StratasCorp Technologies is one of the fastest growing government contracting tech firms in the US. In just under two years, the Virginia Beach based company now has almost 100 employees in 12 states and across 3 countries.
We sat down with Greensburg native and CEO of Stratascorp Technologies, Romeo Spino. His mission is to not only grow business, but to motivate and inspire the people who help him grow. Understanding the human mind’s creative process, and encouraging an ever-flowing loop of ideas is what makes Stratas an innovative force in a somewhat rigid market.
And now, our interview with Romeo Spino, a cocktail of Dana White with a hint of Richard Branson. Enjoy.
What’s Fuck that noise? – It’s anyone or anything that stands between people who talk a good game about accomplishing “SHIT” (aka: “goals in life or business”) and the people who show up every day in life and bring their FUCKING “A” game.
For anyone who doesn’t realize that they are in complete control of their destiny, or think that other people are in control of their future…I say, “FUCK THAT NOISE!” Hey, I get it that some people don’t think that making millions of dollars or starting a company is their calling in life, but if you want to play golf on the “weekends”, or play poker during the week “with the fellas” or sit around and watching Netflix with the girls, then don’t you dare fucking complain one bit about how your life isn’t good enough or how things aren’t going your way. We can all change our lives for the better, and if you don’t realize that the world doesn’t give a FUCK about your situation, you better just keep your mouth shut and watch from the sidelines.
We are in a technology cultural shift and this is the best time to start your business or your “side-hustle” and to follow your passion whatever that might be, and forget about anyone who doesn’t believe in you and tell them and yourself “FUCK THAT NOISE” and just do you.
What’s the #1 mistake people make in business? – Lack of focus. They make a P&L statement their main priority before putting people first. I am a strong believer that all businesses should make culture their most important focus. If you treat your team with respect and provide opportunities for creativity, then “turning a profit” will happen organically.
I believe people are unique. Who’s to say that my way “THE CEO” is the only way? You can’t force people to operate in a box, ”because that’s the way business has always done it”. Just let people be who they are and be creative. It gives everyone a sense of ownership and accountability, and it makes them a part of something bigger. The freedom to create will quickly show any CEO or Manager who talks a good game and who shows up every day to CRUSH IT!
How important is company culture in your business? It’s the pinnacle of our organization. I put Human Resources as our most important department in our company org chart. I work alongside our HR staff because I actually care about my team and what is going on in their lives. Our company has nearly 100 team members all around the globe from Japan, to Germany, and all over the United States. And I can tell you their name, location of work, and if they have had some type of life-changing event that has happened while at Stratas.
Company culture isn’t about free Starbucks, or bagels in the break room, or having a foosball table. That shit is all smoke and mirrors. Instead, company culture is about celebrating an employee’s one year anniversary or their birthday; it’s giving something meaningful, instead of some bullshit gift of no value. Companies should actually take the time to know what interest or hobbies of team members are and do something that inspires or motivates them. Not because of a desired outcome, but because we genuinely care.
What makes Stratas an industry leader? We have a high retention rate within the company due to our culture, which helps us retain some of the most qualified Information Technology experts in the world. We also invest in our team member’s professional development and promote from within. In order to be a great company, you have to keep developing and investing in your workforce. For any business owner, you are only as good as the people who surround you. We support the Department of Defense on a global scale defending against adversaries from all over the world and being able to operate with highly skilled professionals in that environment gives Stratas the ability to make changes and adapt at a moment’s notice.
Why a Tech and Cybersecurity Firm? The marketplace in technology is constantly evolving and shifting. I mean just take a look at how far the internet and technology has come in what, the past 10 years or so? I remember being in high school and going over to a friend’s house just to use the computer to type a report and hearing the sound of “dial-up” (most kids today have never heard that beautiful noise *laughs*). Now look how the evolution of technology has changed society and the culture of business due to social media and the data collecting of your personal information. That’s the purest form of Social Engineering, people want to put their information out there, and for any hacker with semi-decent skills can use or sell that information to anyone who wants it. Cybersecurity will always be at the forefront of technology and we will always depend on it. It’s the new way of fighting wars.
What’s the greatest misconception about the tech/cyber field? Everything isn’t just technology. The oldest form of hacking is social engineering. They called hackers back then Con Artists. It’s the simplest and truest method. You would be surprised how some people are clueless that they are being social engineered almost every day. Let me give you a scenario. A great place to social engineer someone is at a bar, because their guard is down. People are open to conversation and are already in an environment where they’re competing against other people to be noticed. So, a hacker would come up to someone and start the normal small talk. “How are you?”, “what do you do for a living?”, “What are your interests?”, etc. The person being socially engineered is clueless, but the hacker will steer the conversation to get the most information without them even realizing it until it’s too late.
You can build the best network defense tool in the world, but the only thing technology cannot protect against is the insider threat or human element of security. We cannot predict the next Snowden incident. No matter how many background checks, polygraphs, or subjects are interviewed. The human element will always be the greatest risk to any organization’s security and network servers where information is stored.
What’s your philosophy on motivation? – Motivation is birthed by trust not fear. I know that I keep pounding on this, but motivation comes from the culture. As the CEO of a growing company, I don’t see myself just at the top of an org chart. In my mind, I flip the org chart upside down. Meaning that I work for my team, they are my boss. It’s vital to me that anyone in the company can contact me if they need something, and they do. I also believe in being as transparent as possible to my staff. We are building something real at Stratas and It’s my job to make sure everyone trusts in my leadership. It’s important to me to have real relationships built on trust, which is the most organic form of inspiration.
