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In this series, Rosslyn Works, we chat with business leaders in our community. These are the thinkers and doers who make Rosslyn tick! Want us to feature your business? Contact us!

Zermount offers an integrated approach to cybersecurity

Tech startup proud to call Rosslyn home

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, so it seems appropriate that we profile Zermount, Inc. (Zermount), a certified Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) started by Mr. Terry Butler, a proven leader and Cybersecurity/Information Technology (IT) professional with over 15 years’ experience supporting the federal government and commercial clients. In 2016, Mr. Butler recruited Ms. Johanna Javier, an accomplished IT professional with experience in management and program design. Together, they lead a growing team of over 40 employees who provide client-focused professional and consulting services to a range of organizations and federal government entities. Zermount moved to Rosslyn in January 2018. When they're not on client site, their team enjoys sweeping views of the Potomac River and Washington, D.C., from their offices at 1621 N. Kent St., also known as Potomac Tower.

The Rosslyn BID sat down with Mr. Butler and Ms. Javier recently to learn more about their work. How did you start Zermount?

Terry Butler: As a former Army officer, I lived in Europe for about six years and spent time deploying around the world to places like the Middle East, in support of Operation Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. When I returned to my job in Europe, I realized that the role I was in was no longer fulfilling. At that point I was a civilian government employee, so I decided to come back to the U.S., where I accepted a position in the private sector working as an information security engineer for a large consulting firm. One of my clients became the chief information security officer for DHS and asked me to be the program manager there. I knew that I wanted to be in a leadership role, so I accepted the position and came to D.C. After many successes and a number of obstacles, I decided to start my own company. I remember Christmas Eve of 2013 like it was yesterday: I started the paperwork to create Zermount and officially established the company on January 1, 2014. It took me about six months to figure out what to do as a business owner. We won our first subcontract in May 2014. Things took off quickly from there, and here we are today. What do you like about being in Rosslyn?

Johanna Javier: I grew up in New York City and to me the activity in Rosslyn is similar to that in New York City, which I enjoy. From a business perspective, this is one of Virginia’s best melting pots. There are a number of larger businesses here, such as Nestlé, and small businesses and federal agencies. It’s close to D.C. but not in D.C. proper. The proximity to the Metro is great. Also, there's a good mix of demographics here in terms of age. Plus, there are lots of great restaurants and the view from our office is awesome! When did Johanna join the team as vice president and how did that affect the company?

TB: Johanna and I met in the fall of 2016. I was consulting for her on a project for a federal government client. We came up with a solution and she briefed the client and got the funding approved almost immediately. I said, 'How did you do that? What's your secret?' We worked together on other projects after that where I was able to see Johanna’s work ethic, intelligence and experience. Needless to say, I was impressed. Johanna told me that she was planning to start her own business and I said, 'Why go through all the legwork?' At that time, Zermount had grown to 30 employees and bringing Johanna onto the team would have been a huge benefit to the company. Johanna had capabilities in services such as system design and development, process engineering and IT Service Management (ITSM) that I don’t have much experience in. These areas are very important and pair well with information security and IT engineering, which is my background. I told her together we could create something that would be hard to beat! She accepted my offer to come on board and became my partner and the executive vice president of Zermount. Johanna, how have you approached your role as vice president?

JJ: I approach my role from the perspective of someone who initially wanted to start my own business at Step 1, and instead ended up being the person who came into a company that was at Step 3. The first challenge I faced was how to a move our headquarters from a living room to a vital office. How do we create a headquarters, get into a physical space, continue growing, and give more to our clients? How do we continue producing quality for our clients and implementing the right solutions for them? I come from a system development background, which I was in for approximately seven years before I got into cybersecurity, and that background allows me to approach cybersecurity from a technical perspective. Cybersecurity is a function of system development, and Terry and I collaborate in creating better, more secure systems, methodologies and frameworks. Cybersecurity started out as being a lot of policy and so a lot of the technical aspects of implementing secure solutions were missed. We strive to provide our clients with the right professionals and services to ensure new and existing systems are secure. We offer solutions for our clients to grow and mature. Understanding both sides is important and a good match. When we hire, we look for professionals who are very balanced. That makes for a very strong company and team.

TB: Security is often overlooked. It’s not really thought through until later when something happens, or when someone makes it a requirement. Johanna is also a subject matter expert in Agile methodologies and in establishing a framework for iteratively doing system implementation and development. Part of my mindset has always been that while we are developing and improving systems and technologies, we are never building security in as part of the process. It’s always seen as the hurdle or we’re trying to bolt it on at the end. Security as an integrated aspect of the system lifecycle has always been a belief of mine. Therefore, my teams have been following this logic as a practice way before there were standards and guidelines on truly integrated and agile security.

"Security is often overlooked. It’s not really thought through until later when something happens, or when someone makes it a requirement. Security as an integrated aspect of the system lifecycle has always been a belief of mine." – Terry Butler, President & CEO, Zermount. Can you think of specific projects you’ve done that have been very successful?

TB: We are proud of every project. Probably the most prominent honor we’ve received recently is that our team just scored as the top team and component in the entire agency for one of our federal government clients. For this client, two years running, we have achieved the top score and all green scorecards, which are a rating of how well the agency complies with cybersecurity regulations. This is the first time this has occurred in the history of this agency—that one component has led and been at the top consistently for two straight years. Zermount has also received the component’s Director’s Award for Cybersecurity, the first time this was given to a contractor.

JJ: Another success and foundational contract resulted from an agency bringing us in after senior leadership lacked support and services required for their program. We were very excited for the opportunity and proceeded to completely revamp the program by aligning our methodologies and solutions with the client’s goals and expectations.  Since inception we have been able to double the size of our team. We have been instrumental in assisting our client in becoming the leader of IT security services for the agency, while achieving over 90 percent on all metrics for their IT security score card. We believe in leading through excellence and putting people first (both our clients and our staff). This approach provides a framework for employees to perform at a level that exceeds a client's expectations. What types of companies and organizations make up most of your clients?

TB: Most of our clients consist of the federal government and 5 percent commercial clients. However, we have a plan in place to expand our commercial clientele using our current private contracts as a launching pad. Our goal is to build the foundation first. If we do that and maintain an excellent reputation, we can expand and grow more rapidly, and provide the quality of service that exceeds expectations. If there were one thing about Zermount you wanted people to know and take away from this article, what would it be?

JJ: Even as a small business, we have a multidimensional approach to all our solutions. We don’t just think of cyber, we think of integrating cyber with systems. We understand how important processes, people and leadership are in organizations and companies. We get to the point. Both Terry and I have boots-on-the-ground proven operational experience in the areas of information security, enterprise IT and management. We are doers, we have come up through the ranks, and we understand all the frustrations and all the things that fail and are successful. We have grown organically and walked into organizations and built programs from the ground up. A strong foundation is the most critical part. We are also very proud of our low employee turnover rate. The teams we have built are proud to be a part of this company and proud to be serving our clients. It’s our role to help make our clients successful.

TB: What sets us apart is that we take pride in leading through excellence. We are involved with all of our employees and our clients; at any time, they can reach out to us and get the support they need. We understand our clients' missions and strive to exceed expectations; we are truthful and honest with our clients and employees. We report to very high-level federal leaders and people in executive roles, and we know the importance of the obligations and responsibilities that they have and are dedicated to ensuring they are successful. This pushes us to put solutions in place that work and get our clients the best results possible.

Zermount is hiring. Want to learn more about them and view available jobs? Visit their website.

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