No. 1 (midsize): Next Century Corp. supports nation’s defense and intelligence communities
By Allison Eatough
Dec 05, 2019 at 8:00 PM
On Sept. 10, 2001, software engineer John McBeth flew to San Diego to attend an internet conference. The following morning, he awoke to news of the September 11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
“It was a life-changing event for me and most people in the country,” McBeth said. “I was stuck on the West Coast and wanted to be home with my family like everybody wanted to be but couldn’t get there.”
His assistant, Candi Krug, secured a rental car for him, and on his drive back to Maryland, he pondered the day’s events.
“How could this happen to this great nation?” he recalled thinking. “How could we let this happen to us? How come we didn’t know this was coming? That morphed into, I’ll bet the information was available. … The information didn’t get to the right people.”
By the end of the drive, McBeth had decided to create Next Century Corp., a government software contractor that supports the defense and intelligence communities.
“I thought, ‘I’m too old to put on a uniform and go fight the fight, but I know something about technology,’” Next Century’s president and CEO said. “If we’re going to pick a mission, let’s pick a mission to get the information. Let’s solve the problem. We’re going to get the information to the people who need it, wherever they are, and we’re going to present it to them in a way that they’re going to know what to do with it.”
Founded by McBeth, Paul Butterfield, Charlie Butterfield and John Beakes, the Annapolis Junction company has grown steadily since 2002. With more than 160 employees, Next Century partners with government agencies and companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to develop and launch systems like the Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders (WISER), which helps emergency responders during hazardous-material incidents.
Next Century employees say the company’s coaching program, in which employees partner with a mentor for career and personal development; technical exchange programs, in which developers share information on new and existing technology; and tuition reimbursement program are among the company’s most valued benefits.
“We call ourselves in ‘learning mode,’ which basically means we want to learn every single day,” said Katie Casey, director of talent placement. “Our culture embraces that.”
Employees say they also appreciate the company’s service projects, including renovating a home for a local military family, and social engagements like game nights, happy hours and an annual picnic.
But it’s the company’s mission that drives employees’ motivation and satisfaction with their jobs, they say.
“The story of why this company was created sticks with me and every employee here,” said Karyn Katenkamp, an office administrator. “It makes you excited to come into work, to be a part of something important and impactful.”
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Krug, now Next Century’s vice president of administration, agreed.
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“It’s motivating whether you’re a technical team member or helping to run operations,” she said. “It’s a great feeling and a lot of reward to know my company helps to save lives.”
The mission is also a reason people join the company. Like McBeth, Ron Wilcom wanted to use his skills to make the country a safer place after the September 11 attacks. The then-software engineer heard about Next Century’s mission and applied for a job in 2004.
McBeth was one of the first people he met during the interviewing.
“You got a good sense for how [he] was going to lead the company,” said Wilcom, now a chief engineer. “Even though the company has grown, the access to leadership here and management hasn’t changed. They like to be involved and know what’s happening on projects.”
And just as he did in the company’s early days, McBeth meets candidates interviewing at Next Century and asks them all the same question: What is your destiny?
“Our organization’s destiny is to protect the country and save lives by delivering information to end users,” McBeth said. “I want to know if these people are passionate about something. ... I’m looking for alignment between individual destiny and our destiny. Once you find that alignment, it’s easy.”