On Feb. 10 the Mercyhurst Competitive Intelligence Club (MCIC) hosted a guest speaker named Bryant Kimball, a distinguished Mercyhurst alumnus. Kimball is an Erie native and graduated from Mercyhurst in 2012 with his undergraduate degree, before later returning for a Master’s in Applied Intelligence. He is currently an analyst for FedSavvy Strategies in McLean, Virginia, and resides in Washing-ton, D.C.
However, competitive intelli-gence was not always Kimball’s career path. Kimball completed his undergrad with degrees in mathematics and computer science. It was not until 2019 when he completed his master’s degree and became a true analyst. Kimball came into the Intelligence program thinking that he would work for the government one day, but as he moved through the program he was exposed to different career opportunities. The great thing about becoming an intelligence analyst is that there are other domains under which you can work.
Kimball eventually chose the CI path, specifically doing competitive research for government contractors as part of a consulting company. When asked what he likes most about competitive intelligence, he stated that he enjoys the pace of being a competitive analyst. Kimball then went on to say that while doing this job, you never get bored because you are doing weekly or bi-weekly projects for different domains, such as the military or private business. He then gave some advice to current students.
“In terms of thinking about what you want to do, the pace of the work should always be a question you ask in interviews and should help you decide what you want your career to be,” Kimball said.
He noted that finding the right job is just as important as finding a job, and speaking with alumni is a key way to gain insight into different career paths which might suit you. He began the presentation with an overview of the government contracting process. He explained that the budget for contract spending gets renewed every year, no matter how much the government is in debt. Hence, government contracts are a great way for contractors to make money. One might be familiar with some of these contractors in the government contracting space: Boeing, SAIC, IBM, Northrop Grumman, Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, and General Dynamics.
These companies compete against each other for government contracts, and these can be high-stakes pursuits worth millions of dollars. Each company spends a lot of time and money to win these big deals. This is where competitive intelligence analysts come in. Companies hire competitive intelligence analysts to help them make sure that they are putting the right amount of money into winning the deal or to let them know if they are wasting their time.
There is a tedious process to federal contracting, and there are two different functions – strategic and tactical intelligence. Kimball explained how the government contracting process works. First, the government intends to procure a service. Second, the government issues a request for proposals (RFP) to an industry. This is like a list of instructions of what they need. The third step is where the money and people (experts) come in to come up with a complex, near 150-page paper and an oral presentation proposal to the government. The fourth and final step is that the government picks the best company. The analysts operate in between the first and second steps. Analysts do competitive pro-files. They complete a SWOT analysis and an overview of company capabilities in specific domains. The analysts do a lot of collection and turn that data into a smooth profile for a competitor.
“The hardest and most intense project I have worked on is something to do with navy ships, and intelligence reconnaissance and surveillance,” said Kimball. “Even I didn’t understand parts of it,”
Kimball concluded by comparing intelligence analysts to a fox as opposed to a hedgehog, mean-ing they quickly use their skills to adapt to specific situations. He says that anyone in the Intelli-gence Studies program now is in good hands and is well prepared for a future in the intelligence world. If interested in Kimball’s work or FedSavvy’s mission, the company is now hiring a number of interns and will happily accept applications from Mercyhurst analysts.