of needles. The ability to sift through large rapidly increasing volumes of data, identify a potential threat, and then quickly act upon that threat is the goal. Data sources are readily available and you can quickly overwhelm.
The trick is to find the right solution; taking into account the old adage of people, process, and technology that eliminates the burden on the human part of the solution. Our programs are critical to securing and protecting national assets. There is real art in reliably separating out the bad actors from the innocent victims of fraudulent activities. This requires leveraging the latest technology and keeping up with the evolving sophistication of the threat actors.
ExecutiveBiz: What are some ways you can measure ROI and risk-return?
Tarik Reyes: A large majority of the work that we currently do is in the civil financial arena. IRS estimates billions of dollarsworth of non-compliance or fraud, whether it’s issues in voluntary or involuntary compliance in the tax laws or those that look to skirt the tax obligation. If you are able to take out 10% or 15% of that fraud, anomalies or areas with compliance issues, that’s significant savings which help close the tax gap.
On the infrastructure side or cybersecurity side, it is measured by securing and managing the risk of international or national assets and high-security capabilities being developed by the US or commercial companies. From a national security standpoint, a cost can easily be placed on identifying issues and anomalies at systems. It’s very easy to come up with an ROI case.
ExecutiveBiz: Can you offer some examples of acquisition challenges with collaboration between industry and government?
Tarik Reyes: Over the last few years we’ve seen the use of LPTA (lowest price technically acceptable) approaches to acquisition become increasingly common. Everybody interprets this requirement in a different way. It has reached the point where the exchange between industry and government has been limited based on critical usersbeing afraid of making a misstep.
It is important that we are not limiting the exchange that needs to occur. From the evaluation perspective, we need to make sure that we do not forego the amount of risk that comes with a LPTA solution.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you apply your nuclear engineering education for your job now?
Tarik Reyes: Well I no longer split atoms, but would say my background and education allow me to take very complex business problems and break them down into simplistic, digestible components that allow me to quickly create a strategy and plan to tackle the situation. Having an analytical background allows me to quickly consume data and logically layout a decision making process that considers both out of the box thinking and potential constraints.
In addition, I have always had a high level of emotional intelligence (EI) and organizational effectiveness that is a strength and has allowed me to be a strong change agent. EQ, to me, is a practiced trait that I continue to work on each and every day. It is one thing to have a great idea, it is an entirely different art to have it adopted in a broader sense.
I believe this has been my greatest asset and has allowed me to significantly grow my organization while the market has gotten tighter , more competitive, and requires that much more differentiation.