PeopleTec Boomerangs—Why These Employee-Owners Chose PeopleTec Twice

May 10, 2024

Have you ever started a story by saying, “I used to have this job...” There wasn’t anything fancy about it—just your regular office setting— but something about it always lingered in the back of your mind. It wasn’t the flashy perks or the window view; it was more like finding your favorite worn-out hoodie at the back of the closet. The bosses weren’t just suits; they were mentors who cared about more than just hitting targets. It was a place where you didn’t dread Monday mornings because you had a team that were your friends. It wasn’t about climbing the corporate ladder but finding a place that fit just right. Even when you moved on to new gigs, something about that old job stuck with you. So, occasionally, you’d swing by, grab a coffee with former colleagues, and catch up with familiar faces.

Have you ever experienced a job that felt like that, where colleagues were friends and leaving didn't mean saying goodbye for good? If so, you might be familiar with the concept of 'boomerang employees.' Join us as we delve into the intriguing stories of boomerang professionals at PeopleTec, where departing isn't farewell, but rather a temporary departure with the promise of a return.

The challenges of finding a “best-fit” workplace culture and career

Huntsville-native, Tasha Wiley, had her sights set on working for PeopleTec long before she joined the company in 2014. “I was offered a position at PeopleTec in early 2013, but I didn’t feel the job was the right fit”, Tasha said. She didn’t accept the offer but knew that she wanted to be a part of PeopleTec’s mission when the time was right. “Plus, I had friends and colleagues who were always telling me such great things about the company.”

In 2014, Tasha was presented with another chance to join PeopleTec and she did not hesitate to accept the position. “It was an incredible opportunity to work with a lot of insanely talented people I’d worked with in the past—a ‘Dream Team’ of sorts—and I felt so lucky to join them!” For the next few years, Tasha worked as a Systems and Requirements Analyst on various projects within her group. While she enjoyed her work, Tasha also valued her family and her personal wellness. Her daughter was just starting elementary school, her passion for health and fitness was at its peak, and her husband was often traveling and working long hours at the time.

In 2017, she was heavily recruited for a part-time marketing position related to her passion for wellness. “I never would have left PeopleTec for another DoD contractor. I loved it here, but I’d been working on software development projects for 12 years. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I felt that if I was going to try something different – to make that leap – that was the time to do it. So, with the support of my husband, I left PeopleTec and jumped into a brand-new career in a completely different industry.”

The work was new and exciting, but Tasha quickly realized there was something she missed very much. She jokingly says, “Let’s just say that I learned very quickly that the culture at PeopleTec—the healthy environment that is fostered and the support we receive from top management—is NOT the norm in many other industries. I’d gotten so used to working with caring professionals that I did not know how to function when I found myself in scenarios where people didn’t treat each other respectfully. It got to the point where I just wanted to go ‘home.’”

“Home” for Tasha was back at PeopleTec. She returned to the company in 2018, accepting a position as a Software Development/Quality Assurance Manager. In June of 2023, she became PeopleTec’s full-time Corporate Quality Assurance Manager. She is also currently pursuing her master’s in engineering management at Auburn University as part of a PeopleTec-sponsored cohort. “I won’t lie—I’m busy. My work life and home life are very demanding these days. But the benefits and flexibility I have here at PeopleTec afford me the opportunity to do all the things it takes to get it all done.”

One professional’s journey of discovering purpose, satisfaction, and work-life balance

Brannen Kerbo started with PeopleTec as a summer intern between his freshman and sophomore years of college. He wasn’t sure what to expect for his first ‘office job’ but was met with mentorship and kindness from PeopleTec’s employee-owners. What Brannen thought would be a quick internship turned into almost three years of professional development—all while completing his degree.

After earning his BS in Business Administration from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Brannen was interested in trying out different industries. “I wanted to explore the direct side of government contracting and chose to pursue a position with a consulting firm”, Brannen said. He spent about two months as a consultant before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted workplaces across the nation, including Brannen’s. He and his colleagues were indefinitely forced from the office into their homes “I hardly knew anyone at the new position at that point, so I felt disconnected and didn’t enjoy my work,” says Brannen. He decided to leave consulting behind and started as an accountant for a new firm. “I enjoyed being back in accounting, but I still felt like something was missing.” An opportunity to rejoin PeopleTec presented itself nearly two years since leaving the company. “I immediately jumped on it. Now that I’m back, I couldn’t be happier.”

