Caesar Nieves, senior vice president of Cyber & Intelligence for Jacobs, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz for the publication’s latest Executive Spotlight interview detailing the company’s recent acquisition of BlackLynx and the impact it’s having on Jacobs’ national security efforts.
In addition, Nieves also discussed Jacobs’ continued expansion into the intelligence community, the challenges of addressing the latest cyber hygiene standards and cyber capabilities as well as the company’s recent $302 million NGA contract award win for GEOINT services and more.
“Our first priority is our people. A lot of the people who join Jacobs through acquisitions bring relevant leadership experience that drives our culture within Jacobs, no matter the sector. We want to continue to maintain a vibrant, flexible workplace that empowers our folks to be productive and have fun serving the client mission.”
You can read the full Executive Spotlight with Caesar Nieves below:
ExecutiveBiz: Congrats on the latest acquisition of BlackLynx! What can you tell us about the impact the acquisition will have on your government clients’ critical infrastructure challenges and how they will address the national security challenges around cloud and other technologies?
“We did have some exciting news earlier this week as you mentioned with the acquisition of BlackLynx, which we’re expecting to close before the end of the month. I’ve been with Jacobs for about two years and I’ve seen our acquisition strategy evolve in some significant ways.
If you track our acquisitions over the last five years, many of them bolstered cyber and intelligence capabilities for us as well as customer access and contract vehicles. The last two significant acquisitions we made were KeyW back in 2019 and last year’s acquisition of The Buffalo Group, which both brought in some much-needed domain expertise and access to higher barriers of entry customers as well.
As we looked at this year, we said, ‘Jacobs is evolving from an industry-leading services provider into a more complete solutions provider undergirded by mission-tailored products and software. ’ As a result, we’re now looking to become that solution and software-enabled services company over the next two to three years.
Once we took a look at BlackLynx, the company really fit a number of those areas from a strategic point of view and we’re acquiring them with a number of products and technologies that have been successfully deployed in those high barriers to entry areas already.
Many of their products are accredited. They have a hybrid cloud platform that’s being used today. BlackLynx also has a number of collection automation tools. If you think about modern data challenges, you need automation and analytics to be able to obtain data access faster and with more accuracy to establish what we call ‘actionable intelligence.’
BlackLynx fits all those pieces for us moving forward and we just thought it was the right time given the current national security landscape and the demand that our customers have for these solutions right now.
In addition to supporting our government services work, we also see opportunities to leverage BlackLynx’s technologies and software-enabled services across critical infrastructure, including water/wastewater management, advanced facilities, and smart cities. This also allows us to expand into those environments with new threat intelligence capabilities.
A great deal of the growth that we’ve made for ourselves is tied to the intelligence community and the Department of Defense. In terms of the satellite and imagery side of the intelligence area, Blacklynx will enhance our footprint in the NRO and allow us to take a deeper set of solutions to the geospatial, NASA and space communities.
We feel that we’re building a solutions toolbox that will allow us to do things with speed and scale and ultimately be disruptive in a way that has a significant impact on our customers’ abilities to achieve their missions.”
ExecutiveBiz: With BlackLynx expanding Jacobs’ position into 14 of the 18 U.S. intelligence community agencies and aligning under your leadership, what are your top priorities to continue to find success for Jacobs in this area and drive your growth strategy for the company in other areas?
“Obviously, we’re acting very deliberately right now and focusing on specific areas across the federal marketplace, but 14 out of 18 U.S. intelligence agencies is pretty big for us.
There are a wide range of national security components so if you’re going to look at our business today, about 50 percent of our business is focused on intelligence agencies with another 30 percent focused on DOD and the rest is spread across the federal civilian side of things.
We’re pivoting to focus a lot more on the law enforcement and cybercrime areas of DHS and DOJ as well as the Department of State that also ties into the intelligence community. We’re working to keep our nucleus together and our top priorities are very clear.
Our first priority is our people. A lot of the people who join Jacobs through acquisitions bring relevant leadership experience that drives our culture within Jacobs, no matter the sector. We want to continue to maintain a vibrant, flexible workplace that empowers our folks to be productive and have fun serving the client’s mission.
The second piece from our strategy and our general priorities is continuing to win our fair share of the marketplace. As we closed FY2021, we had several significant prime contract wins in the last quarter that elevated our brand in the market. We’ve done a lot over the last five years and we expect to continue our growth with the right culture in place and our continued focus on strategic growth.
From a product perspective, it’s a big factor that we need to continue expanding our technology and product baseline as we work with our customers and make future acquisitions. We’ve created some pretty unique products that our customers are using. Obviously, we want to expand upon the products that can make our customers more successful.
We have a learning management environment where we do a lot of training in cyber, which we’d also like to expand into a number of other markets and capabilities as well. You take a look at some of the analytic tools that we have at our disposal along with what we’re getting from BlackLynx and we believe that package makes us one of the top emerging technology providers in the market today.
There are other pieces that we’re going to continue to invest in, like working with startups and the venture capital community. That’s something that is new for Jacobs. Technology is moving so fast and our clients in the government want the technology that’s resident in the commercial industry. This approach will help us tap into the speed of innovation coming out of the commercial market.
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ExecutiveBiz: In addition, how will Jacobs continue to drive its capabilities in AI and machine learning as well as cyber and edge computing to address cyber hygiene as well as other recent security and protection issues surrounding data for federal agencies?
“We actually just had an internal meeting about data security. My perspective is that we live in a data-driven world now and whether the data is good or bad, we depend on the most relevant data to make decisions. I look at speed and accuracy as the key and with our priorities and customers’ missions.
We invest a lot of data from a wide variety of sources, and we have a number of analysts with their boots on the ground in certain areas that ingest information constantly. So the question becomes how do we find new ways to equip our folks and the federal government with the tools and methods they need to improve their efficiency and become faster, more agile, and to find actionable insights that help Jacobs and our clients make effective decisions in real-time.
A lot of our tools are unique to customer requirements, but we’re exploring how we can use those tools in other environments as well. The great thing is that we have a group of bright professionals including data scientists and software engineers who are infused with different ways of looking and thinking about data.
In the case of artificial intelligence and machine learning, that’s at the absolute forefront of how we get faster and make things easier for our customers to practice cyber hygiene techniques. I think we’re all going through that right now, especially with the number of higher-profile cyber-attacks that have come to light from our adversaries.
ExecutiveBiz: Following Jacobs’ $302M NGA contract win in October, how would you describe your capabilities in GEOINT services and software engineering to deliver intelligence and collection automation?
“This is a great contract for us to provide sustainment, integration and development services of the current NGA data fabric and other elements in this environment. This contract entails a real culture shift of sorts because everyone is used to legacy systems, but we are helping them transition to new technology and methods of doing business to deliver a new data management system.
This is a really cool project that helps NGA with data and their move to a cloud environment. And it’s an opportunity to showcase some of the products that we are developing as we increasingly become a solution and technology company.”