Local firm with global reach aims to recruit home talent

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 26, 2011

Defense contractor Mav6’s Vicksburg office is acquiring a Southern flavor.

Five of the company’s newest employees are residents of Mississippi and Louisiana.

Software designers Jamie Carter and Spencer Jones, both from Jackson, are graduates of Millsaps College. In the business analysts department, Matilda Asuzu, a native of Baton Rouge, graduated from Mississippi State University and Candace Merrick, of Hattiesburg, graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi. Intern Hannah McWilliams, from Madison, is a student at Mississippi State.

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All five now call Vicksburg home.

Mav6 was founded in 2007 by Memphis, Tenn., native Jay Harrison and retired Maj. Gen. Buford “Buff” Blount of Hattiesburg. Harrison said they saw the company as a vehicle to bring high tech jobs to Mississippi. Vicksburg, Harrison said, is a key to the company’s future.

When Mav6 opened its Vicksburg office in 2009, office manager Joel Angle said, “we had transplants to get started.”

As the office expands, he said, the goal is finding local people to staff it: “When we search for a position, we make it a priority to recruit from within the state.”

Mav6 converts commercial technology used in business and industry for military use to solve problems involving logistics and combat situations.

The company has offices in Arlington, Va.; Morgantown, W.Va.; and Elizabeth City, N.C., but Harrison said Vicksburg is considered Mav6’s headquarters. The Vicksburg office employs 14 people, with four of them on temporary assignment in Arlington.

The Vicksburg team, Angle said, works on software development.

Carter and Jones each have degrees in computer science, and were hired after sending resumes to Mav6. Jones is the office’s senior software developer.

They are part of a team developing a digital catalog of technologies acquired by the U.S. Defense Department that will help the service branches select the proper technology for their missions. The Vicksburg office is also working on technology to better detect IEDs, improvised explosive devices, and jam the radio signals used to trigger them.

“As a computer science major, a lot of the fear that I had was that after graduation I’d be on some IT help desk going nowhere,” Carter said. “It’s been a real dream to be right here in Mississippi and be able to share my talent. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Jones worked for several companies and had his own software firm in Jackson, which was a victim of the economy.

“I was delighted to find a place where I could come to work and not have to worry about sales and wearing all the hats,” he said. “I’m really happy to have the ability to focus on one product all day long and make sure it’s right.”

As business analysts, Merrick, Asuzu and McWilliams watch and document the development of the software produced in the office. All three said they never expected to find themselves working for a defense contractor.

Merrick, the office’s senior analyst, has a bachelor’s in business administration. She has a master’s from Seton Hall University in strategic communications and leadership. She previously worked for the U.S. Navy and was hired after sending Mav6 a resume.

“The work has been great so far,” she said, adding that working in the Vicksburg office has been a learning experience.

Asuzu has a degree in communications with a minor in computer science. She learned about Mav6 when she met company representatives at a university career fair. Asuzu, who has been accepted to a master’s degree program at the University of Denver, believes her experience with Mav6 will help her find a job later in a technical field, possibly in software development or digital media.

McWilliams is an accounting major, and learned about Mav6 through MSU’s career development office. She said her internship has given her insight to how businesses function, adding that the documentation she does as an analyst will help her after graduation, no matter what business field she enters.

Harrison said he is looking at Vicksburg as a technical incubator “to harvest emerging technologies from the commercial sector and refine it back for sale to the military.”

He said Mav6 is looking for land in the Vicksburg area to build a technology center, and expects construction to begin in early 2012.