Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
Westat, a leading research organization, and Fenestra, an information technology solutions company, have combined their capabilities through Westat’s acquisition of Fenestra. Fenestra’s business focus is on electronic questionnaires, data collection, metadata systems, and web-based surveys. This acquisition brings together their combined skills and experience in providing research and technology services and solutions to federal, state, and local governments and non-government clients.
Westat is an employee-owned professional services company headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, with total revenues of about $500 million. Since 1963, Westat has performed many national and international statistical research projects in health, education, energy, transportation, human services, and other fields.
Fenestra, founded in 1996, is an information technology solutions company recognized for its expertise in advanced technologies and providing IT solutions to complex research problems. Rick Rogers, founder of Fenestra, has been appointed to the Westat Management Group.
For further information about Westat and Fenestra, visit www.Westat.com and http://www.fenestra.com.
Vice President, Westat
Email: GregBinzer@Westat.com (link sends e-mail)
Saturday, August 30th, 2014
Email: RickRogers@Westat.com (link sends e-mail)
After eight months of participation, Fenestra associate John Elrick completed the Top of Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Community Leadership Program. Elrick’s group participated in numerous activities during the course of the program including tours of the Economic and Judicial systems of Frederick County Virginia. The program culminated in a series of open panel discussions concerning the growing issues of heroin use and trafficing in the region.
Elrick said “This has been an eye opening study. I feel this program has prepared my group to contribute to leading the area and helping resolve the problems we face as a community.”
Among the issues the group explored were the impact of the Affordable Health Care for American’s Act on regional health care systems, the issues of drug addiction and recovery in regards to the problematic “war on drugs”, and the future of the economy in Virginia.
Elrick is a Senior Systems Engineer and Scrum Master and has been with Fenestra since 2001. He currently works with the Census Bureau Generalized Instrument Design System (GIDS) Project team. He has also worked on projects with Swift Software, Westat, and the Community Foundation of Frederick County.
Sunday, August 24th, 2014
Frederick, MD (August 21, 2014)
The Board of County Commissioners of Frederick County, Maryland presented Fenestra Technologies President, Rick Rogers, with a certificate of recognition during their August 21, 2014 board meeting. The commissioners recognized Mr. Rogers for his contributes to Frederick, particularly through his volunteer efforts with the Boy Scouts of America and the Community Foundation of Frederick County. The certificate reads in part: “Your continued generosity and dedication to Frederick County citizens is celebrated. It is only through the hard work, care, loyalty and dedication of committed organizations and individuals that allows us to so ably serve the citizens of Frederick County, Maryland. On behalf of the citizens of Frederick County, we commend you for your contributions to our community.”
Saturday, September 21st, 2013
Estimated reading time 2 minutes.
I recently started in the Winchester/Frederick County Community Leadership Program. As part of our initial orientation, the twenty-seven of us participated in a series of team building exercises. One of those exercises contained a lesson far beyond the intent.
The exercise consisted of two piles of ten small wooden blocks, each the width of a shoe and about two and a half shoe widths long. We were divided into two groups and given the challenge of standing on the blocks in such a manner than no one was touching the ground for roughly eight seconds — long enough to sing one round of “Row Row Row Your Boat”.
Ten blocks was difficult at first, but our group got it. The instructor, Martin, then asked us to make do with fewer resources. We kept eliminating blocks and working through the problem until, after forty-five odd minutes, we successfully had all thirteen people in our group off the ground on only four blocks.
It was later during the debrief that it hit me. After hearing about how competition had spurred us on, I raised my hand and, choosing my words carefully said “I learned that, given the effects of competition, we will keep trying to make do with less just for the sake of making do with less.”
The group was silent and reflective for a bit. The final round of the song had been very rushed. There was someone standing squarely — and painfully — on my right foot. And, as a group, we had huddled together focused on just keeping the whole thing up. We had pushed the team to the point where, even a few more seconds would have led to us collapsing on the ground.
