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Executive Spotlight: MJ Pizzella of Google

MJ Pizzella
MJ Pizzella

GovCon Executive recently had the chance to sit down with MJ Pizzella, senior business development executive at Google.  Pizzella discussed the topic of switching from the public to the private sector and what tools she brings to her role at the Internet giant.  She also gave an insider’s perspective on Google’s operations, as well as what a typical day looks like for her.

GovCon Executive: Could you talk a little bit about the transition from the public sector to the private sector?

Pizzella: It is amazing how often I am asked that question and how difficult the transition is perceived to be. I prepared myself for a tough transition, accordingly, but in fact it was much easier than expected. The work is much the same: you are still at the table with the government, but it is the other side of the table. You’re the person making suggestions for solutions, but not the person making the final decisions. It is a different role, but I’m still involved in solving problems with the government so that feels natural. Government service is very appealing – I served in a variety of agencies from 1981 to 2006. The opportunity to help solve different problems— and there are a lot of big problems in the government– is a real privilege. I’ve found that there are great ways to help both inside and outside the government, so I still am a part of the same process.  Today I work with a much smaller team than before, but helping the government solve problems that impact citizens is still my focus.

GovCon Executive: You have been at Google since 2006, how has Google changed since you have been there, have you seen?

Pizzella: It has gotten much more interesting — though I know that is hard to believe! The transformation of technology everywhere has been so fast, but at Google it is really at warp speed. In the enterprise area, the products we work on are constantly improving. We are rolling out new versions of products, almost to the point where it becomes a little hard to keep up with. It is a challenge to keep up with the innovation across technology.  Also, Google was around 10,000 people when I joined, now it is over 20,000. The company  has gotten larger and the enterprise division has gotten larger, more importantly, the technology has changed tremendously and just keeps improving.

GovCon Executive: Describe a typical day for you at Google.

Pizzella: There really is no typical day at Google, at least for me. If there is one thing that is the same, it’s that we are constantly working on problems we can help solve for the government. I work on the Google Federal Enterprise Team, many of us worked for the government prior to joining Google, so there is a dedication here that runs deeper than just business. Everyday there is a different challenge, but there is always a challenge of some kind. We are always working to help some agency, or some part of an agency, work more effectively. Generally these are large challenges, but that’s what makes it interesting.

GovCon Executive: How do you take your experience in the government and how do you bring that to Google to express the big needs that the government has?

Pizzella: I think in so many ways, my mindset has not left the government, and I think that is a good thing. I truly look at it from the view of the customer, and when we meet with the customer and they are describing a difficult problem or challenge that they are facing, I really feel their pain because I know what they have been through. I know the challenges that they are often facing are budget related, or the challenges they are facing internally, getting something approved that is new and different. It’s tough to reach consensus inside the government on a new approach– often a solution that really changes the game. Our products are generally disruptive and they really change the environment and require people to think differently. That requires a unique understanding, working with the government. Because of my background, I am better able to help the customer work through that. That’s what makes it great and makes it very interesting.

GovCon Executive: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Pizzella: One thing I try to do in my spare time is to use that down time to catch up on the happenings and the advances of technology that maybe I am not directly involved in. As far as true downtime, when I forbid myself from doing any work, it’s golf. I really love golf. Also, I am from South Carolina, and that is a big part of my life. I serve on the Board of Visitors at Clemson University. I should note that Clemson University is a big user of Google products too! Of course time with my family is always at the top of the list – that just about takes up all my spare time.

GovCon Executive: How would colleagues describe you?

Pizzella: I hope they would describe me as committed and energetic. I really believe in what we are doing and I believe technology can help the government solve problems — and solve them more quickly and efficiently to boot. I am also committed to our work and hope that is apparent to my colleagues. I really love working at Google, and I love the products we have. I often think of when I was in the government and wondering what it might have been like had I access to the myriad of solutions available today. I know how much that would have helped me, and that truly motivates me to do my job well.

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