For Sal Fazzolari, senior vice president of Strategic Development at CRGT, leadership is all about leading by example and having fun along the way.
Fazzolari discussed a speaking engagement he conducted earlier this year for veterans transitioning from military life to the civilian workforce, in an interview with WashingtonExec. He also chatted about big data solutions.
Fazzolari spoke earlier this year at a Hire Our Heroes, Veterans Career Path Seminar in Bluemont, Va. Held at Boulder Crest Retreat, the Jan. 25 event included 12 hours of comprehensive employment information and mentoring for military service members transitioning to civilian employment.
Topics included how to conduct a successful employment search, how to effectively translate military skills to civilian employment, how to get through a tough interview and how to effectively use social media.
“It was a great day and I was honored to participate and talk about my experiences in the corporate world,” he said.
Fazzolari said the transition into civilian work can be very difficult depending on the veterans’ educational background, the amount of non-military experience they had and the nature of the military duties they participated in.
“Corporate America and especially federal government contractors have a duty to help these young men and women who have given so much for us,” he said.
Assisting them, according to Fazzolari, should include contractors being proactive in hiring veterans by going places where veterans are seeking jobs and having recruiters focus on hiring veterans, too. Work-related training and some formal mentoring should be provided, he said.
“The issue here is that we are not a small business and we are not the big guy so we have to figure out how to be competitive in this landscape.”
With respect to the military, Fazzolari said that some people like a lot of structure so if they can find a job where there is structure then that is a great thing for them. For others who are willing to adapt and have adapted in their career, it isn’t as much of a difficulty, he said, noting that it really comes down to the individual.
Fazzolari spoke about the importance of data analytics and big data solutions for companies and organizations.
There is a lot of discussion about big data and business analytics, Fazzolari said, but the terms have different meanings for different organizations.
“At CRGT we try to ensure we understand what our customers mean by referring to big data and what their business objectives are,” he said. “A primary goal of big data is being able to extract nuggets of information in near real-time to inform management and helping them with their planning and decision-making process. Basically big data is turning data into actionable information. That’s really what it is all about.”
Fazzolari said one thing that discriminates CRGT from other businesses is that other businesses often talk a lot about technology solutions.
“Most of the clients that we talk with, — especially the decision makers — are not looking for that,” he said. “They are looking to make sure that you understand their operational needs and you have past performance that proves you can solve that particular business problem.”
With respect to big data solutions and growth, Fazzolari said the company’s had success; in fact, it won five contracts in September last year.
“We were excited about it and they were all in the big data realm and in civilian agencies,” he said.
They are agencies that have “tremendous amounts of data that they are trying to cull through and they are looking for technology, tools and experience to help them sort through it,” he noted.
“I learned a lot from my first manager who was not afraid to roll up his sleeves and be in the trenches with us on the nights and weekends.”
Fazzolari also addressed the company’s mid-tier position.
“The issue here is that we are not a small business and we are not the big guy so we have to figure out how to be competitive in this landscape,” he said. We work hard to address client issues in terms of talking about the business issues. We don’t over-emphasize technology per se unless the client wants to talk about it.”
Fazzolari said he enjoys the culture at CRGT, headquartered in Reston.
“Even though we are a mid-tier sized company, the culture fosters a family-like atmosphere,” he said. “Everyone feels that their contribution matters.”
As an example, Fazzolari said that the company recently ran a technology innovation contest in one of its business units. The participants worked to develop technology capability demonstrations that would benefit their specific clients, and three of the contestants were awarded cash prizes for their innovation. The winners were showcased to customers at an Open House on April 2 at the company’s Agile Center of Excellence in Chantilly, Va.
“It was a huge success,” Fazzolari said. “Clients came and witnessed what our people had done, and were thrilled to see that we actually listened to them. CRGT provided solutions that they were actually seeking. It was pretty cool.”
The company experiences challenges, too, Fazzolari said.
“As we all know this is a difficult time for all those who participate in the federal IT market. I’ve never seen competition as fierce as it has been in the past three years,” he said. “If you are going to win in this market then you have to provide business solutions that are powered by technology. IT solutions are a given in the world we work in and the company must listen to a client’s challenges and provide a solution that is cost-effective. The company that does this really has the competitive edge to win in this marketplace.”
Fazzolari said that as a leader, it’s important to lead by example. His first job out of college was developing software for a large combat system procured by the U.S. Navy.
“I learned a lot from my first manager who was not afraid to roll up his sleeves and be in the trenches with us on the nights and weekends,” he said. “I was impressed with that. He taught us to have fun along the way and I make that my mantra here every day. You’ve got to have fun with what you are doing.”
While away from the office, Fazzolari said he loves to play golf, and collect and enjoy tasting new wines.
“I try not to do both of those at the same time,” he said. “It will hurt your handicap.”
And at Boulder Crest, he told veterans “that what’s been most valuable in his career has been learning to say “yes” throughout. It opens up a lot of possibilities,” he said.
Fazzolari said, “I told the veterans at Boulder Crest, it can be scary and you will fail occasionally along the way but the journey will be exciting.”
Related: Read more from Sal Fazzolari in this earlier article about where the government contracting community is headed in 2014.