3 min read April 2022 — In an interview with Invest:, Founder and CEO Rashaad Bajwa of technology services company Integris discussed the company’s growth, how it has restructured its recruitment process through its apprenticeship program, the defining characteristics of the New Jersey market and his near-term outlook.
How has Integris grown over the last year and how are you continuing that momentum?
The last year has been very busy for us. We have had a total of five mergers and acquisitions and are now present across the country with 16 offices and 440 people. There has been a great deal of growth. The last year has made it interesting for folks who are working remotely, including us. But, the business has been booming.
The biggest factor is that our clients and the industry in general have really understood and appreciated their dependency on technology to be productive. We have sometimes taken technology for granted. We knew it was important but we didn’t fully appreciate and understand that it was critical to our daily operations. In a remote world, it’s totally different. Technology is the glue and the mechanism that keeps businesses running. If we don’t have technology and we are staying in our homes, we’re completely disconnected from the outside world because it is our only mechanism of communication and collaboration. Technology has really demonstrated its need and criticality to our clients and that opportunity has served us well.
What threats or mistakes do companies leave themselves open to and what are the most common misconceptions you face?
Cybersecurity is a big part of what we do now and the lack of people’s maturity related to cybersecurity is also a big part of what drove them to us as a provider. Historically, people did not necessarily appreciate the value of IT technology in particular. What people are finding out now is that IT is more than that. Now that we are in a distributed world and our data is all over the place, not only do you need to back that data up, you need to protect that data and you have to integrate it. All of that requires IT to not only fix it when it’s broken, but more strategically to protect it from a cybersecurity point of view. It also has to be accessible and efficient for your staff. We’ve shifted from being in the office to working from home and now you can work from anywhere. In a remote office, people are expecting that same experience wherever you go and that requires a very mature IT strategy.
What changes have you seen from your company shifting to a remote work environment and how will these shifts evolve your company and others?
Even though we are implementing remote work and easy home solutions for our clients, our own staff is asking for those exact same things. There is a shift and anyone who thinks it’s not permanent is kidding themselves. We are in a remote work world and we at Integris are shifting with these changes. Most employees at Integris will only be in the office for two to three days a week and some employees are fully remote. We’ve been using this landscape as an opportunity to hire staff all across the country. In our current market, it has allowed us to expand our geographic footprint. The shift will be a permanent one.
To what degree has your apprenticeship program helped to alleviate your talent struggles?
The value of apprenticeships is underappreciated in America, but it’s developing and New Jersey has a lot of programs that help support apprenticeships. If we didn’t have our apprenticeship program we’d have a bigger struggle. It has allowed us to start recruiting and developing talent in underserved populations that, frankly, previously would have never been able to put themselves in a position to apply for these roles because of the minimum qualifications. Ever since we implemented the apprenticeship program we’ve attracted more people of color and women. Apprenticeships have allowed us to give some folks an opportunity who may have not seen themselves with a career in IT. When women see representation, they are more likely to feel comfortable and attracted to that position. Those conversations are starting but we’re still well behind.
What are the most defining characteristics of the North Jersey market and how are these contributing to the market’s evolution?
What attracts a lot of businesses to New Jersey is the educated workforce. Our education system in New Jersey is in the Top 5 in the country. More significantly, we have the best public schools in the country and they are creating a lot of really talented folks. We’ve found that most of the talented and local candidates were in these local community college schools. Having that access to educated talent in our backyard is one of the primary reasons to be in New Jersey. You also have access to the best markets in the world. Recruiting is still very difficult because of the labor market we’re in and our industry, but at least we have hope here because we have so much talent in the region and access to those markets.
What is your near-term outlook for the technology sector in the New Jersey region?
It’s booming. The biggest limiting factor right now is going to be talent. If we can keep talent flowing into our market, then the businesses will stay. If we do generate the level of talent here and keep up with it, then all of these high-knowledge information businesses like Integris will stay with it. I’m very optimistic about our staying power given the talent in our local market, which will also create a lot of opportunities because the technology industry is booming. We’ll have an opportunity to generate and invest in more programs like apprenticeships that will further continue this boom for North and Central Jersey.
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