Narjis Ali: Pakistani Immigrant turned award-winning IT security company
Learn how Narjis Ali, a Pakistani immigrant, built an award-winning IT security company!
Narjis Ali fled from Pakistan to the United States alone, before being followed by her three children.
She then founded Sure Secure Solutions in 2004 to optimize the IT atmosphere and to provide information and security to the government and the private sector.
Today, the company is known as an Information Technology security company providing services including cloud computing, web development, cybersecurity, content and information management, and data analytics.
Due to all of her hard work, Narjis Ali received numerous awards dating back in 2012, including the 2016 SBA Small Business of the Year award, the 2016 and 2017 NASA Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year, and the 2017 Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year at NASA HQ and NSSC.
Apart from managing her company as the President and CEO, she is also doing volunteer work and is helping organizations across the globe in promoting entrepreneurship.
“I think that diversity adds so much more weight… You’re walking, talking ambassadors of your people and you become good examples of where you are and where you’ve been. I think that’s so important to me to hear people’s stories from, coming from different backgrounds.”
NAVIGATING THE FEDERAL MARKETPLACE
When Narjis Ali immigrated to the U.S., she needed to start her life all over again. She worked in companies related and unrelated to software programming and development and architecture.
Then, after a couple of years fearing the unknown, she started her own company. It took her awhile, but when she hired more employees, that’s when it dawned on her that she had a company.
In 2010, that’s when she made a strategic change to her company. She brought in more partners to get diverse skills in the company.
One key person was the late John Michael Lounge, a former astronaut, who played a role in helping her with the company’s business development.
She also joined the 8(a) program that same year and was approved on February 8, 2011.
However, navigating the federal marketplace is different and because she didn’t have much resources and knowledge, she faced difficult challenges at that time.
“For anyone starting your business with the intent to work with the government, it’s a whole different world. I mean, you have to know and you have to know how to navigate through the system.”
Fortunately, she was able to gain success in the following years and was able to learn how to navigate the federal market.
“The advantage I had was, which I feel till today, is the relationships that I’ve built with my customers. When I say customers, it just doesn’t mean the customer who you’re selling the product or services to. I’m talking about 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.”
ADVICE FOR SMALL AND LARGE BUSINESSES
1. Have familiarity with your target customers.
Not all opportunities are meant for your company. Some of these are in your domain and some aren’t, so you need to learn how to filter these opportunities and focus mainly on where you want to be.
This way, you will be able to really learn about what your customers need and place your company in a position where you are seen as knowledgeable.
“It’s very important to filter out very quickly where you want to focus. It’s better to focus on a few agencies and be persistent and get to know that very well.”
2. Sit on the backseat.
As company owners, you want to really be the one to lead your company in everything it does, but you should not be the one doing it directly. Learn to sit on the backseat and see what’s happening.
“Almost six years of my 8(a), I was a billable resource… But you know what it took away from me… is that you’ll have to sit on a back seat where you have limited interaction. You do have interaction with customers, but, you know, you don’t spend all your time there because you will not be able to grow the company that way.”
3. Find a resource with technical capabilities.
In building your company, you need good people with technical skills and expertise. You don’t have to be the one facing your customers all the time, you can hire good people to do it instead.
“There have been times in my company where we’ve had to cut back on management expenses so much and yet we want to keep the people that are providing good value to us so that they can stick around… We feel that these are people that are the most valuable resources the company has.”
2. Be proactive in helping others.
There’s a handful of resources where people can learn about government contracts, but the best resources are the people who have already been in the marketplace for years.
“I would say, just work with a lot of other companies that have gone through things and find out what worked for them, what didn’t, because those lessons are not recorded anywhere.”
So, if you are the latter, why not help new companies? Be a good resource and help them learn how to navigate this lucrative marketplace.
If you want to learn more about Narjis Ali, the Pakistani immigrant who built an award-winning IT security company, then check the resources below.
001: Narjis Ali launched a NASA award winning IT security company