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Spin Systems:What's it like to work here?

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Charleston's First HackerX

Oct 24, 2019

Reported by: Jordan Nolte

SpinSys recently had the pleasure of hosting our first HackerX event in the Charleston office! The HackerX (Full Stack) event consisted of 5 companies: Blackbaud, TIAG, Booz Allen, Atlatl Software, and of course, SpinSys. This invite-only event was full of networking, mingling, and meeting new faces. SpinSys being the host of the party had the responsibility of keeping everyone happy with food and drinks, which we definitely did! Networking began with just a beverage in hand and a quick visit down the taco bar. 

Recruiters and employees of each company were excited to meet with the invited developers in roles such as Full Stack Engineers, Software Architects, Security Engineers, and more. Kourtney McIntire, SpinSys’s Recruiting Specialist, stated, “As a recruiter, HackerX events are a dream come true! With over 500 tech companies in Charleston and the unemployment rate continuing to stay at an all-time low, this event allows me to connect with other industry leaders as well as top talent. It was an exciting event for SpinSys and we look forward to many more!” As a smaller company, we enjoyed having the opportunity of hosting the HackerX event and meeting other companies and developers. The HackerX event was quite a success and we are looking forward to hosting more in the near future! 

2019 Summer Culture Squad Events

Oct 16, 2019

At SpinSys, we see how hard our employees work day in and day out. Every so often we like to remind them that it’s important to have some fun too. Every month, our designated Culture Squad sets up an event for the whole team to enjoy! Here are a few highlights from our summer events – 

June
Falls Church Headquarters

Dave & Busters

Reported by – Tatiana Bolat

The employees at SpinSys were overjoyed when Dave & Busters opened up their new location just 20 minutes away! As soon as the news broke out, the Culture Squad started planning an outing there. We sent out an invite to our employees to join us with their families and it was a great turn out with over 30 people attending! We had some yummy finger foods like quesadillas, chicken wings, pizza, fruits, and vegetables. Both kids and adults were competing to win the most tickets and the majority of them said their favorite games were Jurassic Park and Dirty Drivin’.

Charleston Office

Bowling at The Alley

Reported by – Kourtney McIntire and Jordan Nolte

Bowling strikes and lightning strikes? Our bowling night at the Alley in Charleston happened to be a night full of rain and thunder, but that didn’t stop us! As the thunder rumbled outside, we were rolling thunder inside. While one lane was for the kids, the other lane was for the big time bowlers – the adults. The night was filled with appetizers, drinks, laughter, and bowling balls. SpinSys employees had a blast while bonding with coworkers and their families. With strikes and spares all night, bowling was right up our alley!


July

Falls Church Headquarters

Hors d’oeuvres Cook-Off

Reported by – Tatiana Bolat

This hors d’oeuvres themed cook-off had a variety of amazing tasty dishes. This showed that we’re more than just “coffee nerds” – we’re skilled cooks as well! Nobody ended up getting sick either (which was great). The winners of this contest were awarded the “Best Cook in the SpinSys N.O.V.A Office” award. Out of 10 dishes, 3 were tied with the best scores. It seems that our office loves buffalo dip, spinach & artichoke dip, and keto spicy cheeseballs!

Charleston Office

Cook-Off

Reported by – Kourtney McIntire and Jordan Nolte

The Charleston cook-off was a great way for our employees to show off their cooking skills and get everyone involved in something yummy. With the aprons and the tasty dishes, it was hard to differentiate our employees from chefs. Who knew our employees were such culinary artists? After trying many different dishes and voting, Patrick Hamilton was awarded “Best Cook in the SpinSys Charleston Office.” It turns out that we love lumpia and brownies! Now we know our SpinSys employees have special hidden talents!


August

Falls Church Headquarters

Ice Cream Social

Reported by – Tatiana Bolat

Having the summer come to an end is something that many of us fear. Here at SpinSys, we held an end of the summer Ice Cream Social to help make the departure less dreadful. Employees were extremely excited as they indulged in the various options of flavors and toppings. The sugar rush certainly kept our SpinSys family going through that very busy Tuesday.

