In 1969, Dr. J. Robert Beyster, a nuclear physicist, Navy veteran and PhD in nuclear physics, wanted to do research in a productive environment with talented scientists and engineers addressing issues of national importance.
Science Applications Incorporated (SAI) officially launched that year, grew rapidly and in 1984, changed its name to Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). And in 2013, the company became Leidos, derived from a segment of SAIC, retaining the majority of the legacy work and the company.
Today, Leidos is a $10 billion, global Fortune 500 enterprise focused on information technology, engineering and science solutions and services. Its 33,000 employees at 400 locations in 30 countries back the company. It has maintained a presence in Newport News for eight years, and in October, it moved to its current collaborative space in Oyster Point.
“We’re equally committed to using our time and resources to support people, enrich communities and protect the environment,” Roger Krone, chairman and CEO, says.
Ernisha Jones, program manager in Newport News, joined Leidos in 2012 after earning a Bachelor of Science degree in information technology from Regent University and her Master of Business Administration degree in information technology management from Western Governors University in Salt Lake City, Utah. She began as senior software tester, which was her background after working in IT solutions application with Ferguson Enterprises and the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). Within three months of hire, she wrote a proposal to move Leidos to an agile development shop.
Agile development is Leidos’ methodology of delivering quality software fast, focusing on quality processes. In two-week sprints, it delivers software to the customer instead of its previous six-month deliverables.
“By the end of that six-month period the software was outdated,” Jones says.
Leidos opened its Oyster Point software development shop to do this with all customers.
“Leidos is derived from the word, kaleidoscope, which leverages approaching problems with solutions from every angle,” Jones says. “This allows for diversity of thought and experiences to meet those solutions. It’s about the modernization of technology with all military, including the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration, who were working on legacy software programs from the Cold War era. We’re trying to help them modernize their applications, hardware and software to better serve the U.S. and our allies — that’s what made us different.”
Leidos’ new collaborative space on Thimble Shoals Boulevard allows its teams to get together at standing desks to collaborate and find solutions.
“The customer can stand right alongside our employees and provide feedback to whatever solution he or she is looking at in the shop instead of sending emails or calling,” Jones says.
The Oyster Point location provides services to the Environmental Protection Agency to decommission military sites worldwide. It works with Airborne Command Control Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance through a $900 million contract. Most of the work originates with the Air Force at Langley Air Force Base. It also works with Georgia’s Robins Air Force Base.
“We are within a 15-minute drive to be onsite to support our customer and provide instant solutions,” Jones says.
Leidos permeates all military in Hampton Roads. It supports customers and programs, including the mission critical application support and development for the Air Force; Command and Control Incident Management Emergency Response Application; US Air Force Air Combat Command support for the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Analysis and Support Services program; and Environmental Planning support, helping clients comply with environmental laws.
“Our highly trained, dedicated and diverse team has a passion for the mission,” Jones says. “It’s about making our customers better and ensuring their mission doesn’t fail.”
Leidos’ Oyster Point software center partners with local foster care agencies to provide Christmas gifts for children in foster care. It also provided Christmas gifts for 15 of the most impoverished families with Bassett Elementary in Hampton over the holidays.
“Having our airman come back after we release something and saying that the application we created saved their lives and hearing that happened with our team — nothing can top that,” Jones says. “Modernization is key to everything we do.”
Jones continues, “We encourage new perspectives from employees and recognize individuals and teams who innovate for business impact.” Jones mentors her staff’s growth and development to become the next leaders. She models servant leadership for her team.
“I think that’s what my team likes about our deputy project managers, Nick Woloszyn and Cory McLemore,” Jones says. “We’re ’hands off’ because we want them to learn; to make mistakes that we can help correct.”
Jones dreams of becoming Leidos’ director of software engineering and outgrowing her office, necessitating another Newport News location performing support services.
Jones likes gaming, sci-fi and sci-fi books. She loves to write sci-fi-based short stories, poems and novels. She also enjoys studying new technologies such as Artificial Intelligences and Machine learning.
Leidos was named 2019 World’s Most Ethical Company, 2019 Military Times Best Company For Vets List and ranked on Fortune 500 as the #1 on 2019 Washington Technology Top 100.
“More than a decade ago, the Leidos’ Newport News office began delivering cloud software to the Air Force,” Woloszyn says. “Today, a small, five-person team has grown to more than 40 persons as it continues to deliver cutting-edge technology our nation has come to expect.”
TO THE POINT:
Address: 724B Thimble Shoals Blvd., Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Ernisha Jones, program manager