The “about” page on Next Century Corp.'s website features the unsettling image of the twin towers of New York City’s World Trade Center soaring into the sky. While the towers and the thousands of lives they held have been gone for more than 18 years, they’re an important part of the Annapolis Junction company’s origin story and mission.
John McBeth, a software engineer who’d worked in satellite image processing and run a Laurel software and network design company that worked with the Defense Department, found himself stuck in San Diego after flights were grounded on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, so he rented a car to drive the roughly 2,600 miles home to Maryland.
Along the way as news of that day’s horror sank in, he became obsessed with the idea that it could have been prevented and decided to launch a new company to apply his and others’ technology skills to helping the U.S. intelligence and defense communities stop future attacks.
Today, McBeth serves as president and CEO of the company, which develops technology solutions that offer data visualization, predictive analysis and situational awareness. It’s what McBeth likes to call his and the company’s “destiny.”
Ensuring that employees engage with the mission is an essential part of what McBeth’s role as Next Century’s leader, and, to hear his employees tell it, he has succeeded.
McBeth took a few moments from helping the government protect the nation — and building homes — to answer a few questions from The Baltimore Sun about leadership:
What is a leader’s role in building a place people want to work?
Create a place where it is possible and necessary (key word) for people to accomplish great things. For us at Next Century, this means passionately pursuing our mission to protect this great nation. We consider this a great and worthy purpose.
What is your influence on your organization’s culture?
By being a world-class example of a person who is dedicated to our mission, thus nurturing the sort of culture that will make it necessary for all employees to demand of themselves, of others and of their tools and resources whatever it takes to make Next Century the best in the business by any measure. By becoming known as a person who says what they mean and means what they say.
What’s the hardest lesson about leadership you’ve learned?
That there is a real world outside of your place that does not live up to the ideals you live by. Rather than being perpetually stressed, figure out how to get the right things done anyway. If you take this attitude, it can become fun.