Throughout history, one consistent trend among successful people is the ability to persevere; the ability to stand up and take a step forward during times of crisis or adversity. In many ways this quality is unnatural. Human instinct is to seek security, retreat, or sometimes, lash out against hardship. What I have found is that perseverance is both a learned trait and a choice, developed through experience and by purposefully choosing alternative paths. It is a series of bumpy steps rather than a steady incline, but over time and by learning from both good and bad choices, it is refined into the foundation for strong leadership. Leaders, and individuals aspiring to lead, believe in themselves and persevere to reach a desired result when other strategies fail.
Ahmed R. Ali, the President and Founder of TISTA Science and Technology Corporation attributes his success to his persistent attitude. He says, “Starting the company was a passion and dream of mine, but when I started, it was a very challenging period. I was a one-person company for approximately two years, working as a sub-contractor to a large business on a Department of Defense contract. I took a huge pay cut when I started my company, and I took a lot of risk that put my family in potential financial jeopardy, but I was determined to work hard and succeed.”
However, this is not the only distinctive feature that makes an irreplaceable leader. His journey to prominence revolves around a fact; the path to exceptional growth, change, and performance requires assertive action. He adds, “Leadership skills are most effectively learned through overcoming adversity. When faced with a challenge, leaders do not wait for a solution to appear—they assess the problem, break it down into manageable components, and identify potential solutions.”
Mr. Ahmed R. Ali’s entrepreneurial journey began while serving in the United Sates Navy for 6 years. Upon completion of his active duty naval career, he worked in the private industry for several years for both small and large businesses, and as a government employee. His technical, management and leadership experiences with the military, private sector and government agencies prepared him for future entrepreneurship and the innovation economy.
Shaped by Experiences
The journey to becoming an effective leader is not an easy one. Addressing the obstacles that came along the way, shaped Mr. Ahmed R. Ali into the leader he is celebrated as today.
The charisma of Mr. Ahmed R. Ali is exemplary; he is a product of his own experience and through gathering strength from distress. He says, “Learning how to lead is a never-ending journey, and every leader’s path varies with their experiences and the people they meet. I began my career in the US Navy, where I was heavily influenced by exceptional leaders and through my interactions with both military and civilian personnel throughout the world.” Mr. Ahmed R. Ali has continuously pursued relevant educational opportunities, including a B.S. in Information Systems Management, an M.S. in Cybersecurity, an MBA with a concentration in International Business, and several executive level education programs.
In his words, “Leadership requires knowledge; leaders who not understand subject matter related to their business cannot influence successful outcomes or communicate intelligently with others. Even with my education, numerous personal and professional relationships, and more than 30 years of military, federal government, and civilian experience in engineering, information technology, cybersecurity, and project and program management, I still gain new insights in effective leadership every single day.”
Today Mr. Ahmed R. Ali has not only grown to be resilient but also to be an unapologetic leader. “In the first three years, TISTA’s revenue was approximately $200K with only 3 employees, and fifteen years later, the company has now exceeded $200M in annual revenue, with over half a billion dollars in contract backlog, and nearly 700 full-time employees,” he shares.
The Extended IT Department
With a growth-mindset and learning attitude, TISTA is at the pinnacle of achieving everlasting success. While these factors contributed to the company’s growth, we wanted to know what gives it a competitive edge. TISTA has gained a reputation for delivering innovative and cutting-edge solutions, providing exceptional customer service, and hiring highly qualified subject matter experts.
TISTA’s primary competencies include Agile Application Engineering, Data Engineering and Analytics, Integration Engineering, Test Automation, Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC), Infrastructure Engineering, Cybersecurity, Program and Product Management, and Emerging Technologies (such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Robot Process Automation (RPA), and Blockchain).
With numerous capable competitors in the industry, having a single line of product or service offerings is a considerable weakness. Therefore, TISTA offers a broad range of competencies that focus on customer service, employee retention, continuous improvement through knowledge sharing across programs, and innovative solutions to both technology and process challenges that hinder other companies.
Supporting over twenty Federal Agencies as a prime contractor, TISTA has been exposed to and developed a wide range of expertise in the fields of Cybersecurity, integrated DevOps and DevSecOps solutions, Health Informatics, and Fraud, Waste, and Abuse (FWA) detection and mitigation in support of federal agencies.
Most notably, TISTA’s leadership has made Quality Management one of its core competencies, which has resulted in many industry awards and recognition. Over the years, TISTA has been listed multiple times on the Inc. 500/5000 list of fastest-growing companies in America. In both 2019 and 2020, programs supported by TISTA received FedHealthIT Innovation Awards. And in 2020, TISTA was ranked #4 by the Washington Business Journal as one of the largest veteran-owned companies in the Washington metropolitan area. “We are a trusted partner offering high quality, cost-effective services,” shares Mr. Ahmed R. Ali.
