Application for Neal Robert Fornaciari
Below is the initial application for the Citizens Redistricting Commission. In this section of the application you will be asked to provide personal information that will assist the Applicant Review Panel in processing your application.
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Letters of Recommendation
Letter of Recommendation #1, submitted by Denise E. Koker
How Submitter Knows Applicant: Neal was a management colleague and reported to me.
Letter of Recommendation:
I am honored to submit this letter of recommendation for Neal Fornaciari (#7806). I have known Neal professionally for many years from working together at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, California. I worked at Sandia from 1980 until 2017 when I retired as Director of Operations for Sandia's California Site (SNL/CA). I was one of six Directors reporting directly to the Sandia's executive leader for the California Site - a position directly accountable to Sandia's Laboratory President in New Mexico (SNL/NM). SNL/CA is composed of approximately 1200 workers and incorporates both technical research and development (R&D) mission functions and mission support or operations functions. The CA Director of Operations is responsible for nearly all of the mission support functions - over 300 people - including security, facilities, environment, safety & health, human resources, project management, business development, and budget
I began to get to know Neal in 2009 when I was a Senior Manager and he joined the Center as a manager, reporting to another Senior Manager. When I became Director of Operations in 2012, I selected Neal to be one of my three senior managers, a highly sought after position filled via an objective and competitive process. As Senior Manager, Neal had a large, complex organization of about 70 people, including 5-6 managers, which he managed independently. My selection of Neal proved to be an excellent decision. During the next five years, I worked closely with him on ensuring both excellent operational support to Sandia's missions and in pursuing and implementing institution-changing initiatives to improve Sandia operations and culture. What we accomplished in that five years was notable, and Neal was more than an integral member of the team; he was a prime leader in defining and pursuing the end-state.
To address Neal's qualifications, I have organized information into four broad categories, within which I reference qualifications that I think are important for this position, including those you specifically asked to be addressed.
"Technical" Competence: Neal has an excellent education background that gives him both depth and breadth of knowledge in technical areas (BS and MS in Engineering from UC Berkeley) and business (MBA from UC Berkeley). During his tenure at Sandia he held staff and management positions in both engineering R&D and operations functions. He consistently received performance ratings up to the highest level, evidence of Neal's intellectual and practical capabilities, as well as his versatility. He should more than meet your needs for objectivity and analytical skills, both quantitative and qualitative. I think it is critical to be able to analyze numerical and non-numerical information and then to apply sound judgment to create understanding and make good decisions. This includes understanding the psychological, social, and political factors and ramifications of information and decisions. Neal has demonstrated this ability. In fact, he has been asked by a contributor to UC Berkeley's MBA program to develop training on how to effectively use quantitative information in presenting a persuasive argument.
Character & Integrity: As Director of Operations I took performance evaluation of my Senior Managers very seriously. On a regular basis I vigorously solicited feedback from their direct reports, peers, and internal clients, including executives not in his line organization. Consistently, Neal was highly regarded by people at all levels for, among other things: his authenticity and honesty; his sincere regard for people and organizational performance; his habit of addressing problems promptly and positively, and using candor and goodwill when having difficult conversations.
Alignment between a person's values and behavior is a key element of integrity. Neal followed through on important things he said he would do, for example, his passion for leadership. After completing his MBA as a Senior Manager, he embarked on an intense leadership development effort with his 5-6 managers. It would have been easier for him to ignore this long-term effort in the press of the intense day-to-day demands of the work. Instead, he brought in a leadership consultant to work with him and his team and diligently adhered to his commitment to develop their individual and collective leadership over an extended period. The entire organization benefited from the organizational planning and leadership competency that was developed. Neal is still in touch with that consultant who has called him back to the Berkeley MBA program to be a TA. He has also continued to provide mentorship to one of his former managers even after she left Sandia for a higher-level position in another institution.
