If you look at companies that demand a wide range of experiences and skills from their workers, you’ll find Anteon at the top of the list. The 24-year-old company has some of the most sought-after contracts with the United States Navy, the Air Force, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Last month, for example, Anteon’s Analysis & Technology subsidiary was one of three businesses that won a $43.8 million contract from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Helping lead some of the company’s newest innovations and technologies is Robert Manchise, chief scientist at Anteon. TechRepublic spoke with him recently about his job and the changing nature of IT executive positions.

TechRepublic: How did you begin your career?
Manchise: I was attending graduate school at San Diego State University, earning an advanced degree in chemistry, and ended up working in the computer center. I though that it was much more fun than chemistry, but I finished the degree anyway. After working as a research chemist, I found I didn’t like it, so I returned to school and ended up with a Ph D. in computer science.
After working for a CPA firm on their management consulting side, I ended up at Mitre Corp., an R&D firm that was started by the Air Force to build systems for the Air Force. After that, I spent 11 years as an independent contractor before coming to Anteon eight months ago.

TechRepublic: What is your role at Anteon?
Manchise: It’s similar to that of a CTO. The “scientist” title gave me a little more opportunity to be on the systems side. I’m in charge of future technologies with the company. I help Anteon determine what kinds of technologies we should be preparing for our customers. I help us determine if our customers will come and say, “Oh, I want one of those supply-chain thingamagigs with all of those wonderful devices so my salesmen don’t have to go to the telephones.”
We also do quite a bit of integrating commercial solutions and then customizing and configuring them.

TechRepublic: What kinds of products are in demand these days?
Manchise: What people seem to want now are Web portals. Everyone thinks that their agency or their organization needs a portal, and in some cases, they do. Four years ago we were building client servers for them; or distributing client-server applications for them; now we want to centralize them on a Web portal.
Another thing we see is a great interest in network security. We also get a lot of requests about wireless devices. We’re looking at ways of putting video across wireless devices so that we can get high frame rates.

TechRepublic: Are you using Bluetooth?

Manchise: We have several things in the lab that are running with Bluetooth. They are pushing data across Bluetooth as well as 802.11b wireless repeaters so you can get further distances; we have several prototypes that are doing that.

TechRepublic: What kinds of pressures have caused the role of the CIO to change?
Manchise: It used to be that there were positions, like the CIO, that were focused on the internal systems handling the networks, handling administration, and focusing on the HR and accounting systems. Now we seem to have different types of people. Many companies have hired CTOs for the outward customer, while the CIOs continue to work on the internal systems. With other companies, it’s a little of both. Some people have been able to make that transition, while others—not as well.

TechRepublic: What kinds of experience would you suggest for someone who is interested in becoming a CIO?
Manchise: A CIO needs to have a very broad background in technology, a broad business sense, a clear understanding of what the business needs to do to make money, and what makes a business profitable.
It used to be that CIOs would come up through the ranks as programmer, analyst, project manager, senior project manager, then architect. You would learn how the business works from years of being there.
Now it seems a lot of the better training is being done in schools. There are kids that are 22 or 24 years old coming out of a degree program right into jobs as builders of systems.

You worked as an independent consultant for 11 years. Do you think companies will increase their use of independent contractors?
Manchise: In the 11 years that I did it, I never lacked for work. Companies tend to not keep many highly skilled, high-priced people on staff as employees unless they have overhead to cover them; or, they want them billable with projects. Companies will continue to fill slots with consultants or independents generally for a year or six months. I see the industry going toward using consultants and independents.
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