Promoting Organizational Growth
Although TISTA has experienced tremendous growth during its 15 years, its mission has not changed: to deliver the highest quality IT services and innovative solutions to its government customers. The company accomplishes this by continuing to improve and mature its processes, strengthen and expand its core competencies, and develop and leverage emerging technologies and trends to provide the innovative and efficient solutions that its government customers expect and deserve.
“Combined with our service and product lines of business, we expect to grow to a billion-dollar company within the next decade,” states Mr. Ahmed R. Ali. Enabling this achievement involves detailed strategic and tactical plans, both short- and long-term, based on the accumulated knowledge and expertise of Mr. Ahmed R. Ali, the TISTA leadership team, and active participation of the entire workforce in their respective areas. The guiding principles driving TISTA’s growth strategy are consistent with Mr. Ahmed R. Ali’s goals when he founded the company:
- Being passionate and focused on customers and associates. This passion also drives TISTA’s community involvement.
- Continuous learning. TISTA’s associates love to learn, so it is important to provide growth opportunities. The company has partnered with colleges and universities that align with its goals of supporting veterans, technologists, and leaders.Sustaining Competency and Innovation
Entrepreneurs and business executives around the globe know that it is only through continuous innovation that success can be achieved, and Mr. Ahmed R. Ali is no different. He believes that innovation is a perennial management challenge. “The 2020 pandemic has been a time of great challenge for all of us. I am thoroughly humbled in the way that our associates have exemplified leadership, perseverance, and adaptability during this time. We have shown what we are made of. We are innovative during times of change and challenge,” comments Mr. Ahmed R. Ali.
TISTA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was a full corporate-wide transition to a remote work-from-home model in March 2020. Despite more than 90% of personnel previously working in offices, this transition was conducted over a single weekend, with full operational capacity both at the corporate level and across all programs the following Monday with a 100% remote workforce.
While some individuals acquired different responsibilities under the virtual model, TISTA had not a single layoff, and has continued to expand with dozens of new associates joining the company since this past March. Not content with just a transition, TISTA found new methods of enhancing transparency, communication, and collaboration through feedback and knowledge-sharing technologies. “Productivity has increased, and customer satisfaction of our pandemic response has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Mr. Ahmed R. Ali. Going further, TISTA established an entire team responsible for supporting both TISTA associates and their communities, and developed an online and mobile-accessible COVID-19 Tracker app that consolidates multiple data sources on confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
Under the leadership of Mr. Ahmed R. Ali, TISTA has integrated best practices and structures that promote ongoing innovation while sustaining its existing competencies. The company aligns its services with customer missions and actively engages with customers to consistently solve customer problems, provide transparency and proactive risk mitigation, and deliver measurable cost and time efficiencies.
TISTA’s innovation and engineering teams, components of TISTA’s Office of the CTO, continuously perform technology market analyses and are prepared to inject new innovative solutions or augment existing solutions as it encounters customer problems.
TISTA fosters two classes of innovation to sustain its competencies. Delivery Innovations are those that align with current competencies managed within the core business units, where usually the innovation would offer rapid returns by improving an existing capability or an operation of the business.
New Growth Innovations focus on proactively identifying challenges TISTA has not yet faced, and conducting ground-breaking research, solution architecting, pilot implementation, and thorough testing. Results of both Delivery Innovations and New Growth Innovations are provided to our customers in the form of white papers, demonstrations, and proposals.
“We mindfully combine and enhance our existing competencies by employing viable technologies. TISTA, as an organization, promotes an innovative culture within our workforce where we adopt techniques such as design thinking, and continuously groom our competency maturity level to differentiate us from companies that offer businessas- usual solutions,” comments Mr. Ahmed R. Ali.
Foreseeing the Future
Mr. Ahmed R. Ali’s journey and his persistence act as the fuel that inspires people to achieve specific goals, no matter how unlikely or difficult the path might be.
“In the past four years, TISTA has quadrupled in size and become a solid mid-size business. We have nearly 700 associates who have entrusted TISTA as their employer and committed to advancing the missions of our federal government customers. However, perhaps surprisingly, our goal is not growth for the sake of growth. TISTA does not employ salespeople to attract customers or sell our services. Instead, we have historically grown through demonstrating phenomenal success on increasingly challenging service delivery programs for our customers. When a potential customer has a requirement for information technology services relevant to TISTA’s expertise, we provide a draft solution, and explain our prior experience achieving successful outcomes. When we are selected to implement the solution, it is not a ‘successful sale’—we view it as a responsibility and align our company’s resources to ensure our associates can deliver results that exceed our customers’ expectations. Growth is earned, not given. If TISTA were to fail at service delivery, we would deserve neither growth nor customers.” – Mr. Ahmed R. Ali.
No matter what the future holds, it is clear that TISTA, under the leadership of Mr. Ahmed R. Ali, is scaled for continuous growth while ensuring that it continues to offer superior and customer-centric solutions.