Neal exhibited this same alignment of values and behavior with respect to diversity and inclusion (D&I). Sandia executives recognized the value of having a diverse workforce and creating a culture where all members of the population were included (had a voice, shared a sense of belonging, and were valued for their contributions). It took people like Neal to do the hard work of making progress. Neal participated very early in Sandia's D&I initiative with intensive training for corporate executives. He quickly became an advocate and leader in a very positive, non-adversarial way. In one case involving my organization, I initiated an intervention to understand intense dissatisfaction that some workers in my organization were having in their work with another organization. Neal identified gender and race as contributing factors in the conflict. He took the lead in bringing in a D&I workshop specifically for white male management - providing a safe space for exploring bias and exclusion, and the negative impact they have on motivation and performance. This was followed up with workshops for the broader population. These interventions and workshops contributed to greater understanding of and value for diverse perspectives and behaviors. Ultimately, the working relationships between individuals and organizations improved significantly. Our staffs now were included in working sessions - by invitation and by participation. Neal was not at the top of the hierarchical ladder, and his relationships with the management in the other organization were of critical importance, but he demonstrated courage and integrity in confronting the problem and helping to resolve such difficult issues. His passion and commitment for diversity and inclusion were evidenced by his continuing role as a leader in the D&I initiative across Sandia, a voluntary activity.
Among Neal's great strengths is his informal communication, which is highly interactive and authentic. People are inspired to trust him and want to work with him. Neal is not as adept with the written narrative. With three degrees from UC Berkeley and a successful career in management, this is far from a major issue. He is self-aware and continues to work honing those skills and compensates for any difficulty by working with others to polish and finalize written reports. In his recent grand jury experience, Neal wrote the first draft of the report and then worked closely with other members of the jury to publish a well-written final document.
I know Neal to be a hard worker who takes personal responsibility for his actions and decisions. Sandia/CA was a satellite to SNL/NM headquarters, with all the tensions and complications that arises in such an institutional relationship. To be effective, management and staff at Sandia/CA had to engage in regular interactions with our counterparts at headquarters in order to stay apprised of information, ensure positive day-to-day operational alignment, and pursue changes in policy or work processes. This required regular travel to formal meetings and projects and informal checking in to establish and maintain positive relations. It would be easy to postpone or avoid such interactions; often the payoff was for long-term rather than short-term productivity. Neal's personal presence at meetings and his informal checking-in with people at all levels in the institution brought him information and good will that paid off. When pursuing changes in policy and practices it could be easy to either fall into an adversarial role or simply capitulate. Neal's personal engagement, objectivity, and interpersonal relations contributed to his success at navigating the tension between advocating for his position and supporting corporate positions. He was diligent and effective; he did not default to short-term expediency or avoidance of conflict in his decisions to engage.
Leadership & Collaboration: The following example illustrates how Neal employed leadership and collaboration to accomplish difficult, important work. These are characteristics the Commission will require to get its work done well.
My center was a leader in helping to identify the need for significant changes in the definition and role of project management (PM) for the execution of R&D projects at Sandia. In a multi-year effort, we took on significant organizational responsibility for defining and building the capabilities and competencies for PM. Sandia had always taken pride in acquiring the highest quality technical R&D staff from the country's best universities. Traditionally, PM was viewed less as an expertise on its own, but rather as an element of engineering which was conducted from within the project. Building and managing expert PM staff in an independent organization, an organization that was not an R&D organization, was unprecedented. This is what we were striving for when I selected Neal as the Senior Manager to lead this effort. The complexity of this effort cannot be underestimated. To succeed, Neal needed to work collaboratively and persuasively with his R&D counterparts and stakeholders across the Laboratory. He had to hire and develop outstanding staff to prove we could do the job, overcoming traditional biases in the organization along the way. He had to turn his R&D collaborators into advocates who would join him in persuading executive management that this was the way to implement project management. He had to work with all the PM stakeholders across the Laboratory to collaborate on an entirely new job structure for the roles in project management, convincing Human Resource Management of the validity of the new scheme. Neal had to develop a leadership team under him that would be able to exercise leadership, persuasion, and excellence in execution as he exemplified. By the time I retired a new, robust way of doing business was in place and operating. It continued to progress after my retirement. Without Neal's commitment, hard work, diligence, collaboration, and knowledge across technical and business fields - without his leadership and credibility - we would not have succeeded.
The examples above provide evidence of Neal's qualifications for the Citizens Redistricting Commission. While Neal doesn't spout mantras such as "do the right thing," in practice he consistently strives to do the right thing. Neal commits to a course of action when there are important principles and practices at stake on issues about which he feels he can contribute. This speaks to his motivation for seeking to serve on the Commission. In 2002 he witnessed, and was impacted by, gerrymandering. The manipulation of voting districts, the failure of districts to represent the diverse make-up of our State, and the sense of unfairness and disenfranchisement that resulted, are things that Neal seeks to rectify. By direct participation he seeks to ensure that voting districts are fair and representative of the population of the State. In many ways it is a continuation of Neal's D&I activity.
