MetroStar Systems emerged in 1999 as a fresh alternative to the traditional behemoth federal contractor. Today, young workers flock to the IT services firm for its high-energy atmosphere, cutting-edge technology and flexible, family environment.
The Reston, Va., headquarters "seems more like a dot-com in Silicon Valley than a 'Beltway Bandit'" firm, says Ken LaVolpe, director of infrastructure. "The culture is really a young feeling of collaboration and creativity."
MetroStar tops this year's Best Places list for career development opportunities. Employees can work with managers to set up individual career plans and identify short-term and long-term professional goals. The firm offers a yearly stipend that employees can use to pay for courses necessary to achieve those goals, and other job-related training.
"I completed two Microsoft certifications in this past year which were completely paid for," says Johnny Bouder, a software engineer. He also scored a paid trip to the June Microsoft Build Conference in San Francisco.
"The company is genuinely interested in keeping employees happy and building relationships," adds software engineer Gerald Irish. "I feel like it's an organization I can grow with." Two years after joining MetroStar, Irish took a month off, including a week of unpaid leave, to travel through Europe. "They knew it was important to me, and they found a way to make it work."
MetroStar also values veterans, says Bouder, a former Marine who served two tours in Iraq. "They're always looking for good people, as opposed to just somebody with tech experience."