Charleston Office

In-Office Happy Hour

Reported by – Kourtney McIntire and Jordan Nolte

After a long day of work, there is nothing more relaxing than having a Happy Hour in your own office. Our employees were able to socialize, drink alcoholic beverages, and snack on a few trays of food. By sipping and snacking, the team was able to blow off some steam. There’s nothing better than being able to connect with your coworkers over a few drinks!


September

Falls Church Headquarters

NOVA Annual Picnic

Reported by – Tatiana Bolat

The Annual Picnic is an outing that is extremely significant for many of us. There are many benefits to hosting a company picnic that go beyond just enjoying the warm weather and seeing everyone’s smiling faces. Company picnics also encourage mingling between employees of different departments, strengthen team bonds, and increase family support.  The weather was certainly on our side that day. Lake Accotink had several fun activities. Our employees and their families were most fond of the carousel and paddle boats and as usual, Mookie’s BBQ did not disappoint. This company picnic is a tradition we hope to carry on for years to come.

Charleston Office

Charleston Annual Picnic

Reported by – Kourtney McIntire and Jordan Nolte

The Annual Company Picnic was a day of celebration and fun for the Charleston SpinSys office. Employees brought their families and their furry friends. Some stayed cool under the Red Party Umbrella, while others ventured out into the park. Everyone stuffed their faces with barbecue, chicken, mac and cheese, baked beans, potato salad, and of course, sweet tea. The hot summer day was perfect for outdoor games in the park like the Sprinkler! The day was filled with bringing employees together, celebrating teamwork, and just plain fun!

Meet Terry Kemp

Sep 25, 2019
Combat Leadership To Coding

Meet Terry Kemp –

Terry Kemp spent 10 years in the Army as a Cavalry Scout and Bradley Master Gunner with deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Eastern Europe. By pursuing his passion, he managed full-scale operation training events across the globe and found new innovative ways to teach, train, and mentor soldiers. After leaving the Military, Terry took on the challenge of becoming an executive recruiter. 

There he assisted Veterans to help them transition into their after service careers. After a lucrative stint with Lucas Group, he decided he wanted another challenge. Terry decided he wanted to learn to code. Terry attended a coding boot camp using his G.I. Bill in Washington D.C. with the developer’s dream goal of finding a remote role upon starting.

After attending the boot camp, Terry joined the SpinSys team. He had his first encounter with SpinSys at a HackerX recruiting event. During this event, Terry met the CTO of SpinSys, Chakib Jaber, who showed so much excitement about the company, office, and culture. Terry said, “He had me sold!” Now, he travels the country with his family, all while working for SpinSys as a software engineer. Terry is still very active in the Veteran community, by giving information sessions on using your G.I. Bill to attend coding schools. He has also given many talks to local meetups wherever they are stationary for a few weeks.

Check out Terry’s Kununu interview at –

https://www.kununu.com/us/spin-systems#/insights-title

CMMI Level 3 and ISO Sucess Factors

Sep 12, 2019


Introduction

SpinSys has seen significant growth over the years, and we recently decided to focus on taking the quality of our services to the next level. Commitment to customer satisfaction is inherent to SpinSys’ culture, and because of that excellence, quality in delivery, and institutionalizing a flexible process improvement methodology are critical aspects of our overall management approach. The goal of the SpinSys senior management was to establish a process that was both defined and repeatable. Repeatable processes with continuous improvement cycles would enable the company to provide excellent products and services to its customers. As part of this journey, we decided to parallel our company processes with both CMMI and ISO standards. This goal would allow us to focus on ensuring our engineering processes (aligned with CMMI DEV v1.3) follow and maintain specific industry standards while also ensuring quality focus on information security (ISO 27001:2013) and service delivery (ISO 9001:2015, ISO 20000-1:2011) from an organizational level. In line with our targeted goal, SpinSys was recently assessed at CMMI-DEV Level 3 and received the ISO 27001: 2013, ISO 9001: 2015, and ISO 20000-1:2011 certifications. 