As Stratas continues to grow, what core values do you want to instill through your team members?
- Respect for your peers
- Think on a macro level
What has been the most difficult part about being a business owner? Being pulled in so many directions. I love operating and functioning in a controlled chaotic environment. Being a business owner requires efficient time management. You put your team and company first and yourself last. You will never hear me complain about the amount of work I do, because I made my bed and chose this lifestyle, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I fucking love it! And I look forward to Mondays.
The battlefield is as much tech as it is weapons, how can consumers protect themselves and be more aware of cybersecurity? First of all, come up with a better password than “1234”. Fuck, you would be surprised how many people are too lazy to think of a password longer than 4 letters or numbers or use the birth dates of their kids or anniversary. Make sure your home router is password protected and stop clicking “yes” on the pop up box asking you if you would like Google or Yahoo to remember your password. Stop opening up email if you don’t know the person who sent it to you. Technology is here to stay and its only getting more pronounced. Soon everything we interact with is going to be on a smart platform. And if you don’t start thinking of what content you’re sharing to the public then you’ll always be vulnerable to cyber threats.
What type of charity organizations does Stratas support? Stratas is a big supporter of children with Autism. Autistic children are something that I have been very passionate about. I think they are superheroes in a way because their minds think and process different from most of us. Even though there are various levels of autism, the one thing I found that is always constant is their heart.
We also just reached out to an Non-profit organization called Girls Who Code and are wanting to partner with them to help place more women in the workforce supporting STEM programs. The tech industry isn’t just a boy’s club anymore. We want to do our part with closing the gender gap in technology.
We are also a big supporter of Veterans. Being headquartered in Virginia Beach, VA where we are home to the largest Naval Base in the world we are a certified company of the Virginia Values Veterans (V3) program that helps put veterans to work. About 62% of our workforce are Veterans and that’s something we are proud of.
What role does creativity play in your office? – We encourage our team members to be creative in their process. I believe in order to grow as an organization, you need to keep evolving and trying new things. During our staff meetings, we have 100% participation from people contributing their ideas or inputs. I value everyone’s feedback and ideas. It’s important in any relationship or partnership to have dialogue between people. We promote a community work environment and its helps drive our culture and success as a company.
The 3 most important things you learned being an entrepreneur?
- Surround yourself with like-minded people.
- Fuck what other people say or think about you.
- Grind every day like you have no plan ‘B”.
The one thing you need to be successful? Work Ethic! There are no shortcuts in life. You can’t have a 9-5 mentality and expect to be successful. You have to show up every day and attack your goals head on like a freight train. Everyone wants to be a Lebron James or a Beyoncé, but they overlook the decades of practicing and perfecting their skill. You have to put in the effort and grind every day. You can’t cheat the grind, it knows how much you have invested, and it won’t give you anything you haven’t worked for.
One superhero you have to spend a weekend with in New York, who do you pick?
When did you first realize you had an entrepreneurial spirit? – Honestly, I have always been an entrepreneur at heart. It’s in my DNA. My mother was an immigrant from the Philippines and my father who was Italian served in the Marine Corps for 22 years. They met when my father’s Naval Ship stopped in the Philippines on his way back from serving in Vietnam. So I grew up with the tough love from a father who was a hardcore Marine and he taught me discipline and focus, while my mother taught me that with hard work I can accomplish anything in life.
I remember being 10 years old and when I wanted money for food or video games, I would go to the local golf course and crawl through the bushes and collect golf balls. Then I would put them into empty egg cartons that I saved and sell them back to golfers for .25 cents a ball until I felt like I had enough money to eat and play video games. I did that a few times a week during the summer. I was 12 when I started a lawn care service. I scoped out which houses had husbands deploying for service and I went house to house and cut the grass until their husbands came home from deployment. For the lawns I couldn’t cut twice a month because the wives didn’t water their yard, I watered their lawns for free so I could come back to cut it later. That’s when I had my first taste of entrepreneurship.
What made you start your own firm? I started it to have a company where people are valued for their talents. After two years of closing deals and contracts for other companies, I was sitting on my couch and thought about how young my mother was when she passed away, and that life is too short to live and work for someone else. So I said to myself, ”FUCK THAT NOISE” I can build a business, do it better, and treat people with respect. I woke up the next morning and started working on my business. And within a couple short years, Stratas has nearly 100 employees across the globe supporting the Department of Navy and the United States Marine Corps with information technology services. I guess you can say that things came back full circle. I love what I do and I can’t picture myself in any other capacity. I love my company and I love my team!
What other plans do you have for Stratas? To keep building an organization where people come first. If we keep that as our true north compass then I think the sky is the limit for Stratas.
Who are three people who have Inspired you?
- My mother – She came to this country not knowing the language really that well, and she ignored what other people said or thought about her and she worked her ass off and raised me and my siblings to the best of her ability.
- My High School Football Coach Casey Cavanaugh from Hempfield High School in Greensburg, PA. – He was the first person who taught me about leadership and culture of a team. He had a leadership quality about him that when you played for him you were willing to work your ass off every practice and every play just to win for him.
- Mark Cuban – Not only because he’s a fellow Pittsburgh kid, but he grew his organization on his own terms. I remember watching him on TV and listening to the sports reporters saying how his way of running his organization is not the standard of the NBA, but he didn’t give a fuck what anyone said and soon he changed the culture of the Mavericks, invested in talent, and ended up winning a championship.