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Aaron Brock, The Sound of Success

AAron brock

Aaron Brock, The Sound of Success

As the nation’s largest minority — comprising almost 50 million individuals — people with disabilities contribute to workplace diversity. They help businesses address challenges through varied perspectives and enhance their competitive edge. At Nolij, we work to ensure people with different skills, abilities and communication styles are integrated into our workforce and customer base.

Aaron Brock, a senior analyst, is a leader in Nolij Consulting’s Development Test and Evaluation team and supports our IT and cybersecurity strategies. Oh yeah, he also happens to be deaf.

Were you born deaf? How did you learn to navigate school and the world without your hearing at an early age?

“I became deaf at two years old from spinal meningitis which damaged my vestibular nerves that impaired my ability to hear sound. I was blessed to learn sign language at a very young age and attended ASL-based schools. I attended the Model Secondary School for the Deaf. I received my Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Gallaudet University, the only liberal arts institution in the world for the deaf and hard of hearing. After graduating from college, I went into Defense Health Information Management System.”

What are some of the daily challenges you encounter at work, and how do you deal with them?

“As a deaf person, I have never felt disabled. I have gained so much from my deafness, much more than I’ve ‘lost.’ We, as deaf people, call it ‘deaf gain’ or the ability to communicate without sound. Communication is always a challenge in the workplace because of meetings. In a sound-driven culture, people are often talking over each other. In many respects, deaf people are better communicators because we talk one at a time—sequentially. We can stay focused on the interaction without being disconnected. Deaf communication culture allows me to educate others on an alternate form of communication because people often forget the barrier that exists between us – my deafness or their inability to sign.”

How did you become interested in IT?

“My father influenced my interest in Information Technology. He worked as an engineer for AT&T and always brought his work home. I was around computers before it was cool. Along the way, I met a software developer who further drove my interest in computer science and software engineering. My initial work experience in IT was in Video Relay Service that provides ASL interpreting services for the deaf. Eleven years later, Nolij has expanded my technical skills by entrusting me to lead key projects. My colleagues are very accommodating– I’m lucky to be working with such a great group of people.” 

What are your interests, hobbies, aspirations?

“I enjoy cycling and playing video games. I am engaged and have two children and four cats. I volunteer at the Metro Washington Association for the DeafBlind doing some web development and IT support.”

What advice would you share with others who also have challenges that most of the population does not?

“Don’t view your disability as a challenge but something you can gain from. I am deaf, but I gained the ability to communicate without sound. You’d be surprised how accommodating people can be when you’re open about challenges you have in any aspect of your life.”
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Voices of Nolij: Celebrating Women’s History Month

Leo Faal

Voices of Nolij: Celebrating Women’s History Month

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Nolij would like to acknowledge and honor the extraordinary women who keep our company growing year after year. Leo Faal, a financial analyst, exemplifies every woman who does not let her circumstances deter her from fulfilling her ambitions and following her dreams. Thank you Leo for making the brave journey from The Gambia and contributing to the success of Nolij through your skills, dedication and energy.

“I arrived in New York City in 1990 from the small country of The Gambia in West Africa when I was 17 years old. My ideas of the United States were shaped by movies that celebrated America as a land of possibility and I dreamed of moving here one day to better my life. As a small country, Gambia did not offer many advanced educational or career opportunities after high school. I am the youngest of seven children and lost my father when I was four years old. It had been drilled into me by my hardworking mother that education is the key to a successful life. My cultural education began in New York City, where I found everything to be big, exciting, and a little scary—especially the busy highways! Within months of moving to the United States, I was very fortunate to find a wonderful family who gave me friendship, a home, and a college education. I lived with my new adopted family for 12 years before getting married. After I got married, I became a stay-at-home mother to my two children for 16 years. Although I previously held retail sales positions at stores like Nordstrom, Nolij helped launch my career in finance. I began as an adult intern in the finance department and then transitioned to a full-time financial analyst. As a mature woman entering the job market for the first time, Nolij, a woman-owned company, gave me an extraordinary opportunity to grow professionally. Nolij supports and understands women’s life circumstances and the choices we make because of our families. As my teen daughter now starts her educational journey as a Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholar, I echo my mother’s words to her often—’education is the key to the whole world and it’s never too late to make your dreams a reality.’ ”