Continuous improvement is at the core of our project management methodology. Our pursuit of continuous process improvement resulted in several quality-related benefits observed by our organization and the customers we serve. Our company and customers have seen the benefits of our focus on quality, services, and processes, and we wanted to share some of our lessons learned and success factors for the implementation of the CMMI and ISO certifications. Aligning organizational processes with industry standards such as CMMI and ISO can be a particularly daunting task for organizations and individuals who are not familiar with the models’ practices. 

CMMI and ISO provide standard practices. However, these are not defined processes. Organizational processes need to meet the value-added nature of your business needs and align with the industry standards with tailoring as applicable. Many people look at process improvement like they do diet and exercise. Everyone wants to be fit, but only a few want to put in the necessary effort to get there.

All process improvement activities should be examined and understood in context to determine how they relate to the cultural system of the organization that will implement them. As a result of first traveling down the wrong path of implementation and then down the right one, we learned some key lessons and identified various success factors to apply as we continue on our journey of process improvement. We have summarized the ten most essential success factors from our experience to make sure others can learn from our mistakes.

1. Leadership commitment and sponsorship

As SpinSys continued to grow, the leadership team recognized the key to success was to embed process improvement into our corporate culture. Creating a structured and repeatable process with continuous improvement would enable the company to provide excellent products and services to our customers. While process improvement is not feasible without investing time, money, and effort, the leadership team identified process improvement as a strategic objective for the organization and began implementation as if it were an individual project. 

Timesheet codes were created to track all the activities related to the project. Process improvement requires modifications of day-to-day habits for both management and staff, and changing habits often cause the resistance of individuals or groups. The necessary investment of time and money, and the need to overcome staff resistance are potential impediments to software process improvement initiatives. These obstacles cannot be overcome without management support. The right culture and leadership will cause the organization’s behaviors to align well with CMMI and ISO goals.

2. Staff involvement and commitment

Changing practices is one thing, but changing minds can be a tougher challenge. Staff participation is essential to improvement activities since employees must adopt process innovations in their day-to-day activities. If staff members do not commit to the proposed changes, the improvement initiative will inevitably fail. Ideally, improvement activities should be promoted from within the team as activities promoted by a group external to those involved in the process are less likely to be well accepted. 

Staff members must be involved in the improvement initiative as they have detailed knowledge and first-hand experience of the strengths and weaknesses of current processes. It is paramount that staff members understand that process improvement efforts enhance and support their daily work and should not be viewed as a separate activity.  To facilitate this, we formed an engineering process team consisting of senior staff members who were passionate about the success of the organization and had the most in-depth process, service, and engineering knowledge.

3. Right consultants

A poor choice of consultants can be very costly, have long term effects on the viability of the program, and adversely affect the credibility of the leadership in the organization. In selecting a consultant, understand that experience is perhaps the most critical characteristic. Look for someone who understands the work your organization does or understands the business, who balances process improvement and model compliance, and who will provide guidelines on how to evaluate your process effectively. Past performance and experience in multiple contexts can help increase your confidence that a consultant can assist in implementing an effective solution for your situation. A consultant who understands the organizational context can guide in areas where the organization does not have any expertise and can help the program stay on track. Try and choose a consultant who will coach rather than prescribe to ensure their goal is to make you self-sufficient and the expert.

4. Technology

Any discussion on process improvement would invariably emphasize the importance of addressing the people, process, and technology. Continuous process improvement is about making changes to the business process and not necessarily technology. Technology changes are just enablers that allow the process improvement to occur, but they are not prerequisites. The last time we failed, we built a product in-house to enable the process improvements, but it ended up adding tremendous overhead costs.

The process is the way that work is being performed on current projects. It is nothing more or less than the day-to-day work activities carried out by the developers, testers, project managers, and other team members. The process documentation is the infrastructure being provided to the projects to help them perform their work in a consistent manner. 