The interesting part to me was the fact that many of us had said “enough” at six blocks. But the psychology of trying to unconsciously “be the best” coupled with the cheerleading of a handful had been enough to put caution to the winds and push things to the limit. The team was in pain, huddled tight, and utterly helpless if another task had been added — not because getting by with fewer resources was a benefit, but because we had succumbed to the temptation to try.
When you look at your organization and start to think about how you can do more with less, how you can run leaner, and how you can get by with fewer resources, take a moment to consider — am I really doing this for the betterment of the entire organization, or am I just trying to see if I can for the sake of doing it. Ask yourself: “Am I thinking about the next challenge too, or just seeing if can I get by with just one less block?”
John Elrick is currently earning a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Colorado State University.
Monday, May 6th, 2013
Rick Rogers (L) Presents Retired Scouting Leader with Mementos Box
Rick Rogers, the recently appointed District Chair for the Appalachian Trail District of Boy Scouts of America, recently presented Robert “Hutch” Hutcheson with a box for his Scouting mementos. Hutch retired earlier this year from his position as District Commissioner with the Appalachian Trail. He served in numerous leadership positions in Scouting during the past 20 years, and recentlyretired to the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee.
Chris Bohanan has replaced Hutch as District Commissioner. Both Rick and Chris have spent a combined 43 years in Scouting. As Cub Scouts, they earned the Arrow of the Light Award, and later attained the rank of Eagle Scout. Now, as the two leaders of the Appalachian Trail District, Bohanan and Rogers plan to carry on the proud tradition of Scouting excellence.
Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
John Elrick, Senior Systems Engineer at Fenestra, was recently invited to join the Golden Key International Honour Society, www.goldenkey.org at Colorado State University-Global Campus. The invitation is only extended to those in the top 15 percent of their classes.
John finished his BS in Organizational Leadership at the Colorado State University -Global Campus in September 2012 with a 3.98 GPA. He was accepted into the university’s graduate in November of 2012 and is currently earning a MS in Organizational Development (MSOL). The invitation, which John accepted, noted that “This invitation comes with great distinction as joining Golden Key at this time makes you a charter member of the chapter at Colorado State University-Global Campus…. You will create a lasting legacy for others to follow by accepting this invitation.”
Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
Recent events remind me of an adage from Anthony Robbins that “success is 80 percent psychology and 20 percent mechanics.” Allowing for the obvious hyperbole, this observation is highly relevant to businesses and government agencies seeking to maximize performance in these rather unstable times.
As budgets get tighter and concerns about the impact from sequestration — both real and political — begin to dominate the thoughts of leaders in the government contracting field, we can be certain morale will be negatively impacted, and that these impacts will affect far more than we think.
I am one of those rare technology people who also has had a long term fascination with positive psychology. With sequestration looming, over the past few months I’ve thought about how we can prevent the growth of irrational fear from destabilizing project teams. The answers are relatively straight forward, but I am concerned they will be ignored in the wake of focus on costs.
While researching a paper for one of my graduate classes, I happened upon a startling revelation from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The statement surrounded the OPM’s decision to halt a pilot project concerning the Results-only Work Environment (ROWE). The comment hits home at the current weaknesses which can and must be addressed to ensure a smooth process moving forward.
[OPM Director] Berry said that employees’ goals — which were a crucial element for ROWE to succeed — weren’t set clearly enough, and the metrics used to hold employees accountable for getting their work done were also lacking. Communication between employees and managers also was not clear, he said, and OPM didn’t do enough training during the beginning of the program.
This liturgy of systemic failings points to key areas of concern for government and contractors over the coming decade. Three of the issues are clearly essential management skills and the fourth is a “smoking gun” as to why the first three were so disappointing in results; all the more so as the OPM, by its very mission, should be the best prepared of government agencies to handle these basic responsibilities.
The primary areas highlighted by Berry’s comments can be addressed with the following key strategies:
- Make training a vital part of operations. The government and contractors can take a page from the United States Military — the more you sweat in training the less you bleed on the field.
- Ensure that goals are set correctly and clearly. Many options are available for setting solid goals with clear metrics. Most government agencies have internal coaches who are quite capable of assisting in those areas.
