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The Technical Guy and the Business Guy; The Diverse Leadership that Built OGSystems

The Technical Guy and the Business Guy; The Diverse Leadership that Built OGSystemsClick to Zoom In

There are two glass offices in the back right corner of OGSystems' headquarters. Both are adorned with company memorabilia, family photos, and stand up desks. In one office, you’ll find the CEO in sneakers and jeans, often in colors representative of the OGSystems brand. In the other, the President is dressed in slacks and a sport coat.

Omar Balkissoon and Garrett Pagon, OGSystems' co-founders, are two very different yet very driven leaders celebrating twelve years of business partnership this August. Their differences have yielded an innovative culture that is evident to everyone who walks through their doors. You can check out the story of how Balkissoon and Pagon founded OGSystems here.

They are a team, but take a divide and conquer approach allowing each to play to their strengths and build upon the company’s success. Balkissoon is the "Technical Guy," heavily focused on understanding new technology start up trends, emerging market dynamics and ideas for the next customer catalyst. Pagon is the "Business Guy" looking for opportunities to build outcomes-based products and services for a range of intelligence customers. As a disruptive GEOINT solutions provider, OGSystems' success is found in customer interaction that reflects the drive for innovation and passion for the mission.

"We've always been a competitive organization and building winning teams is something the company excels in," Pagon said. It's this can-do attitude that has led to contract wins beyond their start at the NGA into other government organizations including SOCOM, INSCOM, NRO and the DIA. In the spring of 2015, OGS also acquired Urban Robotics, a Portland, Oregon-based leader in ISR applications, to further its geospatial data collection and processing capabilities.

OGSystems' relationship with venture capital firm General Catalyst has also been vital to Balkissoon and Pagon, allowing them to evolve as leaders and turn their focus to the development of their executive team.

"Garrett and I are the kind of people that are involved in every dimension of the business," Balkissoon said when discussing the challenges of letting go of some of the daily management of the organization. "While it is good to have an understanding of everything that is happening within the organization, it also precludes you from scaling. What I've found is that there are people who can do the job better if I don’t get involved with every nuance."

This type of mentorship from their Board of Directors has been invaluable. One of the board members, David Orfao, recently provided some great advice. "David said, 'you want to give people enough space where it's okay for them to get skinned knees, but not broken legs.'" Pagon likes this hands-off philosophy, feeling it allows him to measure and observe and hold people accountable, without telling them how to do their job.

This mentoring relationship has guided the founders in the transition from small startup to mid-sized government innovator competing for $100M+ contracts; shifting their focus from dabbling in various interesting ideas to focused energy on analytic services, contract growth, and a deeper dive into new customer areas that are adjacent to this core. Applying Lean Start Up principles are key to both founders, as Balkissoon uses the techniques to drive out Minimal Viable Products (MVP) that provide context and real demonstrations when he talks to a customer.

"Instead of turning in dry whitepapers and PowerPoints, I can point to these tangible things we've built by taking the initiative to listen to our customers and deliver something they can see, exploring the art of the possible in real time," Balkissoon said.

More important than anything for the duo is their shared passion to build something different.

"The intersection between unclassified location-based data and the Intelligence Community (IC) mission is why we built the space almost entirely open and unclassified," Pagon said referring to OGSystems' award winning Chantilly, VA headquarters. "At OGS we're not doing the same things everyone else is because that is only going to yield the same results. Why not swing for the fences? We've got nothing to lose but everything to gain if we can strategically move in a different direction," Balkissoon added as he zoned back into his Beats Headphones.

Each week, their calendars are filled with opportunities to connect with potential business partners or meetings with OGS employees at customer sites.

"Those are the things that really pump me up, talking to people one¯on¯one," Pagon said. "I always ask, 'What are we not doing right?' That kind of disarms people because they might think I don't want to hear that we have something to work on, but that’s not the case at all."

That is the key for O&G these days. They are laser-focused on evolving OGSystems’ mission to impact the capability of the Intelligence Community and create opportunities for its people to grow, diversify, and lead. The uniqueness and transparency of those glass offices symbolizes a tireless drive to empower their team to do something fundamentally different for their customers.

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