Richard Stroupe Jr.
Founder and CEO
Sequoia Holdings, Inc.
Sequoia Holdings, Inc. specializes in cloud migration and Big Data solutions for both commercial and government clients, but is especially experienced in the intelligence community (IC). This high-stakes work requires a highly skilled and highly dedicated team. Here, T. Richard Stroupe Jr. shares how Sequoia is helping the IC extend its mission to the cloud, and how the company attracts and keeps the best and brightest in its field.
Q: Sequoia helps government and commercial clients migrate to and work within the cloud. What are some of the most common problems clients ask you to solve?
A: Right now the biggest challenge most of our clients have is successfully embracing and migrating to their new cloud environment. We work extensively in the IC, and the traditional approach within these highly secure environments has been to closely manage data internally. Because we have a lot of experience within the IC, and have provided great success to our clients there — often with critical challenges on very short-timelines — we have a trusted relationship with our customers. We have been part of their internal teams for years, and we know what their concerns are. We can anticipate what more will develop, and we know how to solve each concern as the move to the cloud is undertaken.
One of the key problems for our unique industry in effecting this migration for the IC is that many of these companies have not worked in this environment previously, and are uncertain as to how their technologies will perform there. To that end, we have created our IC Cloud Emulator, Sequoia Combine, which allows companies who are partners of AWS — or who wish to be so — to test their products and their people in an environment identical to that in the IC. They can leverage the long-time expertise of our team in working through problems, and be ready to launch successfully into this complex and unique environment.
Q: Another area of expertise for Sequoia is custom software development around large data sets. What’s your expert advice on how companies can make better use of the data they generate?
A: Utilizing large data sets depends on the mission and culture of the owning organization. You have to be very specific about the objective and how it’s intended to interact with its targeted customers. Ultimately it’s a heuristic process where analytic solutions are created over an iterative process.
Q: Sequoia has been experiencing extremely rapid growth. How do you make sure your operations are keeping up?
A: Our strategic business plan calls for rapid growth — this is what our company goal was when we launched Sequoia in 2012. Our people are the key to Sequoia’s success, and our team is a high-energy, high-performance group of elite professionals. We thrive on tough challenges, rapid expansion, and meeting intense customer demands. Because of this, we are constantly looking over the horizon to anticipate and meet upcoming challenges. We are constantly recruiting top-tier talent and making new investments in our staff with training and R&D opportunities. Because of our employee-centric model and the quality of our operations, we are able to attract and retain top talent.
Q: Sequoia needs highly specialized staff with security clearances — a tall order. How do you ensure you’re attracting the talent you need?
A: Our field of specialty is intensely competitive and demands highly motivated, highly skilled and highly cleared professionals. Due to our client portfolio, our entire team meets these specialized requirements, and thus we are a tribe of like-minded individuals. Unlike many companies in this space, we work with our team members individually, meeting their particular needs and desires for their own work life. Every employee is a vested owner of Sequoia, giving them a voice and a financial stake to drive our success. We provide customized flexibility for our employees to meet their preferred work schedules, vacation days and benefits packages.
Our specialists drive innovation, and Sequoia provides in-house research resources for those who wish to pursue innovative ideas of their own — we even have an ability to finance their development projects — and the highly collegial and collaborative environment fuels the creativity of our team. We also do extensive training sessions led by our team members, and we do frequent social events to show our appreciation for everyone’s contributions.
We find that this environment is highly attractive to the type of elite technology professional who thrives in the company of true peers.
Q: Once you have found the right employees, how do you invest in them to ensure they stay with you?
A: Sequoia provides an ownership stake in the company to all employees — we thrive on having the ownership of our success be personal to everyone at the company. We also provide extensive technical training opportunities to keep our team at the cutting edge of industry developments. We also open up these sessions to others so that our team can meet and collaborate with industry leaders and customer professionals. We are constantly seeking to develop our team members’ talents, and to feed their own desires to grow and expand their skillsets.
Our employment packages can be customized to the needs of each employee in terms of balance between work, vacation, family needs and benefits. We are highly flexible because keeping the elite talent that we have means providing them with an environment that is best for each of them. We strongly encourage the development of new ideas, and if a team member has an idea they wish to pursue, we will invest in the resources to drive that idea forward.
Our social time together is just as valued as our work time, so we throw great events throughout the year to bring everyone together. We are a true team that is committed to success in all aspects.
Q: Sequoia launched a startup accelerator a few years ago. How does that work complement your mission?
A: Sequoia is always on the lookout for innovative new technologies and opportunities to partner with innovators. The specialized expertise of our team members, and the unique demands of our clients, allow us to be very forward-leaning in finding better, faster, cutting-edge solutions. To further our commitment to these goals, we started our accelerator program to help develop new solutions. We can then partner with these technology startups — or bring them into our customers — and help them to grow, while providing innovative new solutions to our customers. It has been very successful in both directions thus far.
Q: Over the years, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned about running a company?
A: Singularly, the most important component of business success is the people driving the mission. The foundation for success is forming a collaborative and enjoyable work-life environment that recognizes each employee’s specialty offerings and maximizes their ability to perform at the highest level and grow their skills, experience and expertise. Growth of the person creates the growth of the company. Our clients demand mission-critical performance, and our team is driven personally and professionally to deliver that. Success comes from concurrently, and intentionally, meeting all of these needs simultaneously. We take care of our people, so that they can thrive in their service to our clients.