Julio Villafane, IE 1985, has a saying from his home country, El Salvador, which resonates with him: “the harder I work, the luckier I get.” While he attributes his success to hard work, he also acknowledges that he could not have done it without a supportive family, a positive attitude, and the world class education he received from Georgia Tech’s ISyE. “This education has been instrumental in how I approach a problem, table it, analyze it, and then discern the best way forward to execute it.”
As a freshman, and not sure which field or industry to enter upon graduation, he did his research and spoke with people whose experience and opinion he valued highly. Villafane ultimately chose ISyE because of the versatility of the program and its distinction of its well-rounded courses that combined a solid foundation and strong analytical mindset for those who became industrial engineers. “I chose Georgia Tech because its reputation and the quality of its education. I continue to be very proud of being part of the Georgia Tech family. I truly am a rambling wreck from Georgia Tech, and a helluva an Engineer”.
Villafane’s distinguished career path has led him to his current position, VP of Sales and Business Development (Commercial) at SES.
How has ISyE prepared you for your career?
The program, its emphasis, and courses provide a world class foundation that is very relevant in most industries, even complex sales and business development which is my career focus area. Another important part of the answer has to do with the large, proud ISyE community worldwide. I am originally from El Salvador, and while at Tech, I was part of a very tight-knit Latino community. To this day, we remain connected, and the camaraderie and support is still there, strong as ever. It is great to see that many of them are leaders in their respective fields, contributing in positive ways to the societies where they live. One example is my friend & ex-classmate, Juan Carlos Varela, who now is the President of Panama.
What does SES do?
SES is one of the largest satellite solutions companies in the world (www.ses.com). We are part of the communications platform that allows people to be connected at all times and deliver communication services that help improve people’s lives. With our partners, we focus on being the most customer centric satellite solutions provider in the industry. We have over 1,200 professionals in offices around the world. We run, operate, and commercialize a robust, modern satellite infrastructure comprised of over 50 satellites that cover 99% of the world population.
As VP of Sales and BD (Commercial) at SES, what do you oversee?
My responsibility is Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and certain U.S. service providers that utilize satellite communications to provide services to the Latin America Region. I spend most of my time in the Mexico facility as it is one of our key markets and we have several strategic initiatives in process.
Describe a typical work day.
Very simple, I strive daily to do what is necessary by: (1) Maintaining a healthy personal/work balance. (2) Maintaining and improving our revenue position. (3) Maintaining and improving customer satisfaction and customer intimacy (4) Continuing to develop a high performance organization focused on value selling. And (5) Continuing to build an organizational modus operandi that strives on identifying how to address customer communications needs with our resources (technology, partnerships, and infrastructure) with the intent of bringing/adding value to the customer's specific objectives.
This is an important challenge since we work with customers in all verticals and each one has its own idiosyncrasies: Government, Enterprise, Service Providers, and Value added resellers. Doing what is necessary at the office includes: resolution of customer issues, drive pipeline execution, lead and manage our resources (specially our Human Resource), and assure we maintain an effective governance aligned to our Corporation objectives.
What is one of the biggest challenges you face in satellite communications?
Generate the right mindshare in our market place that we are a 'solutions provider' versus just a segment/communications transport company. We must avoid to be perceived as a commodity. SES has significant capabilities that together with our best in class satellite infrastructure could be part of solutions' that truly address communications needs. My challenge is to lead our efforts so that we identify what those needs are in mobility, video, data, and government so that we can put together offers that add the most value.
What do you find the most enjoyable about your work?
The daily interaction with people at every level and helping lead the development and implementation of solutions that resolve customer issues. I am a people person and absolutely enjoy engaging with people and treating everyone with dignity. I learned this at an early age from my father. He owned and ran a sugar cane plantation in El Salvador and always treated people with the utmost dignity regardless of their economic or social standing.
What do you think is the importance of global communications?
There have been books written in this space, and there is significant research going on about the importance of sound, solid, capable ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) backbones in order to be more effective and efficient in delivering products and services; and the overall concept of improvement of people’s lives. I think we can all envision how this benefits the business world and our day to day lives just by looking at our place of employment and our dependence on connectivity in our daily activities. The other important aspect that is more obvious in developing countries is the topic of social inclusion. In these countries, ICT is critical in programs related to social inclusion from the educative, health, and cultural points of view. In my opinion, communications is not evolving, but transforming. It is transforming the way we work, the way we communicate, the way we have access to our information, the way we access our entertainment, and even the way we socialize. I am fortunate to be part of this transformation.
How do you define success?
In my opinion, we all have several aspects to our lives. In my case, those aspects include: being a husband, father, son, brother, friend, and being a professional. Success to me is when all aspects of my life are in balance and in order. This 'balance' is not static; it is something that I work on daily founded on positive attitude and a set of values that promote quality of life.
What is one thing you are doing this summer to capture the magic of the summer time?
Spending quality time with the family, if possible at the beach, and contemplating more on how beautiful the simple things in life are.
Industrial and Systems Engineering