Daniel Markes, CEO of Markesman Group, specialists in cyber security, intelligence and IT, believes that diversity is a “great and valuable tool” that enables his company’s success. This is something he learned in the military, which he describes as “a perfect melting pot,” with people from all walks of life working together. “Having different perspectives is critical to making a decision,” he says, adding, “If everyone looks the same and has the same life experiences, you’re going to have very similar answers” to problems that might be better analyzed from different angles.
For evidence of how Markesman Group values its diverse pool of employees, look no further than the company’s employee retention rate. According to Markes, the company hires new employees “usually in burst cycles depending on new work or additions to what customers are asking us to do.” Such hiring practices, for other companies, commonly result in periodic layoffs, when large jobs are completed and the additional hires are no longer needed. Markesman Group, however, has been able to avoid layoffs through continuous growth, maintaining a retention rate that Markes estimates at approximately 95 percent.
The idea for Markesman Group was born while Markes was watching a news report about the bombings that took place at the 2013 Boston Marathon. At the time, he was still in service for the Air Force, using drones to conduct security operations identifying possible threats on the ground in war zones overseas. “We got pretty good at identifying risk and communicating that to the ground troops so that risk could be removed,” he recalls.
Realizing that the work he was doing overseas could have applications on U.S. soil, Markes thought, “How ironic is it that I’m providing this support in a war zone” when that kind of support might have prevented this attack at home. “I wonder if they had any [similar] support in Boston to identify suspicious packages,” he thought. Markes looked into it and discovered that, no, there was no aerial support to identify threats preemptively at the Boston Marathon, and that support was similarly lacking at many events on U.S. soil. Markes then set about adapting the tools and procedures he was familiar with using overseas to a more domestic application.
To bring this idea into being, Markes contacted his friend Alex Wang, currently COO of Markesman Group, who Markes describes as “an entrepreneur at heart.” Wang liked the idea, and the two got to work building the company. What began in 2014 grew so much, so quickly, that by 2017, both Markes and Wang had to devote themselves to the project full time.
Markesman Group’s work is typically diversified between several projects at once, and its customers include a host of government entities at federal and state levels. The specific work that the company does is not the kind that a CEO can talk about too openly. Many of the company’s employees have to maintain high-level security clearances in the course of their work, and many of the projects they work on involve classified information.
Something that has helped the company to continue its growth throughout a global pandemic is a mentality shared amongst the group that Markes likens to one of the core values held by the U.S. Air Force. That is “service before self.” Markes says, “That’s something that I’m very proud of about our company and the culture we have here; I wouldn’t want to be any other place.”
Markes, who was born in the U.K., immigrated to the United States with his family at age nine. He first moved to Newport News when his military service brought him to Langley Air Force Base.
Markes is married and he and his wife have three children, ages 18, nine, and three. Entrepreneurship makes a very busy lifestyle, but as his company has grown, Markes has been able to adjust to the demands of his business life in a way that allows him to spend time with his family. Markes and his whole family love the beach. He says, “we all surf. Surfing is something that I’ve done with my kids since they were able to swim.”