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Adaptation as Mantra: At Work with Rocco Pugliese


At Work: Rocco Pugliese

Who he is: Director of Advancement Technologies and Business Analytics, Advancement Services

What he does: He is modernizing information systems and making business process improvements for  the Office of Development and University Relations.

How long at Fordham: Two years

When Rocco Pugliese’s family moved to the United States from Bari, Italy, he didn’t speak a word of English. His story, like that of so many New York City immigrants, is one of hard work and innovation.

“We moved here when I was 7-years-old and I was thrust into first grade,” he said. “I had to learn English through total immersion, and it was a struggle.”

The struggle paid off, however, with adaptation becoming a touchstone throughout his career, said Pugliese. From the moment the family settled in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, his encounters with unfamiliar environments spurred an interest in new places and people, and new opportunities. Over the course of his career, he has worked in the private, government, and nonprofit sectors, observing and learning along the way.

A product of New York City public education, he received his bachelor’s in business administration from Baruch College at the City University of New York. There he studied international marketing management at night while working for a shipping company by day. He delved into business theory in his classes, while gaining practical business knowledge on the job.

“I always had a full-time workload, so I had to be very deliberate about balancing work, studies, and my social life,” he said.

After spending several years acclimating to the corporate world, Pugliese began to navigate a way to “add value” to organizations by combining technological know-how with an understanding of how large organizations operated. And while he was educated in business management, his tech knowledge was self-taught.

“My dad bought me a PC with a 5¼ inch floppy and a green-screen DOS, so that’s what I grew up with,” he said. “I’m not necessarily a ‘tech head,’ but necessity is the mother of invention. Solving business problems using technology is a fun challenge.”

Pugliese worked for startups at the height of the dot com era. There he developed digital tools specific to the companies’ needs. He said that he left the industry just as the market was becoming volatile and companies were beginning to go bust. It was then that he went to work in higher education, at Pace University’s World Trade Institute based in the World Trade Center. He was on his way to work the morning the towers were attacked.

“We relocated, but the institute just wasn’t the same,” he said. “The enrollment never came back, since most of our students were international tenants from the towers.”

Pugliese tried his hand in city government at the Department of Transportation before coming to Fordham.

“The attraction here is that people are very thoughtful about carrying out the mission,” he said.

At Fordham, he said he feels that people appreciate not just what he brings to the table, but the talent that his colleagues in Advancement Services bring as well. He noted that the team, which is part of the Office of Development and University Relations, records more than 20,000 gifts a year—anything from $10 to $10 million or more. Each gift represents a personal affirmation of support from valued alumni, friends, and students, so it’s more than just data, he said.

Nevertheless, Fordham’s vast community requires big data analytics to keep track of the thousands of transactions and interactions.

“Our senior management knows the questions they want answered, so that they can best serve all our constituents across the country and around the world, and fully understand the impact of their gifts and involvement with the University,” he said.



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