DRTers Celebrate 20th Anniversary & Values that Continue to Drive Success

“The DRT culture motivates me,” says Jennifer Hanling, a graphic artist on the Center for Disease Control’s GRASP team. “I love how much DRTers love their jobs. Every single person I work with says this is the best job they have ever had.”

Having joined DRT in January, Jennifer is the latest in a line of leaders who have forged the company’s legacy—now spanning two decades of extraordinary service to customers. On this 20th anniversary, Jennifer attributes DRT’s enduring record to its values—as does the woman who started it all, founder and CEO Susan Kidd.

Back in 2004, Susan converted a windowless closet in her Virginia home into DRT’s first office. Today, the view is much better—with the headquarters now in Rosslyn overlooking Georgetown, the Washington monument, and the Capital building. Yet, the mission remains the same. Susan says, “As I reflect on the success we have had, it ties back to two things—DRTers gaining a deep understanding of our customers’ needs and then delivering innovative solutions to truly fulfill those needs.”

From the start, Susan was determined to do consulting differently than she had seen it practiced. “The same holds true today, as so often we compete against companies that only want to deliver the technology without truly grasping the customers’ business. Then when the solutions are delivered, the customer does not end up with what they want or need.”

Contributors to enduring success

How did DRT “walk the walk” over two decades, embodying the mission?

Horalia Domuz joined the company in its early years when the flood insurance account at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was new. “We didn’t have the basics in place—no accounting system, not even a printer set up to print checks. We were figuring it all out when our manager abruptly left. So, we moved on without a lead. We simply put our heads down and did the work.”

Sixteen years later, Horalia and most of her team are still at DRT—and still serving the same customer. “It has been an incredible journey, a huge learning curve. We built it all and earned our client’s trust, piece by piece, deliverable by deliverable. The FEMA surveys show that no matter how much time passes, our customers see us always going above and beyond.”

Staying scrappy and agile is what Susan has always modeled, Horalia says. “The way we take care of customers is directly related to the way DRT takes care of us as employees,” Horalia notes. “The energy and gratitude that Susan and the leadership team have instilled in us, keep us motivated.”

Our employees are the key

Horalia believes that DRTers tend to be people who enjoy continuous improvement and overcoming the numerous challenges that present themselves in government agency work. Indeed, Chief Financial Officer Sonja Risner says the company has learned how critical it is that employees intrinsically share DRT’s core values.

Sonja has been instrumental in the hiring of DRTers for 17 years now. She recalls the giddy moment over Labor Day weekend when Susan and Geoffrey McDermott emailed the team—a group of 20 employees at the time—that they had won a five-year, $80 million Food and Drug Administration contract for Information Technology Support and Program Management Support Services (ITSS). “I remember us laughing that we thought they added too many zeroes behind those digits.”

To staff up, Sonja and Susan hired 30 employees in eight weeks. “It was chaos but hugely rewarding. Susan scouted them, I pursued them, and we both interviewed everyone ourselves. We wanted positive, highly collaborative people who liked to roll up their sleeves and get the work done.”

Sonja still has the t-shirt from when the company hired its 200th employee—but she may soon need a new one, as DRT expects to grow its workforce to 275 by year-end. “We still look for the same qualities in DRTers; indeed, we’ve doubled down on hiring the kind of employee that thrives here,” Sonja says.

Growing, celebrating, and giving back

Several DRTers said their fondest memories are from the company’s epic holiday parties and from opportunities they have had to “give back” to the community via DRT’s charity, the Youth Leadership Foundation (YLF). Sonja recalls how painstakingly Susan evaluated nonprofits before choosing DRT’s corporate charity—and how serendipitous it was when a new hire saw YLF’s brochure on Susan’s desk and sang the nonprofit’s praises. Sonja notes, “It’s humbling to realize we have since donated more than a quarter of a million dollars to YLF.”

