This story was corrected on Aug. 3. An explanation follows the story.
Loyalty is more than just a buzz word for Anoop Mehta, who has been with a Lanham research support company for 33 years.
Mehta, 52, has worked for Science Systems and Applications since its beginning, answering phones while finishing up his education at the University of Maryland, College Park. He has grown with the company as it expanded from two employees to 640 and now is its vice president and CFO.
Such loyalty is virtually unheard of these days, as workers seem to change jobs as often as their socks.
“I had no reason to go anywhere else,” said Mehta, whose father also worked for one CPA firm from the 1970s until his retirement. “We’re very loyal people.”
The Mehta family emigrated from Hyderabad, India, when Mehta was 12. He last visited his native land in 1991.
Science Systems supports government research by providing federal agencies with expert staff to help with tasks such as cloud modeling and designing the instruments used by space vessels to study Earth. Contracts range from $50,000 to $425 million, Mehta said.
“He has brought us a lot of honor and made himself very distinguished,” said Om Bahethi, CEO and founder of Science Systems. “He’s very outgoing and takes care of what he promises. He presents himself and the company well.”
Bahethi said he considers himself a mentor and sort of a father to Mehta.
“I would be honored to have a son like him,” he said.
Last month, Mehta became chairman of the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants. He has been a member of the association since 1992; his term runs until next July.
“Our motto is connect, protect and achieve,” Mehta said of the 10,000-member association that works to keep CPAs informed of industry developments, protect the industry through legislation and promote their success.
In his new role, Mehta said he focuses on directing the association’s task force on state budget issues, using other state models to shape how organizations can advise the state on business matters. He also is exploring ways to bolster the organization’s younger ranks by inviting CPAs who are 35 years old or younger.
A piece of this is engaging more committee members through attending their meetings and talking with their chairmen, Mehta said. He wants 80 percent of the membership to become more involved in the association. Currently, only 20 percent of members are actively engaged.
“We need a more cohesive approach to things, since some of our members are six hours apart from each other,” Mehta said, referring to the association’s reach from one end of the state to the other.
He also plans for the group to host a women’s conference on CPAs and other professions in February or March.
‘Driven by work, not money’
Although obtaining new business continues to be a challenge in this economy, especially with more competition for limited federal contracts and some tighter agency budgets, Science Systems has held its own because of its conservative operations model, Mehta said.
“We continue to look for ways to incentivize and retain talent,” he said. “Most of our folks are driven by the type of work, not the money. They need challenges.”
Science Systems’ culture always has been his main reason for staying, he said, as he chose the company over the major accounting firms that many CPAs join upon certification.
“I love being in the position to help people,” he said.
Mehta also helps both his company and the industry through his membership in the Maryland Space Business Roundtable, which elected him president for a one-year term that ends next month.
As president of the 80-member group that advocates for Maryland’s space business industry, Mehta wants to increase the diversity of speakers for the organization’s meetings, promote programs in science, technology, engineering and math, and bring a new generation into the industry. This year, the group raised its educational fundraising to $55,000, its most ever. The money went to 4,000 students in the region, most of them in the Prince George’s County region.
The organization’s efforts to reach a younger generation were seen during its July meeting, which hosted several NASA interns.
“I’m going to the University of Maryland next year for aerospace engineering,” said Shannon Gravette, an intern who has been working on laser transponder development with NASA. “I’m looking at instrument development or working with the Jet Propulsion Lab” in California.
“We have a unique person in Anoop,” said David Taylor, a member of the roundtable and a senior associate at Booz Allen Hamilton, which has worked with Science Systems on several projects. “He has a diverse background and holds a senior position in a company that is known for working well with its customers.”
Taylor praised Mehta for his suggestion of bringing small-business representatives to the front tables during meetings and allowing them 30 seconds to pitch their businesses.
“It welcomes them into the competitive environment,” Taylor said.
Taylor also said Mehta helped straighten out some of the roundtable’s finances when he became president.
“You know he’s out there,” Taylor said. “He won’t just be a figurehead. He rolls up his sleeves with the rest of us.”
Mehta is particularly accustomed to working with young people, having taught martial arts at the Studio of Korean Karate in College Park since 1985. He bought the studio in 2008.
Although the studio closed in December, Mehta continues to teach and judge tournaments and is a seventh-degree black belt in tae kwon do, which has nine black belt degrees. He also has taught women’s self-defense classes at Science Systems.
“It sounds clichéd, but everything I’ve been able to accomplish is due to my training in martial arts,” Mehta said. “Martial arts is the teaching of how to have confidence in everyday life.”
The story should have said that Anoop Mehta’s father worked for one CPA firm from the 1970s until his retirment. Also, Science Systems provides federal agencies with help for tasks such as cloud modeling. Finally, Mehta wants to get 80 percent of the membership more involved in the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants. Currently, only 20 percent of members are actively engaged.