ITSEC is possibly one of the worst times of the year and easily one of the worst events in my career. It’s a time for business men to work their chop and stomp the yard for any year-end scraps of cash and possible leads on money for the next year. It’s where all the used car salesmen of this industry get together and trade business cards in hopes of extracting slivers of funds from each other. On a high level basis, I have no issues with this; just like the Trekkie have their conventions and game developers have their own, it’s important that all kinds of people have a place to go and share their ideals with other like-minded individuals. It helps us feel like our existences has some kind of meaning when we believe in something insignificant to the grand scope of life and find others who feel the same. So why do I sound so bitter about ITSEC? The simple fact is that ITSEC is meant for one reason; to attract new customers. It is the single largest gathering of Military simulation companies, and a breeding ground for Military personnel who are itching to burn government dollars on something that might trigger their next officers’ promotion. Now, the largest missing link here is the workforce that mans the booth for your company.
Any conference I’ve ever been to was largely represented by attractive men and women who are paid to stand there, look pretty, and draw in new business. These beautiful people are meant to be the front line defense against the casual passer-by vs. a potential paying client or media outlet. Behind the curtain; or portable cubicle space, sits one or two knowledgeable individuals who are sipping on Ginger Ale and waiting to be called out when the questions get serious.
At ITSEC, there are no outgoing, attractive, pristine, metro-sexual face models; only software engineers. Every booth is overflowing with finely polished turds in the form of a software engineer in a dress shirt and slacks. The worst part of it all is that their presence on the floor is only meant to serve as support to those used car salesmen I mentioned. The software engineers are the monkeys that dance when the boss drags a client over to the booth and says, “show these guys what we have!” The whole thing just doesn’t add up. These companies fill their booth with a mountain of people who would rather be knocking out their bug list instead of smiling at strangers and trying to sell them a car. Software engineers are inherently internal people; they dissect problems and design solutions for a living. Those are hardly the skill sets required to be a booth babe.
The truly sad part of all this is that contracts are not awarded to the best company, they are awarded to the best friend. This means you are much more successful if you happen to know (or fall in good graces of) someone in a high ranking position. Now, if you read all the paper work on the face of these contracts they look fair enough but politics don’t stray far from the world of government contracting. There is a reason why contracting companies pay millions of dollars to lobbyists and go to shows like ITSEC. The power is passed to those who are near it and it becomes more about the buddy system and less about the American Soldier and their needs. So if you are thinking about opening a small business for government contracting, remember one thing; it’s not the quality of the product that matters, it’s the people you know and the power that they posses. Good luck and God speed.