In his time away, Brannen learned what kind of work he enjoys and what kind of missions he cares about. Since his return to PeopleTec, he discovered a drive for PeopleTec’s Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and is passionate about educating his colleagues about its benefits. “I especially love working with our ESOP every day and seeing the wealth it creates for all of our Employee-Owners.”

Brannen also learned the difference a strong company culture can make for employees. “I love the work I do and the missions we support,” he says. “PeopleTec truly feels like home to me.”

One professional’s career journey through personal growth and connection

Stefanie Smith joined PeopleTec in 2009 as an Administrative Assistant to PeopleTec CEO, Mrs. Terry Jennings, and President, Mr. Doug Scalf. She had previously worked with Mrs. Jennings as an intern before PeopleTec’s creation. “I didn't realize it then, but that summer set the foundation for a lifelong career in the Defense Industry”, she said.

At the time Stefanie was hired, PeopleTec was steadily growing, and she assisted anyone who needed it. “I supported HR, Security, IT, Business Development, and everything in between. It was this experience that exposed my interest in and aptitude for Information Security and so I embraced the "Tec" of PeopleTec.” In 2011 Stefanie accepted a position as a Computer Network Defense Analyst for SED and decided to pursue a Masters in Cybersecurity from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. She spent the next seven years exploring more technical roles, earning security certifications, and gaining diverse professional experience. “PeopleTec management supported my educational endeavors, professional growth and personal life as I had two daughters during this time as well”, Stefanie says.

In 2018, Stefanie’s family was growing, and her husband was in the process of changing careers. “I needed to cut back and seek a more flexible schedule that allowed me to be home more.” In her time away from PeopleTec, Stefanie worked various part-time positions before deciding to be home for her family full-time. “I accepted part-time work Consulting, doing Research for UAH, and providing support for a local Cybersecurity Training company. I eventually moved into staying home full time as our family grew”. A few years later, Stefanie decided she was ready to re-enter the workforce with the level of commitment and capacity that she could offer.

Even when she was no longer at PeopleTec, Stefanie stayed aware of what was happening in the industry. As fate would have it, she met an Air Force Major serving as Program Manager for a new MDA program. “We discussed her need for a Cyber person at the beginning stages of this program. When I learned that one of PeopleTec's VPs was already providing support to her program it felt as if the stars aligned and I would be able to come ‘back home’ to PeopleTec.”

In 2023, the Cyber position was funded, and Stefanie was hired as the C2BMC-G Cyber Lead. “PeopleTec has always been my home, and even when I was home full-time or providing support to another company, they still cared about me”, she says. “I intentionally kept a pulse on the company and stayed connected with colleagues at PeopleTec because I knew that the next phases of my career would best be done here.”

Finding comradery through a common mission

Armando Guerrero completed his service in the United States Navy in 2005 but maintained his passion for supporting the Warfighter’s mission. “I longed to contribute to uniformed personnel, so I provided the best of my abilities to the Tactical Data Link world”, Mando says. In 2009 Mando moved from Austin, TX to Huntsville, AL to support an Army customer. Three years later, he joined PeopleTec to research and build data link systems for the US Air Force. During his time at PeopleTec, Mando was required to travel often because of his work. “I was traveling to Charlestown, SC pretty regularly all while my wife was pregnant with our second child”, Mando says.

“To my amazement when I came back, the company was friendly and encouraging towards taking time to be with the family.” Mando decided to prioritize the needs of his family and departed PeopleTec in 2013 for a role with less time away from home.

Mando grew his skillset by exploring different roles including systems administrator and various cybersecurity positions. It was during this time that he realized how important the DoD mission was to him. “I tried to switch over to the commercial sector only to realize that there was still a part of me that longed to fulfill the role in which I first enlisted in the military—to protect”, he said. In the 11 years he spent away from PeopleTec, Mando continued to hear about PeopleTec’s culture in the industry. “The reputation of PeopleTec never diminished. When the opportunity arose to rejoin the company, I quickly applied.”

In his time away from PeopleTec, Mando learned that supporting the Department of Defense and its mission is what drives him to go above and beyond at his job. He also reflected on the importance of team building and how it reflects on employee morale. “It’s hard enough to find a place to work, but one of the most difficult things that I have found after serving as a Sailor and as a contractor alongside Airmen, Soldiers, Marines, and Coast Guard Personnel is that sense of comradery.” PeopleTec’s strong employee-focused culture made a lasting impact on Mando and influenced his decision to return after ten years.

“PeopleTec is consistent, and just as devoted to me now as they were back in 2012. That is the constant reminder every day of why I am here today, again.”

A senior cybersecurity professional’s story of ambition, growth, and realization

Todd Heflin joined PeopleTec in 2020 as a senior cybersecurity analyst. With over ten years of experience in IT and IT security, he was known for his expertise and commitment to the team’s mission. However, like many in the field, Todd harbored a lifelong ambition of ascending to a more impactful role in the IT security landscape. His dream was to become a Director of IT or a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) for a leading organization in either Commercial or DoD contracting—a position that would allow him to implement broader cybersecurity strategies and have a more significant impact within the organization.

After years of hard work and continuous professional development, an opportunity finally presented itself. A fast-growing Commercial company in the Oil and Gas sector was on the lookout for their first Director of IT/CISO, and Todd seemed to be the perfect fit. Driven by his ambition, Todd made the tough decision to leave PeopleTec and join the new company as a Director of IT/CISO. “This was a very hard decision for me because I thoroughly enjoyed working with the PeopleTec team, our current projects, and our customers; however, I always wanted to lead an organization’s IT and Cybersecurity departments and direct the strategy from top to bottom.”

The new role was everything he had hoped for. It was challenging, demanding, and allowed Todd to apply his years of experience in cybersecurity in new and innovative ways. Todd’s leadership and technical expertise were highly regarded, and he quickly established himself as a key player in the company. However, after 12 months in this role, a realization began to set in. “I remember waking up one morning and thought to myself, ‘Man, I miss working with my PeopleTec folks and being more hands on the keyboard’”. The culture, environment, and the camaraderie he had left behind at his previous company began to weigh heavily on him. Todd realized that the sense of belonging and satisfaction he had experienced at PeopleTec was an integral part of his professional happiness.

After much contemplation, Todd decided to return to PeopleTec. His return was welcomed with open arms, as his former colleagues and management had always valued his contributions and work ethic. “Everyone was happy to see me come back, and I knew this was the right decision; plus, the company I left decided to use PeopleTec for cybersecurity support which was a win-win for everyone.” This move, while seemingly a step back in his career trajectory, was a step forward in achieving his personal and professional satisfaction. Todd brought back not just his enhanced skills and CISO experiences but also a newfound appreciation for the unique work environment and culture at PeopleTec.

Todd’s story is a testament to the complexity of career paths in the cybersecurity field. While career advancement and achieving professional goals are important, they are not the sole determinants of job satisfaction. The experience enriched Todd, both professionally and personally, reinforcing the idea that sometimes, the best opportunities are not just about the role but also about the environment in which one thrives.

Finding the ideal ‘People First’ workplace environment

Before joining PeopleTec in 2017, Andrea Lavender supported multiple organizations within the defense community as a Human Resources professional. In her early career, Andrea’s responsibilities were focused on talent acquisition. Helping to connect people with opportunities that aligned with both their professional and personal goals made her work especially rewarding. Andrea has always been passionate about working with companies and people whose policies and actions reflect their integrity and care for others. She stated, “Organizational culture and core values have always been the key components I looked for when reviewing employment opportunities and were big drivers for making those changes.”

PeopleTec’s reputation for having a People First culture is what initially caught Andrea’s attention. She witnessed employees from her organization leaving to pursue roles at PeopleTec. Instead of returning within a few months, these employees stayed and sang the praises of their new employer and team members. Although content in her current position, Andrea began to watch PeopleTec’s job postings and learn more about the organization. After a couple of years of waiting for the right position, an HR role was advertised, and Andrea applied. She joined the team supporting a contract within its final year. During this time, Andrea supported multiple government customers and performed a range of duties related to employee orientation, training, and development. When the contract ended, Andrea separated from PeopleTec with a strong desire to return to the company. “I have worked with other organizations who cared for their employees, but PeopleTec was in a class of their own. They offered something special, and it was easy to recognize once you’d experienced it.”

Within a few short months of her departure, Andrea was thrilled to receive a call about an opportunity within PeopleTec’s Corporate HR Department and quickly returned. Today, Andrea serves as the HR Operations Manager. "I'm honored to have the opportunity to work with a company where the focus on doing the right thing, continuously improving, and taking care of our employees really does start at the top. This is an amazing team of very talented and collaborative people. They all enjoy learning and working together, and it just makes this job so much fun."