David Cerjan, managing director of National Security Group at Verizon, spoke with ExecutiveBiz regarding his recent appointment with the company as well as his growth initiatives in the federal marketplace as innovation continues to change the technology landscape during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.
“Extending our capabilities is all about teamwork. It’s about working together in this space and we all have a specific mission of focus on our team. We may not know everyone’s positions or the details of everyone’s job, but we’re all working together in unison, which enables team bonding. With a team united, great things can happen.”
You can read the full interview with David Cerjan below.
ExecutiveBiz: Congrats on recently joining Verizon as the Managing Director of National Security! Why did you want to join the company and what were the attributes of its mission that attracted you to the role? What do you hope to accomplish?
David Cerjan: “It’s often said that ‘it’s new technology’ or ‘it’s innovation,’ which is true. My background has been with the military whether it be in human intelligence, the intelligence community or special operations.
I made an early transition into industry, which actually got me around partnerships as well as into the federal intelligence community, special operations and the Department of Defense (DoD). It was interesting to see the technology twists and turns over the last 20 years.
Previously, I had been with a company that put me in a data management and governance role that was happening at the upswing of data modernization in industry. There are a lot of industry leaders and systems integrators who now call data a strategic asset, which aligns with the overall National Defense Strategy.
At the time, it was just a concept. There was a dissertation about the importance of data and how its importance to the mission relates to this market. All of that really corresponded with the work I was doing and that led to an opportunity with Verizon, a company that is making this transition to expand our presence within the national security space.
As I discussed the opportunity with our leadership team, Verizon was looking for someone who had experience in the broader perspective of defense and national security. There were a lot of questions that were being addressed on how to continue to grow and expand this portion of the business.
I was asked if I’d want to help grow and expand that aspect of our business. It wasn’t an easy decision, but the chance to help influence and be a part of shaping that dynamic within a significant company like Verizon was very intriguing.
Upon joining Verizon, there were a lot of questions on how we support the market. I began to learn the depth and breadth of our solutions, portfolio, and people to address those challenges. That’s been a huge aspect for me this last year with Verizon
The important thing is that we’re partnering alongside the government in the national security space. My perspective is if we’re selling a product or service and anyone who is a contractor, an integrator or vendor absolutely is doing that. I believe Verizon is building and strengthening our relationships and being able to deliver based on the requirements at hand.
I see a strong sense of purpose for our critical needs. Verizon can help shape the solutions for those challenges. I’ve seen this from all sides as an executive, a civilian and in a uniform. I’m passionate about this and this is a great place for me to continue doing very meaningful work.”
ExecutiveBiz: What can you tell us about Verizon’s recent growth initiatives? What do you hope to accomplish and any new markets that you’re keeping an eye on in the federal sector?
David Cerjan: “For Verizon, one of the critical things was about educating our leadership and various organizations across our spectrum on the services that we provide for our government customers as well as our capabilities and managed services.
A former teammate of mine coined the phrase, ‘Map-the-Mission.’ That concept is about how to take the requirements of our space and the customers we’re supporting to map their mission with our technology and capabilities.
To me, that’s very important because we are providing a suite of services and solutions. If we’re doing that work with the right focus and establishing new relationships, then we are adding a lot of value and providing great support for our customers. Our team at Verizon knows their requirements and we understand their mission goals. More importantly, we can deliver on those and we continue to do so.
My biggest objective is to secure the foundation of our organization as it continues to grow and we build on that process while looking at our existing programs. How do we continue to drive Verizon to be bigger and better? What can we refine and what can we change for the better?
The other thing is everyone is expecting big things for 5G, or zero-trust architecture. There’s a list of those buzzwords and capabilities these days, but you also have to tether it into what’s possible to accomplish today and what is still on the horizon.
I think that’s also a significant responsibility for us. Over the last year with Verizon, I’ve been working to set proper expectations for our customers while also leaning in and asking them to challenge us on our technology and capabilities. That’s highly beneficial to us and allows us to better serve our customers’ needs, especially when they tell us specifically how to improve.”
ExecutiveBiz: What are some of the biggest improvements you’ve seen in the way we talk and think about innovation across the federal sector since the rise of cybersecurity, AI/ML, 5G and other emerging technologies?
David Cerjan: “There are a few areas that are key experiences from my time around data and government data management. One of the absolute biggest resources is our people, not just your specific team, but all the teams and people you support as well.
Data itself is also one of our greatest resources because no matter the process. We need data to make decisions, especially at the tactical edge all the way up to the strategic headquarters levels. We need the information to be able to shape, guide and direct us in the markets we support. It’s critically important to have both in our business.
As we develop trust in the network, which we’re getting better and better at doing, there’s the dark fiber and above-ground communications that we talk about often. There’s also the very important mobility piece. Verizon has been honing in on those areas, especially in our space.
As we look over the horizon, there’s been a lot of progress as we talk about 5G. The challenge is wanting full capabilities in a time of restrictive funding cycles. The ability to roll out solutions in an iterative process is important for us in industry to articulate and lay out solutions for our customers.
My dad told me when I was a young soldier after finally having a somewhat moderate income that I was ‘living a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget.’ To correlate my current experiences with the government, it’s pretty clear that they prefer the best of the best of solutions for the commercial sector, but they need to manage expectations based on available resources and programmatic funding cycles. There are limits and timing is also a huge factor.
In addition, it’s also important for Verizon to partner up and bring solutions to the table with cutting-edge channel partners and systems integrators that are not just our own capabilities. We need to enhance these relationships with partners and those in industry to bring the best possible solutions to the Defense and National Security community.
We’re doing a lot of work around these solutions in our space. It can be challenging at times if there are requirements that change due to the geopolitical climate and the operational environment changes that are constantly fluid, which we have and will continue to adapt appropriately.
With partnerships, you have expertise in certain areas depending on their in-state requirements and those collaborations can bring a lot of value to the various mission sets.
At the end of the day, there are a lot of capabilities out there in our market and it’s growing by the day. Our federal customers really just want to ensure that their people are utilizing those tools and services to drive efficiency and deliver on those capabilities. They want to know that those tools and solutions are there for their workforce when they’re needed the most.”