Don’t worry, I won’t ask for a show of hands, but how many of us have worked for companies whose names were… less than inspiring? Anyone ever have to say the dreaded “what does ‘ABC’ stand for…? Ummm, nothing.” But who cares anyway, the work we do is what’s important, not the name on the business card, right? That’s true to be sure, but there is goodness in a corporate brand if it’s real, genuine, and inspirational. There is a double entendre in my “what does ABC stand for…” quip above. In business, and particularly in our business, our name should be a rallying cry for the values of the firm. How are we approaching the market differently? What kind of potential employees are we trying to attract? What clients are attracted to the values of the firm we represent? Those are questions I asked myself when I joined this team, so maybe there is quite a bit wrapped up in a name after all.

So why “Steampunk”?

Part of the fun of a new enterprise is a chance to truly wipe the slate and be deliberate about those cultural questions I posed above. As I discussed in the last article, Built Differently, Steampunk is about putting people at the core, so when it was time to design the ship that would carry us on our journey we did what we encourage our clients to do: engage in a Steampunk Design Intelligence session to get to the root of our challenge. We talked about the things that made this group unique, what motivates us, lessons learned from our past experiences to perform better for our customers, and the specific way we want to innovate in the technology space. We explored themes like:

  • Disruptive creativity that breaks paradigms
  • Inviting voices with answers outside the mainstream
  • The confluence of humans and technology, and maybe most importantly
  • How would today be different had technological solutions come sooner

These themes evoked imagery of people and technology creating new things together: distilleries, factories, foundries, and artists’ studios. We tried to think of the kinds of spaces where our brand of technological creativity would thrive, places of industrial design built for collaboration. Steampunk. That was the word that kept surfacing to describe the tone and culture we were looking for.

For those who don’t know, Steampunk is a rich genre of science fiction and science fantasy that explores an alternative history where steam-powered technology melded with 19th century aesthetic to imagine the amazing lives people could lead had technology come differently… and sooner. It’s a genre and a subculture that attracts creative minds, celebrates the fantastic, and defines itself by breaking barriers, scientific or otherwise; think Mary Shelley, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells.

“Steampunk is a genre that imagines how different the past might have been… had the future come earlier”

I hate to disappoint you, but you won’t see us wearing mechanical goggles or driving steam-powered airships… at least I don’t think so, and it’s not our intent to copy or ‘kitschify’ the wider Steampunk community. But we absolutely want to draw on its themes for inspiration, and to use it as a rallying cry to draw us back to our core values: Put People at the Core, Thrive Being Uncomfortable, Set the Pace, and Empower Our Community. All while bringing disruptive technologies like advanced Cybersecurity, Data Exploitation, DevSecOps, and Platform Development to bear with a human-centered approach.

As a companion to this week’s discussion of the Steampunk name and how it helps us communicate our core values and approach, I invite you to check out this piece by our Chief Technology Officer, Sean Dillon: DOD Identifies Fake Agile, Changes the Game.  It’s a reaction to the Forbes article about DoD “Fake Agile” and it’s a great way to think about operationalizing the approach and culture wrapped up in the Steampunk way of doing business.