Kathy Boe started in the defense industry as an engineering assistant when she was just 20 years old. Now she is the owner of her own company, Boecore, with more than 250 employees and contracts with several Department of Defense and Homeland Security customers.

Boe recently talked about her company, her love of Colorado Springs and the local business climate.

How did you get started?

After being an engineering assistant, I became a software programmer at Hughes Aircraft and moved to the Springs in 1989. I grew up in southern California and transferred to Colorado Springs to work on missile defense. My daughter was only 4 months old and we decided it would be a great place to raise a family. I left Hughes Aircraft and became an account executive for a national software services firm. I was able to create a network of both customers and technical engineers and professionals. One of my neighbors asked why I was working for someone else when I could be working for myself. That got me thinking about what that might be like. After seven years, I decided I could do this on my own and started Boecore. We celebrated our 15th anniversary last year.

What’s your business philosophy?

I am a firm believer that if you create a culture that takes care of the employees, they will take great care of the customers. As an owner, I can control that. I started Boecore to prove that concept — it’s about respecting employees, empowering them and then they will do the best job for the company.

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What lessons have you learned?

I learned at Pepperdine’s [University] business school that 90 percent of businesses fail. And that’s a scary thing. The first lesson: It’s not as hard as you think it’s going to be. It’s an ugly statistic, but really I didn’t find it to be as hard as I thought. I would encourage people not to shy away from owning their own business. I love my job. I mentor young women interested in business, and I always tell them: Make sure you know the industry you are getting into. I think that’s where most people fail — they think they have a good idea, but it’s in an area they know little about. Also, people need a vision and they need to maintain that vision, and build on it. They need to bring people in, ask advice, collaborate to take that business to the next level.

What do you think about Colorado Springs?

I love Colorado Springs. I am so passionate about this city — now more than ever. We have so many great leaders and they are all working together to improve the business environment to bring people to the city and really make it more business friendly. Everyone is on the same page  — the City Council, the County Commissioners, the Mayor, and the Regional Business Alliance. You name it; we’ve all come together. The climate has changed dramatically, and really, everyone is responsible for that. Everyone is leaning in. I see that everywhere I go.

What does Boecore do? 

We do software, cybersecurity, IT, systems engineering and mission operations. We’ve experienced about 16 percent annual growth for the last five years — it’s very achievable, steady growth. And that growth is a natural motivator for our team. Really, it s all about the people — we have the right set of people to be successful, to take care of our customers. I have a phenomenal team.

What’s new at Boecore?

We’re currently focusing on the integration of software, cybersecurity and IT solutions. We perform cyber services for the Army, Missile Defense Agency, Air Force, Navy, Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Cyber Command. We created a cyber and software capability practice group where we collaborate with the different programs that support those customers — the idea is that it allows our employees to learn while creating innovative differentiators that we can bring back to the customers to create efficiencies and technology solutions that support their missions.

Cyber is at the center of what we do — there’s an intersection between software, network engineering and cyber. They all work together. You have to make sure the software code isn’t vulnerable to attack, that the networks aren’t vulnerable. You have to integrate cybersecurity into all of it.

We also recently started an apprentice program.  It’s aimed at veterans and people who have basic IT or cyber skills, but require additional training or certifications. We’re partnering with many local community organizations such as Pikes Peak Community College, the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, UCCS, the Mount Carmel Center of Excellence and Heroes for Hire. It’s a fast-track program for people who have a strong work ethic, eligibility for a clearance and some basic knowledge or certifications — but not necessarily the formal education. We’re going to put 20 people through the program this year and carefully select them to build the workforce. We are super excited about it.

Tell us about your family.

I’ve been married for 30 years and my husband is very supportive. He has worked at Boecore from the beginning and leads our corporate development efforts. We have a daughter in San Francisco who just graduated from California Polytechnic University; our oldest daughter graduated from University of Miami and works as a marketing manager in downtown Denver and is about to get married. Our son is about to turn 18 and will start his adult life, which means we will soon be empty-nesters. We love the outdoors — we hike, we ski, paddleboard and ride bikes.

What was the last book you read? 

“Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say and Do” by Kathryn Cramer. I just started to read it. I firmly believe that in order to be an effective leader, you have to be optimistic and positive. If you don’t believe you can do it, you won’t convince anyone else.