Aidis Zunde, chief operating officer of Yorktown Systems Group, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz regarding the transition he made from the U.S. military to the public sector as well as the core values of the company’s culture that drive the long term success of its workforce and growth initiatives in the federal landscape during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.
You can read the full Executive Spotlight interview with Aidis Zunde below:
ExecutiveBiz: What can you tell us about your military background and how you made the transition from a military career to one in the public sector? What advice would you give to those who are making the transition themselves or will in the near future?
Aidis Zunde: “As my military career of more than 23 years concluded I actually didn’t have any concrete plans to enter the defense industry. However, after several references and serendipitous occurrences, it’s been a fascinating and enjoyable ride.
I had the opportunity to work first at Lockheed Martin, then later at Huntington Ingalls, and I learned a great deal at both, especially with the former. Now, I have the opportunity to work with Yorktown Systems Group at an exciting time for this company.
I’ve known Yorktown for many years and watched them grow quickly; a few years ago, it transitioned from a small business to a mid-tier company.
There’s been an excellent foundation for a lot of potential growth at Yorktown. We realize that potential and are ready to take the company to the next level. It’s a really exciting challenge and a great pleasure to work with people I’ve known and liked for a long time.
At Yorktown, our primary focus is on delivering outstanding support to our core customers, who are currently the Army, especially TRADOC, SOCOM, the Missile Defense Agency, and the Department of State.
We have a strong reputation and excellent past performance with our existing customers within these organizations, mainly through prime contracts. We are also looking to take what we’ve done for those customers and bring those capabilities to a broader customer set.
Our headquarters is located in Huntsville, AL. We’re looking to expand further there as that area continues to grow in importance, especially with the FBI and other agencies increasing their footprint in the city. There are great opportunities to compete in the Huntsville market, especially as we are still considered small in some of the R&D NAICS that are commonly used here, which can be a great advantage. We also have a small but growing footprint in Hawaii to serve as a base for the opportunities we see emerging in the Indo-Pacific region.
Over the years, I have been in quite a few different organizations in the Army, both conventional and SOF. I have always had to work in a collaborative environment, which has continued as I moved into the industry.
The most important lesson from all of this is that you’re not always going to end up where you plan, so taking advantage of the opportunities that naturally come up is critical. Keep your eyes open to those new opportunities and be willing to take risks.
The other crucial aspect is to enjoy what you’re doing and ensure you’re fulfilling your sense of purpose in life. The people in this industry understand that their work makes a significant contribution to our national security efforts.
You might be able to make more money in the commercial sector, but there is something more substantial – helping protect our nation and its allies.”
ExecutiveBiz: What can you tell us about YSG’s recent growth initiatives and how you’re driving value for your customers through contract awards, acquisitions, and other aspects across the federal sector?
Aidis Zunde: “As I mentioned, Yorktown became a mid-tier company in the past few years. Our growth initiatives are focused on continuing to build the capabilities to compete and win in this larger marketplace. We are addressing that challenge in a couple of different ways.
First is our focus on human capital. For instance, Emily Martin recently came over to us from CACI as our vice president of growth. We’ve also added additional business developers and capture managers to pursue those more extensive full and open opportunities and build our organization’s depth and functionality.
Yorktown Systems Group has consistently delivered outstanding results on programs. Now we’re devoting greater attention to building our growth resources – resources focused on better understanding the customer’s needs in evolving markets, creating innovative ways to meet customer requirements, and delivering solutions for them.
Regarding the vectors for growth, we focus on three specific lines of effort. The first of these is training. That includes everything from tactical training at different echelons and environments to language and cultural training. That’s always been in our DNA and is one of our core capabilities.
The second line of effort is mission support. This is broad and ranges from operational support tasks across the globe to intelligence analysis and ISR.
The third line of effort that we focus on is the development of technology enablers to support the first two. For example, Yorktown already has an application that provides 24/7 on-demand tailored virtual training to our customers, which we use to support SOCOM and some other organizations for language training.
It’s also been used for different aspects of training. In addition, we are investing our money into developing an application in support of ISR collection management, as well as other enablers for training or mission support efforts.
We are also aggressively pursuing acquisitions aimed at niche capabilities in those critical areas I outlined; the first of these was The Unconventional, which we acquired several years ago. We package these with our exceptional service performance to deliver truly innovative solutions.
At the same time, we are looking to create new strategic partnerships and joint ventures to open up additional opportunities in current and new markets.
I’d also like to mention that Yorktown is actively mentoring small businesses to help them learn and grow, just as we were supported as a small business.”
ExecutiveBiz: What are the core values that are important to your company’s culture? How does Yorktown Systems Group ensure long-term success for your workforce to drive value for your employees as you continue to face the uphill challenge to recruit and retain the best talent?
Aidis Zunde: “Values have always been critically important for people. The ethical aspects of an organization are always an essential part of its value proposition. Our core values aren’t unusual but are crucial in how we approach the business — focus on integrity, reliability, teamwork, and the pursuit of excellence.
We talk to our employees about living by the “golden rule” regarding our customers, business partners, and each other — treat everyone as you would like to be treated, with courtesy and respect. At the same time, we also embrace accountability and accept responsibility for the results.
Consequently, our team takes immense pride in the quality of their work and what they deliver, internally and externally; this includes our program team and our functional areas. We’re convinced that this attitude to quality and customer support really drives success for us.
Our reputation for good work and honest dealing has taken Yorktown a long way with both the government and our teammates. It’s also an enjoyable place to work. We’ve become a mid-tier organization and continue to grow, but Yorktown maintains the spirit and culture of a smaller, close-knit business.
Employees consider themselves part of the larger team and know the company cares about them. It’s a very positive atmosphere, and a lot of work is put into creating and maintaining that environment.
As we grow, many new faces have joined recently; they bring significant experience and have come because they are looking for that team atmosphere and aspects of corporate culture that go beyond just the compensation and benefits. We have a robust professional development program; our focus here is on realizing people’s talent and potential at all levels.
Of course, you’ll always lose a few good people to other companies in industry or government over time. Still, I consider that strength because it gets our name out there, and people recognize all the talent that comes out of Yorktown Systems Group.
On the process side of culture, as Yorktown Systems has continued to grow, we’ve emphasized establishing rigorous, systematic, and comprehensive approaches to dealing with our customers’ complicated problems and complex challenges.
As a result, by combining people, culture, and robust processes, Yorktown has demonstrated the ability to repeatedly deliver efficient, cost-effective solutions and outstanding results to our customers. The future is exciting!”