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Rebecca Bowerman found a name for her company, Pragma, by combining the words practical and pragmatic. Her company provides a service that she said helps organizations become the epitome of these two words.

Pragma provides risk management consulting by assessing a company's business and software processes. In other words, she helps businesses run better internally. The company targets developers, maintainers, integrators and buyers of software systems.

Bowerman started her company with $60,000 of her own money in March 1987. She was previously at Bell Labs in Chicago and was a software director at Mitre Corp. She started her company when she noticed a gap in the training that technical people were receiving - the ability to work in groups.

"People are trained in school to work individually," said Bowerman. "You run into problems when you are forced to work in groups of 20 people."

She started Pragma to help companies' management and engineering teams work in groups, even when separated geographically. The company focuses exclusively on software risk management because Bowerman said software companies have come to a point where they are realizing that the process in which they produce will make them more competitive.

Her commercial and government clients include the Defense Information Systems Agency, Electronic Data Systems Corp., Reuters News Service, Sun Microsystems Inc. as well as the U.S. Army and Navy.

The company's first client project was providing risk management and technical consulting to the U.S. Navy. Pragma was able to work on a Department of Defense programming language, called Ada, that few people know, according to Bowerman.

Bowerman attributes her success to simply having the foresight to enter the market at the right time. She said software companies 20 years ago weren't thinking about their processes, they were more concerned about hiring people. Now that companies aren't able to fill their job openings with the people they are looking for, they are forced to work with what they have.

Since 1987, the company has swelled to 10 employees and is bringing in $2 million in revenues. But she expects the company to grow even more over the next several years as software companies begin to realize the need for risk management consulting.

"This year it is essential for me to objectively measure the return on my investment," said Bowerman, who will be celebrating her company's 10th anniversary this year.

-Tania Anderson


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