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Praxis Engineering Technologies: Strong moral compasses

'I think what sets us apart is the character of leadership'

Nancy Jones-Bonbrest

November 30, 2011

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Praxis Engineering Technologies Inc. is outgrowing its office space in Annapolis Junction, even though most of its 200-plus employees are offsite, “embedded” with various contractors and clients.

Praxis’ staff has grown 350 percent since the firm’s founding in 2002. In the past 12 months the company made 65 new hires, and it plans to hire an additional 75 people over the next year.

In theory, having a staff so spread out could make it hard to establish a company culture, but that’s not the case at Praxis, say workers and management.

“Praxis keeps their employees so happy that the work environment is a pleasure to be a part of,” wrote a respondent to the WorkplaceDynamics survey.

All-hands-on-deck quarterly dinner and lunch meetings keep employees in the loop about happenings at the company, which provides software development and systems engineering to the federal government and defense companies.

In their responses to the WorkplaceDynamics survey, employees said they were listened to and valued personally and professionally by the firm’s leaders. They also said that the scope of the firm’s work was exciting and challenging, and that they had plenty of opportunity for additional training and advancement. The company, which promotes flexible schedules and a healthy work-life balance, also provides tuition reimbursement.

These qualities helped put Praxis in the top spot for midsize companies in The Baltimore Sun’s Top 75 Workplaces list. It also landed Bill Dunahoo, Praxis’ president and co-founder, the top leadership award for midsize companies.

“I think what sets us apart is the character of the leadership,” said Ross Hecox, recruiting manager at Praxis. “[The leaders] have very, very strong moral compasses and a very, very strong commitment to their employees. They feel the employees are the reason we are so successful.”

Hecox compares the company to an inverted pyramid, with the management team there to support employees — not the usual other way around.

“In many ways this company sells itself,” Hecox said. “We have a very competitive and comprehensive benefits program, but I really believe our greatest benefit is the corporate culture itself.”

The company also holds a holiday party, spring fling and golf outing, as well as an annual picnic. This year’s summertime event featured bidding for a chance to put a pie in the face of the winner’s favorite Praxis manager; the event also raised more than $4,000 to fight leukemia.

In office headquarters, employees celebrate Bagel Friday, and managers make spontaneous grants of $100 gift cards to reward employees’ hard work. Snacks and beverages are on the house.

Many employees participate in the company’s referral program, which rewards them with up to $10,000 for a referral that turns into a hire.

Employees say they have a work-hard-and-stay-challenged attitude, driven by a dedication and patriotism that bonds members of the firm.

“I think what really sets this company apart is the camaraderie,” said Debra Mobley, human resources manager. “It’s a mini-family. People really care about each other.”

Praxis Engineering Technologies Inc.

Founded: 2002

Ownership: Private

Sector: Software and systems engineering

Locations: 1

Employees: 215

Website: praxiseng.com