Making his mark with Google

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 25, 2012

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Richard Alfonsi’s former educators say they’re not surprised one of their best students landed a top job at Google.
A Salisbury native and 1989 graduate of Salisbury High School, Alfonsi is Google’s vice president for sales and strategy. He was in town this weekend to visit his parents, Tiberio and Monica Alfonsi, after launching a Google promotion for small businesses Friday in Charlotte.
“I remember him as a very smart young man who was extremely focused and certainly destined to succeed,” said Dr. Windsor Eagle, principal of Salisbury High.
Alfonsi leads the global display solutions team at Google, the Internet giant with more than 60 online products. In his position, Alfonsi is responsible for sales and strategy across Google’s full display ads product set.
Previously at Google, he was vice president of global online media sales, responsible for sales and operations in areas that include the Google Display Network, YouTube, mobile, affiliate marketing and TV ads.
Alfonsi joined Google in 2007, but Eagle said Rowan County’s top scholar in 1989 and Duke University graduate would have been successful anywhere.
“He has the potential to do that with any company,” Eagle said.
With high school achievements in all academic disciplines as well as music and athletics, Alfonsi won Duke’s most prestigious scholarship and graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He went on to earn an MBA from Stanford University.
John Brown, retired English department chair at Salisbury High, said he’s surprised Alfonsi could decide on a profession because he excelled at so many things.
“He could write and express himself so brilliantly,” Brown said. “He was so adept at being able to read something and interpret it and see between the lines.”
Before joining Google, Alfonsi held senior roles with a number of venture-backed technology startups.
Most recently, he spent four years at Tellme Networks, now a subsidiary of Microsoft, where he served as vice president of their enterprise business unit.
He also served as vice president of marketing and business development at software company Velant and vice president of product marketing at Internet software and services company Zaplet.
Alfonsi spent much of his early career as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, where he helped clients solve their most critical business problems.
His talent at writing and interpreting literature has served Alfonsi well, Brown said, just as the ability to reason, weigh evidence and draw conclusions benefits any professional.
“Those abilities people can apply to other areas of life,” he said.
Betty Lyerly taught Alfonsi calculus and physics. Retired in 2002 after 35 years, Lyerly said she still remembers Alfonsi’s seriousness in the classroom and skill at using logic to draw conclusions.
“He strived to excel to his maximum potential,” she said.
Alfonsi, a father of three now living in the San Francisco Bay Area, said Salisbury was a great place to grow up.
“It’s a small town but one that has a great sense of community,” he said.
Alfonsi said he remembers Salisbury as “a tightknit community with enduring relationships.” He remains close to several friends he made in Salisbury, where he attended Sacred Heart School and Knox Middle School.
Alfonsi and Scott Daugherty, N.C. Small Business commissioner, on Friday launched the North Carolina segment of Google’s promotion called Get Your Business Online, which offers free website design and web hosting for one year to businesses with fewer than 250 employees.
Google worked with local partners to design the program, which it says will help drive economic growth by giving North Carolina businesses the tools and resources to establish a website, find new customers and grow their business.
For the next year, Google and Intuit are offering an easy-to-build website, a customized domain name and web-hosting for free.
While 97 percent of Americans look online for local products and services, 69 percent of small businesses in North Carolina do not have a website.
“They’re almost invisible,” Alfonsi said.
Getting more businesses online is key for the state’s economic growth, Alfonsi said, and Google can give them the tools and resources they need to get online to grow and expand.
Get Your Business Online offers tools to help business owners to track and measure their company’s performance. The ability to serve customers out of state or abroad can make a huge difference for a business, Alfonsi said.
For some, the potential to grow is as simple as “just being found,” he said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.