- Make goal setting and proper metric design training an ongoing part of manager’s continuing education. Developmental coaching can be a vital tool in ensuring that even the best managers improve their skills in this critical area.
- Ensure that all managers and employees receive ongoing training in communications. Among other alternatives, Toastmasters International offers an incredible amount of skill development for a very small cost. As a bonus, many agencies already have existing clubs. (disclaimer: I am a long time member of Toastmasters).
When budgets tighten, training is most likely the first candidate for being cut in many organizations. However, when one is trying to do “more with less” one can no longer afford the luxury of strict tactical thinking. Instead, they must measure the impact of squeezing budgets by “trying to get by” rather than reducing real costs by ensuring that all those involved are working to their highest potential.
John Elrick is currently earning a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Colorado State University, Global Campus. He has a BS in Organizational Leadership and is in the process of completing his DTM from Toastmasters International.
Friday, March 8th, 2013
John Elrick, Senior Systems Engineer at Fenestra, recently completed the Coaching Certificate program offered by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).
“We frequently work on complex projects where we need to inspire diverse stakeholders to do their best work,” explained Rick Roger’s, Fenestra’s founder and president. “This training will be valuable to John in working with both internal and external teams, and help everyone achieve a higher level of performance,” added Mr. Rogers.
ASTD is the world’s largest professional association dedicated to the training and development field. It was founded in 1944 and is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia.
Friday, February 22nd, 2013
Fenestra Technologies celebrated their new office space right along Carroll Creek in downtown Frederick with a ribbon cutting hosted by the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce. Left to right are: Nan Sheridan- Mann, Membership, Frederick County Chamber of Commerce; Susan Warrenfeltz, wife of Fenestra’s President; Rick Rogers, President, Fenestra Technologies; Paul Frey, Vice President, Frederick County Chamber of Commerce; Frederick Alderman Shelley Alloi ; Donna Goff, City of Frederick, Economic Development; Frederick Alderman Karen Young, and Frederick Mayor Randy McClement.
Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
At roughly 2:00 pm EST (1:00 EST according to one report) October 22, 2012, Amazon’s Web Service (AWS) experienced an “incident” involving “degraded EBS [Elastic Beanstalk] performance in a single Availability Zone”. In spite of the carefully chosen words, the list of corporations affected was very high profile and included Netflix, Reddit, Airbnb, imgur, Pinterest, Heroku, and Foursquare. Heroku itself is a hosting platform so it can be assumed that dozens more high profile firms were directly impacted.
Fenestra ran headlong into these issues with an inability to access both AWS and Heroku sites via the console Application Program Interfaces (APIs). Fortunately, the servers themselves continued functioning during this outage. However, the impact of operating with hands tied serves as a reminder that every step forward involves a trade-off. While having redundant servers in the cloud simplifies many concerns, there is something comforting about having a server a few steps away, with equipment that can be replaced — albeit imperfectly — with a trip to Staples.
The failure brought up the uncomfortable reality that Amazon has suffered from several outages over the past few years which have seriously impacted the business functionality of high profile organizations. As a result, it is past time for IT buyers to consider carefully strategies which can mitigate the impact of outages and for IT Advisers to prepare solid recommendations to their clients.
Among the strategies Fenestra Technologies are reviewing were those adopted by Netflix in the wake of a large outage in April of 2011. Additionally is the sometimes complex and costly course of utilizing redundant cloud vendors to ensure failover. One of the key areas which still remains problematic is the difficulty of coordinating moves through the various APIs. While automated solutions are in development, it can be difficult to anticipate all of the permutations making a “one click” move hard to implement, regardless of how desirable it would be.
As government continues to examine ways to leverage cloud based resources for its ever growing big data needs, the potential impact of outages must be factored into those plans — not as a reason to avoid the move, but as a clear and transparent risk mitigation strategy. These strategies will come at a cost and federal buyers must be prepared to understand the trade-offs between costs and benefits before deciding upon how to best allocate resources between internal and external data storage. It will be the responsibility of Federal Information Technology Advisers, such as Fenestra, to ensure that their key personnel are well versed in understanding these key areas of risk.