Features

Staci Patel – TD SYNNEX Public Sector

The real deal for public-sector IT contracting

Having logged over two decades as an in-house commercial contracting attorney, there didn’t seem much left for Staci Patel to do in this defined corporate law area. Only there was.

The skills she had garnered sealing deals in the private sector could be applied toward doing business with governmental entities needing infotech assistance. While this would necessitate a learning curve, Patel wasn’t totally green as her then-employer, Leidos Inc., contracted with private and public entities for defense, aviation, IT and biomedical services. Only she wasn’t getting in on much of it.

“Around 25 percent of my contracts were in the public sector, but I wanted to retool myself and tackle something different instead of doing the same thing until retirement,” she tells Vanguard from Hendon, Virginia. “The U.S. government is the largest IT buyer in the country, if not the world. I wanted to move totally into the public sector.”

She’s been there since last year as vice president and general counsel of a new company called TD SYNNEX Public Sector.

One-stop IT services

It’s quite a complex business arrangement, Patel explains how TD SYNNEX Public Sector is part of TD SYNNEX, a publicly listed company. In 2020, TD SYNNEX merged with a private equity firm called Apollo Funds that had acquired another company, Tech Data, whose holdings included DLT Solutions, which initially hired Patel after she left Leidos last spring.

Then last fall TD SYNNEX Public Sector arose from this conglomerate to leverage the respective strengths of TD SYNNEX, Tech Data and DLT in pursuing public contracting. Now Patel is general counsel for all the aforementioned and when Vanguard caught up with her in February, she was integrating units, overseeing a rebrand and streamlining operations.

Whatever the industry, contracting with public entities can be as lucrative as sticky, she explains, and maybe particularly so for IT services. The public sector tends to lag behind the private in optimizing IT and thus needs outside expertise.

Whereas her employer doesn’t provide IT services itself, it does contract with such heavyweights as Oracle, Red Hat and Amazon, and assembles into one package the collective expertise to suit an agency’s needs. All the better for TD Synnex Public Sector, Patel says, that the public sector’s needs are essentially recession-proof.

Last year, for example, a government agency turned to TD Synnex Public Sector for cybersecurity solutions following breaches in the Domain Name System, which can be described as the internet’s phonebook. DNS translates domain names into machine-readable addresses, but hackers used stolen credentials to alter entries and steal certificates for encryption and decryption. With the help of its vendors, TD Synnex Public Sector remedied the issue.

Practically every agency having its unique IT needs, Patel says the company is a one-stop troubleshooter for such services as data and analytics, cloud computing, apps, cybersecurity and what-not. But it must vindicate itself on many fronts to stay to retain partnership.

Prior to an agency sending a request for a proposal, there’s often a request for information. If TD Synnex Public Sector can ascertain its cybersecurity credentials, it should be well-positioned for contracts. The Biden administration having tightened standards and states having their own rules, Patel has bettered the company’s standing by bringing in a compliance officer informed on such details as export-import regulations that also apply to IT. She’s also taken to mentoring the sales and business departments on the nuances of serving the public sector.

“Our sales pitch sounds so much better when we can prove we have the right cybersecurity requirements,” she says. “It brings a new level of confidence to the table. The goal is to have our responses to RFI and RFP looking alike.”

She means business

Then there’s been Patel’s role in optimizing contract management and negotiation by creating a playbook for fast-tracking the process while staying compliant. This too includes educating colleagues in other departments on the legal provisions of responding to bids as well as bringing them up to speed on the strengths of each part of the TD SYNNEX-Tech Data-DLT troika.

“Each entity has got the tools that can close a deal,” she says. “We can take templates from all three and offer a service as a single distribution partner to a government agency. The goal is keeping it as a business negotiation and no need for lawyers to argue.”

While Patel can argue or counter a case, she’d rather concentrate on transactions and compliance, which she’s mostly done since graduating from the Indiana University Mauer School of Law in 1998. She honed her early skills in associate roles of a couple of years each with Winston & Strawn and Pillsbury Winthrop, both in the D.C. area.

The atrocity of 9/11 having reduced the need for young lawyers at firms everywhere, Patel saw colleagues furloughed and looked in-house for what she initially thought would be for the interim. Only once in-house she derived more satisfaction from seeing projects from conception to completion, initially from 2002 to 2006 as corporate counsel at since-defunct Startec Global Communications Corp.

She followed that with an 11-year stretch in a similar role at VeriSign Inc., and then five years as vice president and senior assistant general counsel with Leidos Inc., and finally to her present role where she fronts a staff of seven.

“I’m really big on relationships and not going it alone,” she says. “When onboarding customers, I want their ideas on how we can close a deal. It’s rewarding for them to see how they personally contribute.”

All the better that they mentor Patel as well. All her in-house roles have necessitated much on-the-job learning, and this one may be more than the others. But she’s become adept at working with software engineers and architects and poring the internet for greater detail.

Still, there’s some irony here.

“At home, I can hardly work my iPhone or turn on the TV,” she says with a laugh. “But I’ve got two teenagers to call on as well as 9-year-old twins who are so ahead of the game.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Summer II 2023 Edition here.

Published on: June 30, 2023

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