Leo Faal,
Financial Analyst

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Leadership Thoughts

Partnerships Are a Path to Success

partnership blog by ashley mehta

Partnerships Are a Path to Success

At Nolij, we value our partnerships. As a woman-owned business, strategic business partnerships have enabled Nolij to grow our customer base, improve our business and expand our service offerings. But before entering a partnership, you must ask yourself what the purpose is in forming a business relationship. Besides gaining new customers, there are many reasons why a small business enters a partnership: reach a new market, access to new products, strengthen a vulnerability or brand alignment. In the case of Nolij, we have successful professional relationships with consulting firms to win contracts, solve technology and business problems and expand service capabilities.

There are many types of partnerships, at varying levels, that help organizations grow and succeed. For example, we have relationships with service-based organizations, product providers and other consultancies to form joint ventures. We also partner with business process outsourcing companies (BPOs), like Paylocity, Cigna, and PB Mares, that provide operational support to Nolij. BPOs are invaluable and free up executive management to focus on business operations, strategy and customers. Despite the different types of partnerships, they are united by a similar customer profile.

Nolij has recently formed three new joint ventures to expand service offerings to our customers. Our joint ventures capitalize on synergies and bring together under one roof leading-edge emerging technologies that create economies of scale, efficiency, and security for our customers. Joint ventures and partnerships in general benefit all parties involved in that partners complement each other’s capabilities while saving customers time and expense. For example, through a successful partnership with a parallel IT consultancy, Nolij was able to implement an artificial intelligence contract tool for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to transform its procurement processes and save millions in costs across the enterprise.

For each of our projects across different verticals, program offices and agencies, we form a pool of partners where our combined diverse capabilities best serve the needs of our clients. For the Department of Defense’s large-scale multi-year electronic health record (EHR) modernization project, we partnered with product solutions companies that brought added value. Nolij and our partners worked in tandem to modernize the EHR system, optimize workflows, create innovative ways for the system to communicate, and improve the continuum of patient care. In working with Department of Homeland Security clients, we leveraged our skills, in conjunction with automation products from partners, to enhance the Custom Border Protections systems. Our partner philosophy allowed this agency to dramatically improve and strengthen its automation testing skills.

A very important element in any partnership is the ability to deliver. Nolij works with many subcontractors, whether they are minority, veteran, or women-owned companies, that have the credentials, skills and maturity needed to help win a contract and successfully complete a project. Once a partnership is launched, it is crucial to honor contractual agreements.

Throughout our nine years, we have enjoyed effective partnerships that have been founded on mutual respect, transparency and honesty. Every day we continue to collaborate, be open- minded, flexible and fair with our teaming partners. At the end of a project, it is gratifying to celebrate success jointly with our colleagues and recognize each team’s strengths. 

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Leadership Thoughts

Nolij Consulting LLC awarded the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Test Automation Support Services Task (TASS)

G2 Xchange awards

Nolij Consulting LLC awarded the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Test Automation Support Services Task (TASS)

Nolij Consulting LLC, “Nolij”, awarded the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Test Automation Support Services Task (TASS), a 4-year contract. Nolij met the challenges of a rigorous multi-phase solicitation process, which included a written proposal, an oral presentation, and a coding challenge to demonstrate end-to-end automation testing. Nolij’s capabilities and expertise beat out 10 highly skilled competitors. This thrilling win demonstrates Nolij’s extensive expertise in the design, development, and deployment of automation frameworks and suites, Agile framework and processes, automation scripting, software testing for enterprise deployments, security compliance, and performance testing. We are excited to support CBP in their mission and efforts and will live up to the demands of this agency. “CBP, thank you for this award. It’s a privilege to be awarded this contract and we’ll work hard every day to support your mission.” says Ashley Mehta, President and CEO of Nolij Consulting, a woman-led consulting business.

