How Relocating to T-REX Brought Engility Closer to the National-Geospatial Intelligence Agency

Originally published on the Engility blog by Michael Aper and republished through EQ: Entrepreneur Quarterly. Engility is now SAIC.

This is not a cautionary tale of genetic engineering gone bad; it is a tale of how Engility recognized an opportunity to better partner with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) by moving into the T-REX Innovation Center (a St. Louis nonprofit incubator that takes its name from its beginnings as the Technology Entrepreneur Center at the Old Railway Exchange).

We also gained access to some of St. Louis’ most interesting startup companies Comparing one’s customer to a dinosaur is not always wise, but given the early success of T-REX for Engility and NGA, I think the venerable tyrannosaur may be my new personal spirit animal.

It’s Okay To Be King

The NGA does a lot of very cool things with geospatial data, but traditional intelligence community thinking has kept its engineers more or less at arms’ length from commercial innovators. That changed when NGA set out to “work in the open” and make St. Louis the geospatial tech capital of the world—working with the commercial and academic sectors. I watched with interest as startup companies began flocking to the T-REX offices. NGA started using T-REX spaces heavily in 2017 during the Department of Defense Intelligence Information System (DoDIIS) Worldwide Conference and hosted NGA Tech Showcase West from the facility a few months later. NGA was coming out of windowless rooms to collaborate with diverse thinkers in an open-concept environment…and I wanted to make sure Engility was there. I laid out the plan to move our St. Louis offices to T-REX, and Engility’s leadership agreed.

The T-REX offices open a whole new world of opportunity. The startup mentality mixes things up and gets government and IC personnel thinking about solutions differently than we’re used to. Getting the brain steered in a different direction can lead to effective brainstorming sessions and unique approaches to problem solving. As creatures of habit, it’s refreshing and motivating for government personnel to get outside the classified walls and into this type of energetic, innovative, and entrepreneur environment.

Engility joined the T-REX community in May 2018, the same month that NGA began increasing their presence at the facility. We now sit in the same building that our customer frequents as their primary location for offsite meetings and events. In addition, there will soon be a new Geospatial Resource Center on the 4th floor. T-REX is quickly becoming the geospatial hub of St. Louis.

Taking Big Bites

The tyrannosaur was capable of 500-pound bites. Taking the lead from my spirit animal, Engility is looking to take full advantage of our new office space. In the coming months we have plans to host demos for our NGA customers, give sneak peeks to newly-released apps via NGA’s GEOINT App Store, engage with new talent, attend customer and building events, and host a variety of events meant to engage our customer and fellow T-REX denizens.

We’re still just beginning our chapter here at T-REX, but we are fresh off a visit with senior NGA leadership, which we expect to be the first of many successful customer and vendor engagements.