With master’s and doctorate degrees in English, James J. Lynch long fancied the notion of being a professor.
In fact, he taught at Virginia Tech for some eight years and took the tenure track, getting published in journals. But eventually he was denied tenure and moved to the business world.
“It turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” recounted Lynch, who is president and CEO of 540-employee Social & Scientific Systems, in his 12th-floor office in downtown Silver Spring that provides a good view of the activity along Georgia Avenue.
The company works largely with health agencies in the federal government in clinical, epidemiology and health policy research.
The Bethesda-based National Institutes of Health supplies about 75 percent of the company’s work, with the rest coming from other parts of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Agency for International Development and private sources.
Lynch is a caring and congenial business leader to work with, said Jane Redicker, president of the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce. Lynch, a former chamber board member, has encouraged others in Social & Scientific to get involved with the business group.
“He’s not only very much engaged in his company’s future, but he cares about the future of the chamber and creating success in Silver Spring,” Redicker said. “And he’s a nice guy to work with.”
Last year, when Social & Scientific leaders considered consolidating local offices into one place, they reviewed sites in Silver Spring and Rockville, as well as Northern Virginia. They settled with their current headquarters in Silver Spring, obtaining about $1 million from the state and county in conditional grants.
“We’re delighted they chose to remain in Silver Spring,” Redicker said.
The company reduced its floors to four from five in a renovation program that added more cubicles and reduced the number of hallways and offices.
“The trend is to make workplaces more efficient, to reduce the average office space per employee and use shared offices,” Lynch said. “We encourage employees to telecommute. It’s a change for some people, but it provides a more collaborative environment.”
Social & Scientific is employee-owned, among the larger companies in Montgomery County to do that, which he said can help improve accountability among employees. “We encourage all of our staff to think and act like owners,” Lynch said.
Growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, Lynch earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at John Carroll University in Ohio. He headed south for his doctorate at the University of Texas at Austin, then obtained the Virginia Tech position.
He joined Social & Scientific as the company’s first proposal manager in 1988. The company had been founded in 1978 as an 8(a) government contractor working mostly on welfare reform.
While an English major is not the usual path to corporate leadership, Lynch said his background does come in handy.
“I’m good at being able to conceptualize,” he said. “I can put into words where we want to go.”