Arlington, VA-based By Light Professional IT Services is planning for a bright future. The company, which provides a full range of hardware and software engineering services to defense, civilian and commercial customers, has undergone major expansion this year.
In March the firm acquired Phacil, Inc., a diversified software, cybersecurity, systems engineering and managed services provider to the U.S. government. Phacil had been a trusted partner to the government client base for nearly two decades and delivered IT services that included the modernization and assessment of systems, networks and data centers.
Last month By Light also announced the acquisition of Metova Federal, LLC, a cyber range and cyber training services provider to the U.S. government. This latest acquisition helped position By Light to help its clients meet the increasingly complex and ever-changing mission threats and requirements in today’s cyber world.
“By Light has an indigenous cyber service supporting government agencies, so this acquisition allows us to expand in cyber range and fills out our cyber offerings to our clients,” Mike Hatcher, chief revenue officer at By Light Professional IT Services LLC told ClearanceJobs. “We were doing some cyber training but this allows us to add some nice complementary capabilities.”
These recent mergers have allowed the company to not only expand its services but become an even more significant player in the world of cyber. For a firm that was only founded in 2002 with just a handful of employees it is notable that today By Light is now a firm with annual revenue exceeding $500 million and with an employee roster topping 1,700 employees.
“With the acquisition of Phacil we added about 600 employees,” added Hatcher. “That is significant.”
For many firms – not to mention the employees – there could be a concern that such expansion could impact the culture. However, Hatcher stressed that this isn’t the case. “In reality it is important that when you make an acquisition of this size that the goal is to lift the best attributes from each company. Our founder, Bob Donahue, has long made it the goal that we are about people first and mission now.”
While in some firms those could be competing goals – By Light has worked to make sure people plus mission is a part of the culture. Donahue assembled a core management and engineering team made up of industry leaders from the commercial, civilian, and DoD marketplace. This team brings integrated talents that enable the implementation of technical solutions that mesh best commercial practices with the unique requirements of the federal customer.
In addition, many of the people in the company come from the warfighting community, so teamwork and meeting mission objectives is very much second nature. That commitment to people ad culture weighted into By Light’s recent acquisition decisions.
“We have a fixed culture, but with these acquisitions we needed to take stock of what made each of those companies successful and utilize their best features,” explained Hatcher. “We may consider something new, as we’re also open to be dynamic. The more common method following a merger is that six months later the former company’s name goes away and you roll the staff in lock, stock and barrel. But our belief is that each property was attractive and needs to be evaluated. It is important as well to maintain critical assets and in this case it is the people.”
Addressing the Industry Challenges
With these mergers By Light could also be well poised to address two of the biggest issues impacting the government cybersecurity sector – namely the backlog in security clearance processing and the tech worker shortage.
“Well, the backlog has gotten better,” said Hatcher, who stressed that it was necessary to remain positive. “OK, part of me can’t believe I said those words. Yes, it has been a difficult time for the last couple of years, and post-Snowden things really slowed down. We saw that in some cases clearance checks languished and languished, but we’ve seen a pickup and the investigations moving along. There is still work to do, but from an industry perspective we’re seeing them cut into that backlog.”
The bigger issue in many ways unresolved issue is the worker shortage.
“There are a few disciplines where workers are desperately short,” Hatcher told ClearanceJobs. “Cyber is one, but Big Data/AI is another. That is where you need to be able to offer the benefits and have a culture that can make the difference.”
Hatcher noted that By Light’s commitment to putting people first has ensured that it is able to fill positions. “We stand by our people-oriented culture, and we’re trying to be an attractive option,” he added. “We’re focusing on how to improve employee care and that is something that differentiates us in this space. We don’t see jobs in cybersecurity as a one size fits all position – we understand the need to compensate and provide benefits based on the individual. Some larger companies, and even some smaller ones don’t have a lot of flexibility when it comes to compensation – that is why we think we’re one of the best places to work.”
The Importance of the mission
With corporations and even municipalities such as Baltimore and Atlanta the recent targets of cyber attacks, the challenge offered to those offering cybersecurity and tech solutions only increases.
“First, no one can ever say they are doing enough,” warned Hatcher. “The threat with cyber is so large and so broad. Instead the question is how to limit the threat vectors and we spend a lot of time thinking about that. We help our customers think through this problem. Protecting this critical cyber infrastructure is going to require a good partnership between the government, the private sector and academia.”