Amid the team building and celebrations, though, was a lot of hustle—and a determination to put the right processes in place as the company grew. Former DRTers Clara Hickerson and Eaen Marini were instrumental in securing the ISO 9001 certification in 2011, a badge that signaled to customers the maturation of the business. Two years later when DRT was nine, the US Department of Agriculture awarded DRT a $7 million contract. This was work that Susan first secured in the form of a few small task orders—and that DRTers nurtured and grew with their outstanding performance on the job.

Mike Duffy, Margo Boster, and a host of others contributed to accelerating business development—the apex of which was in 2014 when DRT won five of seven proposals, including the company’s first work for the Centers for Disease Control. Today, the CDC is DRT’s biggest customer.

Looking ahead to DRT’s future

Reflecting on the milestone, Kathy Taylor, Senior Vice President of Growth and Alliances, says, “The 20th anniversary represents our staying power—our commitment to our customers and our employees, and our willingness to learn, adjust, and continually improve.” Initially, Kathy says, “we grappled with getting our arms around the right processes only to make things too complicated. Today, with our investment in EOS for example, we focus on activities that truly create results.”

Now a midsize company competing against large companies for business, DRT is on the cusp of significant growth. “We enjoyed some major wins in 2023, we are pursuing some strategic opportunities in 2024, and are gearing up for a huge pipeline in 2025,” Kathy says. “DRT continues to provide opportunities for our team to do meaningful work that all of us feel very proud of—as we advance the very important missions of our customers.”

The art created for the occasion of the 20th anniversary features roots and leaves. These signify the way growth builds on what has come before as well as the teamwork and problem-solving that has distinguished DRT since it was launched into existence. Cheers to you, DRTers!

DRT's 20-Year Highlights

  • 2004: Susan started the company
  • 2006: 8A Certified by the Small Business Administration
  • 2008: Secured $3.5M SBA.gov work
  • 2009: YLF established as the corporate charity
  • 2010: Won $80M 5-Year FDA contract
  • 2014: Won 5 out of 7 proposals, including DRT’s first at CDC; 5th year on Inc.’s list of fastest growing US private Companies
  • 2016: Won $6M systems engineering contract with National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)
  • 2019: DRT IT SME’s Team Wins 2nd Place in ServiceNow CreatorCon Hackathon; 10th year on Inc.’s fastest growing US private companies list
  • 2020: Launched Idea Lab; secures RapidATO contract with CMS leading to development of DRTConfidence
  • 2021: Won IRS Data Mashing Proof of Concept
  • 2023: Secured $99M 5-year CDC GRASP contract
  • 2024: Won precisionFDA AutoML App-a-thon; secured $100M FDA PACs contract with Kaiva Strategies JV
    Susan, Mike Duffy and SonjaDRT employees celebrate Inc. listYLF logo

Job Well Done: Geoffrey McDermott Retires After 16-Plus Years at DRT

In retirement, Geoffrey McDermott looks forward to more time for hobbies including his jet ski!

In the 1990’s before DRT was born, Geoffrey McDermott and Susan Kidd worked together at what was then AMS. When Geoffrey subsequently moved to SAIC, he recruited Susan to join him there—and she reciprocated after she started DRT.

“Don’t you want to help me build a company the right way?” Geoffrey recalls Susan saying to him. Having had his fill of large companies, he joined roughly 10 other  employees DRT had at the time. Now, 16 and a half years later, Geoffrey is retiring from the company he helped nurture and grow.

DRT’s Corporate Contracts Manager, Geoffrey reflects on his tenure: “I’m proud of having played a key part in building DRT’s reputation with client agencies. Contracting officers often tell me how pleasant DRT is to work with.”

Geoffrey looks forward to his older son’s autumn wedding and to spending more time with his younger son’s 21-month-old daughter. But he offers DRTers this parting advice: “Maintain informal relationships. I was always professional in official communications, but I would also call or text my clients to ask, for example, ‘how’s your mom doing after surgery?’ The best part of this job is working face-to-face with our customers.”

DRT Yearbook