The organization should not abandon everything that they are currently doing to implement just any item to achieve the maturity model. Instead, they should determine how best to integrate some of the models’ more value-added practices into their existing processes and process documentation to enhance project performance. Use simple tools like Word and Excel to enable quick and less costly process change in the organization’s projects. Leverage existing infrastructure and tools to kick start the process. Remember, CMMI specifies the “what” and not the “how to do it.”

5. Process document repository

No other tool has contributed more to our continuous improvement efforts than our central online document/knowledge repository. We satisfied an astounding number of practices in several process areas by merely having a secure version and access controlled repository to store and baseline company and process assets. It would have been difficult, if not impossible, to account for and audit our assets without it adequately. We created guidelines, templates, and checklists documents to help and initiate process requirements for all relevant members of the organization. We made sure all the project team members could pull information from one location to know about process requirements and store objective evidence needed for external appraisals.

6. Set relevant, realistic, measurable goals

Setting relevant objectives means that the improvement efforts attempt to contribute to the success of the organization.  Setting realistic objectives means that the goals may be achieved in the foreseeable future and with a reasonable amount of resources. Relevant and realistic objectives contribute to the clarity of expectations and the degree to which the expected results are shared across all levels of the organization. This helps to direct the efforts towards common objectives, to focus energy, and to motivate people in the projects. A goal without a measurable outcome is like a sports competition without a scoreboard or scorekeeper. Numbers are essential part of business. Setting measurable goals means that breaking your goal down into measurable elements.

7. Communication

Most of our employees have demanding customer deliverable deadlines, and all of them work extremely hard to add value to the company. Demanding that already busy employees drop whatever they are doing to meet organizational objectives related to CMMI and ISO requirements they may not understand or appreciate is not necessarily the most effective or productive way to achieve buy-in. It was vital that we respect our employees’ time and effort by ensuring that each of them knew what the senior management goals and objectives were in relation to aligning with CMMI and ISO standards, why it was essential to the company to mature our processes, and how this maturity would benefit the entire company with continuous growth and improvement.

8. Develop iteratively

Following an iterative transition process — making small changes continually — is a logical way to adopt an Integrated Process Management System that is itself iterative. Doing so will be much more likely to result in a successful and sustainable transition. We used a simple excel sheet to manage the prioritized list of capabilities to be developed, work to be performed, and issues to be addressed within the organization as part of our process improvement effort. Tweaking the process documents should also be expected as the project team members become accustomed to the new changes and begin to suggest improvements in usability.  We created an email address to accept process improvement requests from the project teams.

Improvements to the organizational processes and assets are obtained from various sources, including but not limited to:     

Measurement and analysis of existing processes

Lessons learned

Results from the internal process compliance audits

Practitioner/Subject Matter Expert recommendations

Industry standards and best practices

9. Internal audits

Regular internal audits ensure process compliance across the organization. We assembled an internal quality assurance team responsible for conducting the process compliance checks for the projects. We picked candidates from developers, testers, business analysts, system administrators, and project managers who had a keen interest in helping the organization meet its quality objectives. To ensure objectivity, each person was assigned to a project different than their usual one. The QA team was essential in determining initial process effectiveness through the analysis of audit results. They conducted internal audits using predefined checklists at frequent intervals and provided insights from the projects to provide improvement opportunities. They also reported the process compliance rating to senior management. The results of audit analysis determined whether the processes needed to be adjusted or more training was necessary to facilitate process awareness.

10. Provide coaching and training

Our ability to be successful with CMMI started with an educational process.  We initiated our transformation by setting a goal to conduct instructor-led classes to familiarize and create a willingness for our employees to try CMMI and ISO standards and practices. This was important for getting everyone on the same page, sharing the vision, and increase the team’s willingness to embrace the concepts of these industry standards. We conducted practice-specific training at different times and increased our intensity to give a more profound sense of the new organizational processes. We also provided opportunities for the project team members to share information and problems and conducted mock interview sessions with the practitioners to improve their understanding of our updated standard processes aligned with CMMI and ISO.

Our process improvement journey has been an enjoyable one, and we are looking forward to the next destination (maturity through continuous process improvement). CMMI and ISO standards do not define your work. However, they are truly the best practices to effectively and efficiently refine it. This is an excellent opportunity to encourage continuous thinking in the organization.

