As I reflect on the transition we made from home-based at the very beginning to an office and now home again, I view the way our team has adapted as a true sign of the ‘always do the right thing’ trait that is in our Mile Two DNA. —Jeff Graley, President
Q: What does Mile Two have in common with:
A: They all happened in July 2015!
The story of how the company came to fruition has been told before—in a corner of Ohio known for innovation, Mile Two co-founders Jeff Graley and Jorge Sanchez sought to answer the need for collaborative, community-based tech experts in the Dayton area. The lesser-known part of the story is just how Graley, Sanchez, and Mile Two’s leadership team is quietly building one of the most unique and human-centric software development companies in the industry. A lot can happen after a start-up takes its initial form, and the space it grows into has as much to do with the people as it does the location.
Within two years of its creation, Dayton media described Mile Two as a company that had already transitioned “from start-up to success.” At that point in 2017, the company had moved from its home-based origins to a start-up hub called The Entrepreneurs Center and then to its first dedicated office space at 444 E. 2nd Street in Dayton’s Innovation District. Sanchez, who operates as Mile Two’s Chief Technology Officer, appreciated the recognition at the time but feels that the spark driving them forward is still ongoing, and three years later Mile Two is “still not at the end game.”
Thoughtfully growing into its current size of 90 employees, Mile Two has made itself a pillar of small business collaboration and a promising example of downtown Dayton’s growing technology sector—all while ensuring their growth was intentional and their culture remained intact. Mile Two has grown not only in space and numbers but in their business model as well. The focus of supporting other small businesses remains, but the company has also taken on large-scale development efforts and Department of Defense customers.
Chief Finance Officer Joseph Krebs points out how bigger and more predictable work opportunities from customers had a significant impact on Mile Two’s ability to grow. Winning a stable contract with room to innovate is where he would mark the change from uncertainty to ‘success.’ Strong internal and external collaboration continue to lead Mile Two to human-centered development work, taking on projects that are heavily focused on their customer’s unique needs. The company has built much of its foundation on cognitive systems engineering principles, which at the core is about understanding how humans deal with complexity and how to build technology that creates effective human-machine teams. This base allows Mile Two to act as a trusted partner, helping customers recognize when and how to adopt new technology that is a good fit for their mission areas.
As a whole, Mile Two leadership attributes its growth and expansion to its people— hiring talented and engaged professionals and investing in their professional growth. Chief Science Officer Alex Morison believes that the company has grown in that area the most. “Our level of personal growth and internal collaboration between really diverse skill sets has definitely improved.” Understanding how the needs of Mile Two employees will impact future success (just as much as understanding their customers’ needs) is another point on which the leadership team wholeheartedly agrees. Director of Human Resources Amy Linkous knows first-hand how important that focus is and cites it as one of the reasons she came to the company in the first place. “I’ve been delighted by the number of initiatives…that were created by employees because they feel empowered to take the initiative to develop solutions…our Women In Tech group is a great example.”
One of the easiest ways to see how they put that understanding into action comes from the company’s response to COVID-19. Using infrastructure and processes tested before they were needed, the entire company moved to fully remote status quickly and proactively. The company’s development rhythm, customer satisfaction, and employee well-being have been tied to the changing pandemic landscape since March but continue to be successful.
All of this is possible due to the people-first culture that Jamie Howard, Director of Strategic Communications & Design, believes has been a product of dedicated focus. “We all have worked hard to maintain it… Leadership has done a great job modeling the kind of interactions we want to see, and collaboration and autonomy have always been foundational parts of our culture.” Technical Recruiter Brad Gatchel agrees, adding that other companies strive to emulate Mile Two’s culture and maintaining it through expansion is a vital part of the company’s future.
Mile Two’s core values have shaped the direction of the company, and they are demonstrated by example from every member of the team. As Howard mentioned, supported autonomy is built into the fabric of company culture. Success comes from accountability and collaboration. Tangible results, like the tailored technology Mile Two helps its customers adopt, are artifacts that help drive the company forward in the feedback loop. Humility is also one of the strongest values that makes the technical expertise at Mile Two approachable and collaborative—essentially tying the entire development process together with learning and mentorship at the center.
Mile Two’s five-year anniversary is as much about looking toward the future as it is cataloging the past. The next steps are a wonderful echo of the way the company started—working remotely from home and waiting to move into a new, exciting space. Mile Two signed a lease for future expanded office space months prior to state-wide stay-at-home public health directives. While there are shifting timelines surrounding the move, Chief Operations Officer Stacie Hoelscher is more than excited to see how Mile Two adapts to all of the recent changes, and she is not alone. “I can’t wait until we’re able to be in our new space that’s uniquely designed for our needs and our vision while supporting our growing number of fully remote employees from across the country.”
Mile Two is an applied innovation company that utilizes expertise in human performance, user experience design, and cognitive systems engineering to develop user-centric software solutions for our client’s most challenging problems.