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Leadership Thoughts

Why Nolij Thinks AI Will Lead to A More Collaborative Workforce

Why Nolij Thinks AI Will Lead to A More Collaborative Workforce

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being rapidly incorporated into the workplace and our daily lives, fundamentally disrupting the way we live and work. Machines are transforming the nature of work and the workplace itself by taking over more of the tasks performed by people, complementing the work that we do, and even performing certain tasks that go beyond human abilities. In medicine, machine learning algorithms are used to assess images such as scans and x-rays, looking for early warning signs of disease. New generations of AI-powered autonomous systems are increasingly being employed in a variety of fields, ranging from self-driving cars to customer service bots and automated supermarket check-outs. Concern over this looming shift is widespread. AI is often perceived as something that will eventually replace people, lead to widespread job losses and devalued interpersonal relations at work.

When reflecting on AI in the workplace many people envision a dystopian environment where robots take control of day-to-day activities or decisions, essentially making people obsolete. It is emerging AI systems beyond-human cognitive abilities that many fear will dehumanization the future workforce. So, how will AI technologies really change the role of people in the workplace of the future? AI will automate repetitive, process-oriented, schedule-related tasks, which will allow employees to focus on more people-oriented activities, like employee engagement, and utilize skills such as empathy, social skills, and emotional intelligence, analysis and big-picture decision making. Taking these factors into account, we built an AI product called Renaissance to help procurement and acquisition professionals. Renaissance scans millions of documents at lightning speed to locate relevant data and frees up the workforce to focus on mission-critical work. Our AI product allows employees to concentrate on the soft skills required to move the business forward while automating operational processes.

As people skills become the focus, higher cognitive skills such as analysis, creativity and critical thinking will be even more valuable. These skills will give organizations the competencies to be more innovative, which will in turn lead to rapid growth. Therefore, organizations benefit from an increased in productivity generated by greater automation, meaning more revenue that can be spent on creating jobs throughout all the sectors.

Renaissance demonstrates that the dystopian perception of AI domination over people in the workplace is not wholly accurate. The unique capabilities of human beings are more relevant than ever, even in the face of rapid technological progress. We embrace AI technologies by exploring how it will augment human capabilities to cultivate a broader view of systems. In direct contrast to dystopian perceptions, AI could lead to a workforce based on enhanced human collaboration. 

However, what we do anticipate is that employees will need to contend with significant workforce transitions by acquiring new skills and adapting to the increasingly proficient machines in the workplace. As company leaders, it will be imperative for us to navigate large-scale change in a variety of areas while keeping human capabilities and values front and center. While AI will undoubtedly displace some jobs, such displacement will create new opportunities as adoption to new technologies have done previously. For example, we have seen a near eradication of jobs like switchboard operator, travel agent, or elevator operator. Meanwhile, new titles like data scientist, app developer, and social media director have emerged. We at Nolij promote forging a partnership between AI and the workforce to create optimal outcomes for our clients, rather than a competition between people and machines.

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Insight

Nolij Overcomes Network Hurdles to Make Medical Systems Work Anywhere at Anytime

Nolij Overcomes Network Hurdles to Make Medical Systems Work Anywhere at Anytime

After completion of a successful project for the Department of Defense, the Nolij contracting officer remarked, “I cannot believe you solved this problem. This is huge!”  What problem did Nolij solve? Nolij had successfully ensured that data moved consistently across an array of gear, equipment and multidomain networks, such as mobile phones and satellites, in different warzone situations. This would allow the US military to provide reliable medical service across the continuum of care to soldiers as they move from the field, to Humvee, helicopter and onto command post hospitals in battlefield situations.