Good luck with your organization’s process improvement journey!

SpinSys SSO/IAM/Federated Authentication Highlights

Mar 9, 2017


SpinSys, a recognized leader in providing Single Sign-On (SSO), Identity Access Management (IAM) and Federated Authentication solutions, has extensive experience in establishing enterprise identity solutions as well as integrating their own managed systems with existing solutions. Their experience ranges from working with Microsoft Active Directory (AD) and Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) in both corporate and government environments to integrating consumer products with OAuth2 endpoints provided by third party providers such as Google and Facebook. They have specialized expertise in working within the confines of DoD and Federal environments while setting up x509 (both CAC and PIV) certificate authentication. This expertise combined with a knowledgeable, experienced staff allows SpinSys to provide services to meet the requirements of any client.

Past Performance Highlights

Over the years, SpinSys has assisted several clients in meeting their single sign-on requirements by providing solutions at both the enterprise and application level. Their experience in working with clients of various sizes has allowed them to provide single-sign solutions that can be scaled and tailored to any client’s needs.


Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division – SSO PIV/LDAP integration

Helping DOJ/CRT keep pace with the latest technology, SpinSys continuously upgrades their base software; the latest refresh served as a technology upgrade from a client-server to a web-based application system. The recent upgrade also included the development and deployment of a Single Sign-On (SSO) feature, which utilized Active Directory LDAP integration with DOJ JCON, a PIV-enabled system, to allow users log in through a single portal for role-based access to multiple applications. The SpinSys COTS product was enhanced to work within DOJ SSO requirements.

DHA CarePoint (PIV/CAC)

While SpinSys was establishing the CarePoint Application Portal SharePoint 2013 environment, DHA was looking for a robust, enterprise identity solution. They had already seen various attempts at creating custom FBA providers to enable CAC authentication. SpinSys prototyped and then established an enclave wide solution by extending the existing Active Directory (AD) implementation with Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS). AD FS allows DHA to maintain a central account repository with AD and provides a secure, standards based identity provider (IdP) to enable federated CAC as well as PIV authentication. The central repository gives DHA one place to create or disable a user across all systems.

Fortune 500 Financial Institution – COTS SSO Integration

The Fortune 500 Financial Institution corporate legal system utilizes the Spin Business Framework for application development and configuration. While implementing the legal system, SpinSys was tasked to federate with an existing enterprise COTS SSO product. SpinSys configured authentication providers to accept custom HTTP headers and authenticate the user based upon them while working with Fortune 500 Financial Institution, This allowed them to centrally manage their user accounts at their corporate help desk instead of forcing the legal department’s administrators to take on that responsibility.

Tableau (DHA SSO Integration)

DHA utilizes Tableau as part of their Business Intelligence platform. The challenge was to provide a single sign-on solution that would allow users to seamlessly integrate Tableau dashboards with DHA’s CarePoint Application Platform. DHA did not want to duplicate user accounts and have the responsibility to manage accounts in multiple locations. The SSO solution was required to support both CAC as well as PIV. SpinSys was able to quickly federate Tableau with the Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) server previously provisioned by SpinSys. This provided a seamless experience to the end users and allowed DHA to centrally manage a single account across all systems.

Department of the Navy – Office of the CIO

SpinSys built a CAC authentication module that integrates with the asset management solution implemented by their development teams. Out of the box, the COTS product leveraged username/password authentication but the Navy required CAC authentication to meet Information Assurance guidelines. SpinSys ensured that all software components and databases continued to satisfy DoD and Navy regulations and standards, including IA regulations, regular STIG implementation, and safeguards to ensure continued security compliance and accreditation of the system, environments, and personnel.

SpinSys’ development/modernization support includes analysis, recommendation, acquisition, configuration, deployment and related software engineering services required to implement a proposed Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) software for an Identity Access Management (IDAM) solution to replace the current limited functionality custom code. The proposed COTS solution would not only support CAC authentication, but also provides additional functionalities including streamlined automated new account creation or reactivation through a self-service portal.