Top 5—”Launching a NASA Award Winning IT Security Company” With Narjis Ali
Temporarily leaving her family behind, Narjis Ali, the president and CEO of Sure Secure Solutions, packed her bags and moved from Pakistan to the U.S. to start her life over again.
Skilled in software programming and development architecture, she was a natural entrepreneur throughout her life, even introducing computer education in Pakistan for the first time. With a little push from her son-in-law, she decided to push forward and begin her business in the U.S.
I said, “Why not where I’ve moved now and made my country here in the U.S. I can also start business. It was just the fear of the unknown I suppose that made me take a few years to start it off, but once I was there, I was like, yeah, let’s roll.”
Sure Secure Solutions is an 8(a), Woman-Owned and Information Technology Security Company founded in 2004. The company’s core capabilities include Cloud Computing, Cyber Security, Web Application Development, Data Analytics, Content Management, Information Management IT Security.
Her drive and work ethic has led to a number of awards dating back to 2012 and most recently the 2019 NASA Small Business Industry Award – NSSC Prime Contractor of the Year. In addition, the 2016 Small Business Administration of the Year Award, NASA Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year both in 2016 and 2017 and many more.
1. Dig Your Feet Into the Ground and Stand Through The Tough Times
Ali immigrated alone leaving her family, including three children, back home. One by one, they made their way to the U.S. However, she recalls the difficulties within that first year and how she pushed though those tough times, serving as encouragement for others to do the same when things become difficult.
“When I was a child I would stand by the seashore and it was not close to where I lived. We used to always visit once in a blue moon, go to a beach. I used to remember standing there and the sand going from under my feet and remembering how it would make me fall and panic, but my mother and my sister were always there with me and my mom would tell me to hold my sister’s hand and just stand there and dig my feet deep into the ground and just stand. Right? That is what made me. Even when I came here. I went through some hardships, but I stood through that and I realized that if you work hard and your intent is good and you’re honest about things, things do have a way of working out. It worked out for me.”
2. Be Patient and Seek Information
“I feel that today I can just hold somebody’s hand and say, ‘Don’t do that.’ ”
Ali discusses how resources and mentorship are key so you don’t waste yours or others time and money. She encourages entrepreneurs to hone into their path and where you want to take your company and educating yourself on the path to get there.
“You have to first identify where you’re going, what your skills are, what you want to focus on and then just zoom in there. It’ll take you much less time if you do a handful of opportunities that you think you want to go after rather than just go after anything and everything that says 8(a) in it.”
3. Relationships are golden
Unless you have the money, you will have to find a few partners to come up with the equity to set up the infrastructure. Relationships are golden in order for this to work and be successful.
Not just relationships with the customers you’re selling a product or service to but as Ali states, “Customers in the way of the environment. That allows you to be there and create those relationships with coworkers, colleagues, other companies, and the customer.”
This is how former astronaut, John Mike Lounge became one of Ali’s first business partners when she was just getting started. He was introduced to her by a mutual friend. Meeting and working with Lounge, led to her fascination with NASA, allowed her to get NASA, and become the 2016 and 2017 award winner for NASA.
“By the end of it when we were paying the bill. He was like, ‘Okay, I’m sold. I’m your partner.’ I’m like, What?”
4. Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket
Learning the hard way, Narjis Ali advises not to put all your eggs in one basket. Instead, first build a strong team and then divide and conquer. This will lead to the most success.
“It’s not about winning. It’s all about getting a team that will win. Whether you have a prime role or a sub role. One is survival. The other is to win and make money…You have to make your name. You have to get money for it and you have to be able to take different roles in different opportunities…We spread out, we team work and we look for teaming opportunities that offer us a swim-lane where we’ve got really strong qualifications and then we shine there.”
5. Filter out very quickly where you want to focus
“Stop bidding on everything that looks it’s in your domain. It needs to be in your domain, but it also needs to have a familiarity with the customer environment,” states Ali.
She advises mastering 1 or 2 companies and building the trust and relationships instead of going after all that you can.
“It’s better to focus on a few agencies and be persistent and get to know that very well. Know the gaps and try entrepreneurand be at places where you can get to know the small business office.”
As a leader, Narjis Ali is focused on helping others and assuring those around her continue to grow.
“The most important thing was that we want to take people that matter, to places that matter…I think that means the world to me. When I see people that we’ve been trying to grow, grow and go to places.”
Narjis’ story is truly inspiring and motivating. With such great advice, she leaves listeners and readers with a humbling message.
“I have to become the medium of receiving and then giving. That’s my life story. I listen, I hear, I see. I love and I know that I’m only the medium. So, I hope I can pass on whatever I get and model for someone else, somewhere.” – Narjis Ali
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