Patty Giuntoli: Learning at the Speed of Life

Patty Giuntoli
Patty Giuntoli

On January 20, 2009, Patty Giuntoli was sitting in a human resources office at Berkeley Lab watching President Barack Obama being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. Like him, she was starting a new job in public service too. 

Giuntoli was going to be the new director of infrastructure in Berkeley Lab’s IT division, managing the group in charge of Berkeley Lab’s local area network, desktop support, and telephone system. In 2011, she joined the Lab’s Scientific Networking division / Energy Sciences Network (ESnet) as the department head of networking and systems, where she helped design ESnet’s next-generation network, called ESnet6, and worked to shepherd it through the Department of Energy’s approval process into fruition.

Now after 11 years of Lab service, Giuntoli will be retiring on February 25.

“It wasn’t the mission that initially brought me to Berkeley Lab. I just saw the posting on LinkedIn and applied. But it was the mission that kept me here, longer than any other job in my career,” said Giuntoli. “One of the unique things about research and education that I really enjoy is the cross-collaboration. The ultimate focus is on a shared destiny – advancing science – and the mission transcends individual organizations.”

A second-generation San Franciscan, Giuntoli’s path to networking wasn’t straightforward. She received a B.S. in biophysics at the University of San Francisco and thought that she’d pursue a career in research. But the project that she hoped to work on after college didn’t receive the funding it needed, so she moved back home and looked for any job to bide time until another research opportunity.

Giuntoli would end up at GTE Lenkurt in San Carlos, working with microwave communications systems. This job marked the beginning of her 30 plus career in networking, which included stints as a telecom engineer at Bechtel, director at PG&E, VP at Oracle Corporation, and director of network services at Kaiser Permanente. Her management experience includes establishing and leading multi-functional, global organizations of over 500 people, developing and implementing business plans, technical and service strategies, and business and operational processes.

In addition to working on the ESnet6 project, Giuntoli notes that one of her greatest accomplishments at Berkeley Lab has been hiring new people into ESnet.

“I really enjoyed bringing new people in ESnet, hiring people from the outside that brought a different perspective and allowed us to get a mix of ideas. I liked putting mechanisms in place that encouraged people to think about things differently,” said Giuntoli. “This is actually what I’m going to miss most about working at ESnet – the people.”

Her advice to future generations? Act fast and don’t be afraid to fail.

“I see it as failing forward, a gift, you are learning something new every time. One thing that has been interesting to watch in research and education is how slow things move because people are waiting for things to be perfect. I say move faster and learn at the speed of life. Maybe one in 10 ideas will be a success, but that’s okay. Take a chance and put it out there,” said Giuntoli.

In retirement, Giuntoli hopes to spend more time with her grandchildren, playing golf, and painting landscapes.

Written by Linda Vu, Berkeley Lab Computing Sciences