-NSA cares about this stuff , they looked this article many times in past,
so we refresh their memory and our own one about it .
LinguaLISTek Talks the Talk, Expands in Columbia
By Mark R. Smith
By 1997, Elizabeth Rendon had reached a crossroads in her career. At that point, she had worked for different defense contractors and, upon exiting Booz Allen Hamilton’s BWI office, made the move to strike out on her own when she accepted her first development project from ASEC, a contractor.
That decision served as the genesis of her new life as an entrepreneur. Working from her Columbia home, Rend—n opted to embrace the surging global market for language translation services that is facilitating defense and economic development efforts worldwide.
Offering a mix of IT, engineering and language disciplines has resulted in success for her Columbia-based company, Lingual Information Systems Technologies Inc. (LinguaLISTek). An 8A minority-owned documentation and business process translation firm, the company posted more than $10 million in revenues in 2004 and recently expanded into a new, 13,000-square-foot office on Broken Land Parkway.
LinguaLISTek’s key business is offering system support and software development, often for government contractors, which has become a big job in recent years. “Our employees speak 70 languages, with some speaking up to five each,” Rend—n, the company president, said. “Combining support and development services makes us different, because most companies offer one or the other.”
The company operated out of her basement until 2001, when she leased a 3,400-square-foot office in the Columbia Corporate Park, which is still in use. By that time, LinguaLISTek had grown to 20 employees, but the majority worked at client sites. That space was eventually augmented by a 9,000-square-foot training facility next door, which closed when the new Lake View office opened late last year. The company now employs 160 workers locally and 25 more at its San Antonio branch.
Rend—n, who is of Mexican descent and a veteran, points toward the vastness of the global marketplace as part of the reason for the company’s success. “We charge clients more for some languages than others,” she said. “People who speak Spanish are easier to find than those who speak Swahili, for instance.”
While many of LinguaLISTek’s clients are DOD-related, the company also works with “virtually any kind of business” that has this need. “I knew I wanted to focus on the language and software sides,” she said. “The growth we have experienced from the language side was not thought to be more than a niche at first, but it has turned out to be a strong market for us.”
Habla … Urdu?
Perhaps one reason that Rend—n could not foresee that importance of the language sector was the defense boom that occurred after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Nasser Basir, president of Planned Systems International in Columbia, said as much. “One of the problems with monitoring foreign voice and other traffic is that the volume is so great that the government and other users need more multi-lingual workers to decipher data, along with more automated tools.”
Where market needs used to be driven by the Chinese, Russian and Spanish languages, the Middle Eastern security threat has altered the global defense landscape. “There is a much greater need to address languages such as Arabic, Urdu, Pashto and Uzbek,” Basir said, “and it’s tough to find people who can speak those languages, especially people with government clearances.”
Such diversification has led LinguaLISTek to rise to the upper echelon of its niche, and post steady progress in the IT world in general.
The respect level seems to have risen with the profits. “They are a model for small IT companies that are trying to succeed in the defense business,” said Chris Prestel, president of Dragon Development Corp., which is the largest company in the Howard County Neotech incubator with 63 employees.
“It’s not unusual to see yet another one trying to rise above the 20-employee level,” Prestel said. “LinguaLISTek is an example of how to rise well above that plateau. They have done it through building up good relations in a very competitive market. As small businesses go, they are a big one.”
There are some other companies with the same specialty on the West Coast that were “driven by the Pacific Rim market,” said Vic Hess, senior vice president with the Howard County Economic Development Corp.’s Center of Business & Technology Development, “but I don’t know of any that are highly visible in this part of the country, aside from LinguaLISTek.”
It is also important to understand, Hess noted, that Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich has launched business-to-business initiatives with other countries, such as China, “and much of the information we receive will be in Chinese, since it is much more efficient for them to create content in their own language,” he said. “So, this type of business model will only create more demand for services like those provided by LinguaLISTek.”
The state has offices in 11 countries and the push doesn’t look to end soon. State Department of Business & Economic Development Deputy Secretary Chris Foster just returned from an economic development mission to South Korea and India, and the state is “considering adding those two markets now,” said Assistant Secretary for Technology Strategy and Business Development Paul Mauritz.
“The translation market,” he said, “is mostly a product of globalization and we are trying to get [the global] market to recognize Maryland companies.”
While also saying that there are small independent companies like LinguaLISTek in the area, “few can compare in size and growth rate,” Mauritz said. “I characterize them as a market leader. When you have that, another wave of similar businesses will follow.”
While noting that the company is also part of the informatics trend, Mauritz cautioned that, while the demand for such services is “not limitless, it is nonetheless huge.”
And that vastness has Rend—n and her expanding forces upbeat. “We are excited about future growth possibilities in all three sectors that we address,” she said. “We offer our foreign language training center so we can train even more employees and clients, many of whom have had next to no exposure to a given language. We can bring them to a near native speaking level in less than a year.”
While LinguaLISTek has established a solid structure for growth in Howard County, the company is starting to attract clients from other parts of the country, which is encouraging as Rend—n looks toward the horizon. “It is also part of our plan to open a smaller office in Northern Virginia as soon as we have 30 employees we can house in that location,” she said.
ENTREPRENEUR SPOTLIGHT: Elizabeth Rendón, President and CEO
Why did you become an entrepreneur?
After supporting various programs throughout my years at Booz-Allen & Hamilton, I knew I had a good foundation to start and manage my own business. I started on a small scale and have grown the business to include 160 professionals. We provide localization of software programs, language services, and IT support for the Department of Defense.
Did you have any mentors?
I’ve had a few including my dad, Victor Rendón who had his own business. Also others include Mike Noonberg and Marty Leshin at Booz-Allen & Hamilton.
What is it about your business that keeps you on pins and needles and/or keeps you up at night?
Waiting to hear word on the award of competitive proposals, especially when we are competing against larger companies to be the prime contractor. When we compete with smaller businesses, there is much less anticipation involved because we offer a unique service that other small businesses do not offer.
What has been your greatest challenge as a woman business owner?
The greatest challenge as a woman business owner is that I’m one of a few women business owners and I have to establish my credibility immediately at business meetings.
How have other women influenced you?
By seeing how their inner strength drives and motivates them. My mother had 10 children and her life always seemed in balance. This inner strength is what drives me to be successful in every aspect of my life – mother, wife and business owner. Just recently my husband was deployed to Iraq for seven months with the Marines Reserve and my inner strength was paramount.
Have you mentored other women?
Not formally. I believe the level of guidance I provide to the women in my company and how we evaluate different challenges offers a roadmap that women can follow.
What has been your biggest professional achievement?
In 2004 I was honored with the Minority Small Business Person of the Year for the Baltimore District and for Region III which includes MD, DC, DE, PA, VA, and WV.
What has been your biggest personal achievement?
Raising two children. I’m also active in my community, a member of the Trinity School Board of Trustees and serve on the Leadership Training Program Executive Board.
LinguaLISTek was founded in 1997 by Elizabeth Rendón, to provide software services to her clients. Within five years, the business expanded to include foreign language support in tandem with software. LinguaLISTek’s employees are based in Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C., Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, and Illinois to provide technical and language support services to its myriad of government and private industry clients. LinguaLISTek is woman-owned, veteran-owned, minority-owned, and 8(a) certified.