By Cliff Nichols
Times West Virginian
As senior executive director of ManTech International Corp., in charge of West Virginia operations, Don Reynolds appreciates vision.
That vision includes that of the present — the future of high technology — as well as the past — decades-old planning that created the base of a now-thriving industry in West Virginia.
Growing up in Moundsville, he developed an interest in technology that carried through his days at John Marshall High School and West Virginia University, where he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering.
He was a member of his junior high school’s first computer class.
“I really enjoyed working with the computers,” Reynolds said. “I liked building things, too. Electrical engineering was appealing to me.”
A friend from graduate school began working with ManTech in 1992. As Reynolds was completing his master’s in 1993, ManTech had a project from the Navy that involved image processing.
“In my graduate school thesis work, I was doing signal processing-type work,” Reynold said. “So the image processing was appealing to me because it’s signal processing in two dimensions, basically.”
That’s how Reynolds began his ongoing career at ManTech.
Before he took the job, he wasn’t sure he was going to be able to stay in his home state for his career.
“I didn’t know what the job market was going to be like,” Reynolds said. “I was a young college student. I’m thrilled that we have this high-tech sector now. When I joined ManTech back in ’93, that was before some of the other high-tech folks were around here, but it was beginning to be built. The high-tech sector here was in the process of being built.
“Being involved in all of that in that high-tech community around here as it was starting in its early stages and then taking off, it was a really nice experience to be able to go through that.”
Had there not been the vision by West Virginia leaders at that time, Reynolds’ career path could have taken him away from the state.
While at WVU, he did an internship at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Ariz.
“That was one of the great experiences of my life, to go out there, first time being far away from home like that,” he said. “If not for the growing high-tech sector and the opportunities that were just starting back then here, I would probably be out there right now, because they had offered me a full-time job to come back and continue to work there.
“I appreciated that, but the thought of being able to stay here and be near my family and my home was more appealing to me. I ended up staying here, and I’m very happy about that.”
Reynolds believes the building of the high-tech industry will continue.
“What you’re seeing nowadays is larger scale. You’re seeing more data center-type operations popping up,” he said. “You’re hearing things like cloud computing. You’re seeing these data centers becoming almost like the factories of the future. Large applications will be running in these data centers across the country and around the world.
“We have work like that right here, and it’s great for the area that we have large-scale systems and data centers around here to gain that experience.”
That’s good news for people who want to live and work in North Central West Virginia.
“I think that the information technology industry is going to be strong for the rest of our lives,” Reynolds said. “For anyone who is in high school or college or trying to figure out if that’s a good field to go into, I’d say it definitely is a good field. I’m always hiring people. We hire people every month in here to work projects with these large-scale systems.
“The use of IT just continues to expand throughout business and industry. It can make things work so much better and faster and cheaper. I strongly recommend the IT field. It has a bright future. It’s important to be good at what you do. You major in IT. You do your homework. You focus on getting good at it. You can write your ticket.
“It’s a great, great field to be in. We’re always looking for good people.”
Because of the number of government customers, people wanting to work in the high-tech sector must remain conscious of the ability to receive security clearance.
“People in college, for example, want to behave so they don’t jeopardize their ability to get a security clearance at some point if they want to work in that field,” Reynolds said.
ManTech started in 1968 with a single contract with the U.S. Navy to develop war-gaming models for the submarine community and opened a Fairmont office in 1992. It has another West Virginia office in Hinton. It now has locations in 17 states and Washington, D.C.
“We have people all over the world supporting the war fighters, working side by side with war fighters in war zones,” Reynolds said. “We have a lot of people in places like Afghanistan and other war zones supporting countries. Most places where you see us having military personnel, ManTech is not too far away, generally speaking. We’re right there supporting the mission around the world.”
Domestically, ManTech provides “a lot of support to not just military, all manner of government customers, intelligence community, all sorts of great work that we do.”
Stability and longevity mark the company.
“It’s good to know that it’s possible nowadays with so many people jumping ship and changing careers and changing employers, it’s really good to have found a company that has longevity and employees that are very happy with where they work,” said Lynn Davis, ManTech senior manager of corporate communications.
Focusing on the West Virginia ManTech operations, the emphasis is information technology.
“We build computer-based systems for our customers that help them with their missions, help them solve problems,” Reynolds said. “We develop all manner of applications. We also maintain systems. We maintain certain very large-scale information technology systems for customers out of our West Virginia operations here. These are systems that are used across the country or even outside of the U.S. with some of our systems.
“We have a lot of our people who do software development, people that are very good at working with these large-scale systems with the operating systems and the interfaces and all the components that make all these things work.”
Ensuring that customers’ needs are met is Reynolds’ top priority.
“These systems work around the clock,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what day or time it is, the customers expect these systems to keep working. They don’t just run themselves. We have to have people available and ready to go to keep these systems operational 24/7.”
Reynolds, who has traveled extensively as part of his job during his two decades with ManTech, is thankful the opportunities are available in West Virginia.
“I’ve got a pretty good perspective on what it’s like in other states and cities and even countries,” he said. “We have it pretty good here. We have a good quality of life, I know my neighbors where I live. I know the people who work for me very well. This is a really, really good place to be.”
Email Cliff Nichols at firstname.lastname@example.org.