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Behind the Career: Richard Pineda, chief operations leader of Dell Services Federal Government

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Richard Pineda

Position: Chief operations leader of Dell Services Federal Government, a Fairfax-based information technology services provider to the U.S. government.

With a knack for numbers, IT and business, Pineda started out in finance, working up the career ladder at a small government contractor accounting firm. Twice, the companies he worked at were bought by larger companies, eventually landing him at a Fortune 500 company, where he is now heading its government arm.

At one company, you went from financial analyst to vice president in a matter of five years. What did you do to rise so rapidly?

I was very disciplined and sharp in customer service and people management skills. My attitude is that there is no impossible customer. I get a whole lot further every time with an open hand rather than a closed fist.

So how did you handle an "impossible" customer?

We did have an impossible customer. It was very challenging. As the head person talking to the customer, I was able to reverse the customer's perception of our organization. And after months of grinding, we were able to put Perot Systems, Dell Services, in a re-compete with a three-year, multi-hundred-million-dollar contract.

You must know what your customer is dealing with. I'm not afraid to tell a customer the moves and levers they need to pull in order to achieve the objective. They can't look at me and say that I don't know what I'm talking about. I have the youth and exuberance in me and will roll up my sleeves on any customer account.

Not to mention, in business today, if you actually deliver on time, on budget, on schedule, you've got a leg up on your competition.

What does it take to be a great business leader?

As much of a finance guy as I am, I know that if you take care of your people and service your customer, the finances will fall right in line with where you want them to be. There are other folks that lead with the finances first and that's not going to work. You should focus on the objectives and immerse yourself in the customer's mission. You always need to be ahead of your customer to identify where the land mines and safe routes are.

Not to mention, one quote always stays in mind: "You want to help build a company that you'd be proud to have your own son or daughter work in."

-- Interview with Vanessa Mizell

See Monday's Washington Post Business pages for Pinedas "New at the Top" profile. Send nominations for others to newatthetop@washpost.com.


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