As a citizen of the State of California and of the USA, I give my unmitigated, enthusiastic support in recommending Neal for the Citizens Redistricting Commission. I want to see the Commission be successful in establishing a process and an outcome that are fair and representative of the diverse populations of the state. I also want a successful model that other states will adopt. Our democracy will suffer and decline if the manipulation of voting is allowed to continue. I completely trust Neal to be an excellent contributor to this objective. He possesses the motivation, the values, the technical knowledge and abilities, the personal characteristics and work qualities to make a terrific contribution. His ability to lead and collaborate will promote the participation and contributions of the other members.
Letter of Recommendation #2, submitted by Alison Meyer
How Submitter Knows Applicant: He was a student and client of mine
Letter of Recommendation:
October 19, 2019
Applicant Review Panel
c/o California State Auditor's Office
Re: Applicant ID #7806 - Neal Fornaciari
Dear California State Auditor's Office Representative,
It is with the highest recommendation that I write to you in support of Neal Fornaciari's application for the 2020 Citizens Redistricting Commission. I believe that in Neal you have a thoughtful, civic-minded person, whose many years of experience carefully managing complex, large scale projects with numerous stakeholders in a National Lab, and whose dedication to doing high-quality work will make a significant contribution to the Commission's success. By training and attitude, Neal blends the engineer's need for the meticulous problem-solving with the business person's strategic thoughtfulness and big-picture approach. He's also great with people.
My field is leadership development, particularly leadership of people and teams, and organizational leadership methods and strategy. As a practitioner, I work as an leadership coach and educator in both the academic and corporate environments: at the Berkeley Haas School of Business and the San Diego Rady School of Management of the University of California, and in companies such as Microsoft, Salesforce, SAP, Apple, PayPal, Ubisoft, Ziff-Davis, and numerous startups.
Neal and I met in 2013 during his Executive MBA at UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, where he was one of my students in the leadership communications core class. At the time, he was working at Sandia National Labs, leading a group that contained 6 different business functions at the Lab. During 2015-16 he brought me into Sandia as a consultant to work with his group on team-building, communications, and strategy. And summer 2019, because of his analytical strengths, I brought him in to work with me on a Berkeley Haas course, "Presentation Design for Analytical Communication." We were teaching how to communicate complex data and material clearly and effectively; Neal provided the real-world examples of complex analytical work that we used in the course.
Over the years of knowing Neal through multiple experiences, here are the key behaviors I have observed from him that will make him an excellent addition to the Commission:
- Strong technical reasoning and analytical skills: with a Masters in Mechanical Engineering and decades of managing engineering projects in a National Lab setting, Neal has worked alongside PhD scientists to bring their work to market. To do so, for each project he had to familiarize himself with the technology through exploration and analysis.
- Thoughtful evaluation: Neal takes great care to understand a problem he's involved in in order to craft the solution that meets stakeholders' needs and creates the most positive impact. In our collaborations, we have worked through everything from individual assessments of each of 6 his direct reports for how to best develop them, to how do we design a data visualization assessement for the MBA students, to how to guide his team to collaborate on the strategic planning for the group. In our work, he will evaluate multiple viewpoints to look for the ideal option. He really thinks problems through in a deep way.
- Lead through complexity and ambiguity: Neal's career at Sandia involved constant work on multi-year projects with multi-million dollar budgets, and heavy competition among stakeholders for resources. Getting these projects to completion demands determination. Neal will fight for what he believes is the right approach, and has the patience to succesfully bring long, complex projects to a close. In the case of building the project management organization from scratch, he had to convince 6 department directors to approve the change in the organization; this required him to build 6 separate business cases, a unique one for each director, in order to sell the solution into the organization.
- People skills and managing diverse personalities: Neal works to help people work well together. He is just as comfortable working with highly analytical/technical folks as with business folks, and works to build community. Developing the members of his team is also very important to him. In our work together I have always found him a friendly and easy collaborator on projects. He will speak his mind, but he will listen, and debate.
