The Trouble with Talent


The Trouble with Talent

The trouble with talent is that there is never enough of it. Data analytics (DA) professionals are in high demand with our customers, and we have a duty to meet that demand. The proliferation of disparate data sources, including social media, and the ability to make sense out of ‘big data’ requires an emphasis on skill sets and tools that cross traditional STEM disciplines. We take a three-pronged approach to address this emerging need:

  1. Hire existing experts
  2. Recruit from the top data analytics academic institutions
  3. Grow our own talent

Teaming with George Mason University

By strategically partnering with a leading academic institution, we saw an opportunity to offer DA curriculum after hours, here at Engility, bringing the program into the workspace to encourage participation and degree completion. Partnering with George Mason University’s (GMU’s) Volgenau School of Engineering, we developed a Master of Science (MS) in DA, tailored to our employees and the needs of our customers. I led the effort, and nine months later, we had a Memorandum of Understanding and a fully-functioning program. No other competitor has a similar program.

Our employees and our customers love this program.
Most customers and competitors will send a few students to GMU to take the program on campus, but our cohort approach builds and maintains a significant pipeline with a focus on long-term sustainable organic growth in DA and data science. In 2013 we did a summer study to look at where technology was headed and where our customers were headed. We looked at our skill mix to see if we had any gaps or shortfalls in critical mass in these emerging technology areas. At the top of the list was data analytics. We began our first cohort in 2013, and the third cohort begins courses in the fall of 2017 or spring of 2018. Nine students from the first cohort (conducting one course per semester) received their diplomas this May.

What’s in it for everyone?

GMU gets to expand the reach of their MS in DA and their strategic relationship with a leading systems engineering firm. With each Engility cohort capped at 25 students, the relationship provides GMU with additional revenue and alumni.

Engility participants get to broaden their academic profile and add to their training, education and experience in support of our customer’s missions. The MS is applicable to all of our customers, and after the first four core courses, each student receives an accredited Certificate in DA.

Engility invests in each student (covering costs), and each student is making an investment in Engility in the time and effort required to complete the program (the MS requires 10 classes). This program allows Engility to attract, grow and retain talent that has significant value to our customers.

Engility GMU Cohort Grads

Reaping the Benefits

Our employees and our customers love this program. We hire life-long learners, and we see widespread interest from our employees. Our customers are happy to have people supporting them who are gaining skills by the month. So many of our customers face shortages in specialized skills, and it’s up to us to find novel means to meet that need. Our DA cohort is one approach that is paying dividends.

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Posted by Dr. Keith Littlefield

I serve as a vice president in Engility’s Intelligence Solutions Group and am the founder and executive sponsor of our cohort program. I hold a Ph.D. in advanced remote sensing and advanced geographic information systems from the University of Maryland at College Park. I’ve spent the bulk of my career managing large, complex acquisition IT programs. I joined Engility from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), where I last served as the agency’s Chief Information Officer (CIO). I am also on the Board of Directors of the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF).