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June 19, 2019 | Tom Ballard

Cadre5 growing while staying focused on being ” company where software engineers thrive”

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

“I wanted to create a company where software engineers thrive,” Steve Hicks, one of the Co-Founders of Cadre5, says of the company that was launched in 1999.

By all accounts, the President and Chief Executive Officer, and his two remaining Co-Founders – Ken Lowery and Chris O’Neal – have achieved that goal. When we caught-up with Hicks for our first significant update on the company since this early 2012 article, he shared two important data points.

“We just added our 60th employee today,” he said during a recent interview. That is about three times as many employees as the company had seven years ago, and Cadre5 also relocated about a year ago into a 20,000 square foot facility in West Knoxville.

Hicks took us on a tour of the facility that includes many pods where project teams work together, several training rooms, and growth space for a company that is obviously successful. You can see the pride on the Co-Founder’s face.

“We have been very fortunate,” Hicks says. “We have something people want and need. It’s customized software.”

Another change from past years is the fact that all but one of Cadre5’s clients is in the federal sector. The lone non-federal customer is the University of Tennessee’s Extension Service. There are no private sector clients.

“We have about 25 federal projects, mostly through Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and mostly through BOAs (Basic Ordering Agreements),” Hicks says. “Many of our people are embedded with the client, and most of the engineers work on five-year projects.”

That level of work stability also benefits Cadre5 in other ways.

“We have near zero turnover,” Hicks says proudly. In addition to the multi-year nature of the work, he also cites the fact that the projects are interesting; engineers are able to use the latest technologies; and the company pays overtime, quarterly bonuses, and between 85 and 100 percent of healthcare and dental costs.

Retention of staff is critical due to the competitive environment for well-qualified software engineers.

Cadre5 spotlights two key projects on its webpage. One, named RESolution, is a research lifecycle support system to improve scientific productivity. It was developed for ORNL; the two organizations have a joint copyright on the tool.

Another is G2, a tool that integrates headquarters and national laboratory scope, schedule, budget, and metric information, creating a single repository of program data.

Hicks, who was recruited to the region to join Whittle Communications, is heavily involved in two local angel groups and also just founded a new enterprise named C5. The latter is a veteran-owned business, separate from Cadre5 but drawing on its recruiting efforts.

“We are always looking across the country for software engineers,” Hicks says of Cadre5. “We may hire two or three people out of 10 we interview.”

What happens to the others? While they don’t fit Cadre5’s needs for any number of reasons, they might have expertise that a Cadre5 client needs. These shorter term projects are not Cade5’s bread and butter, but helping a client meet a need is good for business.

“So far it’s a win/win for all parties,” Hicks says, explaining that “it doesn’t cannibalize Cadre5.”

He’s also involved in two joint ventures. One is named EMI and is a partnership with Gem Technology International of Miami to pursue requests for proposals issued by Consolidated Nuclear Security, managing contractor for the Y-12 National Security Complex. The other, a partnership with Global Datasec, called TrueSight, is marketing PM Tool, something Hicks describes as a “light touch project management system” also copyrighted with ORNL.

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