How did Nolij resolve the glitches in DOD’s communication networks? First, Nolij found that the military’s applications and systems were not being rigorously and thoroughly tested with the actual communication equipment used on the field during the development life cycle. For software to be reliable, it requires comprehensive testing in a “real-life” simulated operational testing environment that takes into consideration all possible scenarios and system constraints prior to deployment. This oversight during testing led to the health systems failing when deployed due to the operational environment never being introduced until it was released; thereby, causing a multitude of problems during software deployment such as tactical system failures.

Second, Nolij created a “real life” simulated operation testing environment by leveraging the Joint Network Emulator (JNE), a proprietary communications
simulation and network emulator jointly developed by DoD and EXata, that lets you evaluate on-the-move communication networks quickly and realistically. Our engineers worked with the armed services to emulate a soldier’s treatment in a warzone in different battlefield situations. Our team of system and test engineers then began to configure the JNE emulation package with all the environmental and system constraints we had discovered. After configuring JNE we then tied our emulation to our onsite network equipment, allowing us to test software in the intended deployed environment.

Third, we first ran our EXata environment on a mobile health application. The results were outstanding and the team was able to identify with precision where the software was failing or having integration issues. This knowledge demonstrated software behavior to our clients before it was shared with the development team. This allowed developers to begin mitigating problems while the testing was still occurring, which led to a faster feedback loop. For the first time in Military Health System history, software was being tested within the operational environmental situation and configuration as it exists in the field.

Since the successful deployment of this multidomain battlefield network simulation, Nolij has perfected their EXata expertise to deliver superior testing
environments to help clients resolve difficult technology challenges.

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Nolij Blends Microservices and AI to Help HHS “Buy Smarter”

Nolij Blends Microservices and AI to Help HHS “Buy Smarter”

Nolij Consulting, LLC, a NITAAC CIO-SP3-Small Business Contract Holder, successfully combined microservices with AI to help one federal department modernize and transform its procurement processes. Procurement can be a time-consuming, arduous process. Sometimes the overall cost and time invested are actually disproportionate to the benefits. Because multiple people buy the same or similar items at different times, from different vendors, and at different costs, it can be nearly impossible to compare purchases and identify departmental or organizational needs – and opportunities for economies of scale.

When the Office of Management and Budget tasked federal agencies in May 2017 with submitting a reform plan to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of their programs, the Department of Health and Human Services embarked on a multi-faceted department-wide transformation effort known as ReImagine HHS. A key component of that effort is HHS’ BuySmarter initiative, designed to transform and modernize the way the Department acquires goods and services. With more than $24 Billion in annual spend, HHS saw an opportunity to leverage Artificial Intelligence and e-commerce solutions to establish a cohesive acquisition structure across the department and drive better pricing, better terms, and recognize greater economies of scale. And shift the focus of its acquisition professionals to higher-priority mission-critical work.

Nolij Consulting developed a first-of-its-kind Artificial Intelligence tool for use in HHS’ BuySmarter initiative. The tool uses AI to compare and contrast purchases from almost two million current contract documents comprising 5-7 billion words, as well as schedules and public price lists, to enable strategic sourcing and group purchasing functions. By extracting information directly from the text of existing contracts, the tool enables HHS acquisition professionals, their subject matter experts and customers to easily access and compare similar purchases. This readily-accessible knowledge enables them to create more informed solicitations and more effectively negotiate the terms of new purchases.

The tool’s “human-centered” acquisition approach doesn’t require the user to have a perfect definition to search for an item – it walks them through a specific process of descriptive terms to provide the most relevant results.

Acquisition professionals, their Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), and customers can use this valuable information to craft more informed solicitations, more effectively negotiate the terms of new purchases, and unlock the potential for large group purchases. Daily procurement activities are ultimately faster, more accurate and less complicated.