- Commitment to diversity and inclusion: Neal was instrumental in bringing programs to Sandia such as "White Men as Full Diversity Partners" and while there he was very passionate and committed to hiring more women, and investing in female managers' development. Also, as a white man [Redacted], Neal gets to experience both having priviledge and having [Redacted], and that really shapes how he shows up in the world. He is a very strong advocate for building diversity.
I'll be direct: Neal is a seasoned manager of very large, complex projects requiring analytical abilities and people skills of the highest order. He is analytical, thoughtful and personable. He is an excellent collaborator. And he is extremely interested in being a Commissioner. I enthusiastically recommend him for the Commissioner role.
Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Alison (Bloomfield) Meyer
Continuing Lecturer, Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley - On leave AY 2019-20
Lecturer, Rady School of Management, UC San Diego
Leadership Coach in Executive Coaching | Speaker Coaching | Team Facilitation & Strategy
Letter of Recommendation #3, submitted by Sarah Willits
How Submitter Knows Applicant: Professional / Former Direct Report
Letter of Recommendation:
October 17, 2019
Applicant Review Panel
c/o California State Auditor's Office
621 Capitol Mall, Suite 1200
Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Applicant Review Panel:
I am honored to write this letter of recommendation on behalf of Neal Fornaciari. I was fortunate to work closely with him for three years as a direct report at Sandia National Laboratory where I learned a great deal from him about leadership. Neal was a senior executive who led a large team with broad and complex responsibility for business operations, business development, finance, quality assurance, and project management. He retired from Sandia after a long career of service in the national interest.
As a leader, Neal modeled the way for many people. I've observed and personally benefited from his strategic mindset, his analytical approach, and his ability to influence others. At a time when demand for project management was growing at unprecedented levels within the company, Neal had the foresight to recognize a change in our approach was needed and he worked collaboratively across the organization to build a new vision for service delivery. This involved consolidation of the function under his leadership so that project management structures and tools could be deployed and matured. He applied his systems thinking to help others see that this change wasn't just about executing projects more effectively, but rather positioning the Laboratory infrastructure and supply chain for a fundamentally different future using data-based decisions.
Another admirable quality about Neal is his attention to diversity and inclusion. After he attended a retreat focused on this topic, he returned to work and opened conversations with me about what he learned and asked questions about my experience as a female leader in a male dominated environment. This took courage and he created a comfortable environment for me to be open. Neal continued to be an advocate for acknowledging diversity and inclusion in the workplace by being vocal, making it okay for others to speak up. He also organized an effort to send all his female leaders to a class at UC Berkeley which helped us explore how gender affects our experience at work.
Neal is an honest broker. His communication style is direct and yet he maintains objectivity. I observed this when one of Neal's peers made a leadership selection decision that was unpopular. The selected candidate was an existing manager who was perceived by others to be a poor performer and many people felt a hard-working staff member with high potential deserved the promotion instead. In a meeting where several of us were voicing our frustration about the decision, Neal remained professional and objective. It was obvious he knew more information about the decision than we did, but he maintained appropriate confidentiality. He heard us and tried to neutralize the situation by assuring the team due diligence was performed, including evaluating the unique requirements of the job and performing extensive reference checks.
After his retirement, Neal took on an assignment with a Grand Jury, where he again applied the strengths I've described above. They were responsible for performing analysis of accusations in advance of a trial. While I didn't observe Neal in this assignment, he described to me how he worked to bring people of varying backgrounds and styles together and I do know that he was selected as a leader among the group.
Neal would be an asset to any organization, but I know he has a passion for serving the public interest through The Citizens Redistricting Commission. He is a man of character well suited to provide fair representation for all Californians. I offer my highest recommendation for Neal's consideration and would be happy to provide any additional detail that is requested.
Comment 3481, submitted by Brenda Loggins
How Submitter Knows Applicant: I know him as an active community member.
Submitted On: 05/04/2020
The City of Tracy has not received the representation it needs in past commissions. Neal is a long-time resident of Tracy. Neal is an essential pick for this commission.
Comment 3482, submitted by Rebecca Brown
How Submitter Knows Applicant: Great Representative of Tracy
Submitted On: 05/05/2020
Tracy has not received proper representation from past commissions. As a long time Tracy resident I believe Neal is essential selection to this commission.