His first career breakthrough was as a musician in a nationwide heartthrob boy band, Volcan, which he describes as the “Backstreet Boys of the third world.”
Pablo didn’t travel your typical career path leading up to his position as program manager at VMBC. He didn’t dream in codes as a kid, chase a degree in computer science, or take the first job he found as a software developer. His first career breakthrough was as a musician in a nationwide heartthrob boy band, Volcan, which he describes as the “Backstreet Boys of the third world.”
Spoken like a seasoned rock star, Pablo notes, “It was crazy, and if I look behind me, it looks like the memories of someone else in my head.” But as all pop stars eventually realize, the limelight has an expiration date, and Pablo and his crew eventually said goodbye to the fame and suited up for the real world.
Pablo dropped into a menagerie of odd jobs, working in retail and call centers around Buenos Aires before realizing that he was doing work he did not enjoy, with unenthusiastic co-workers, for bosses who didn’t value their employees. He could feel it in his bones: he needed change. With a pregnant wife and a whole stack of bills to pay, Pablo may have picked one of the least desirable moments to uproot his life and head out in search of balance. Yet, he found that balance at VMBC.
“VMBC was exactly what I needed at the time. I needed to come in at nine, get out at six, and work on busy and engaging mechanical projects; the steady work and calm environment were just what I needed to clear my head. That calm didn’t last very long, however,” he says with a smile in his voice.
It just so happened that this hectic time in Pablo’s life coincided with the beginning of CEO Jesse Crowe’s passion project. Jesse saw something in Pablo and decided he had what it would take to bring such a project to life—so, shortly after his interview, Pablo was asked to take part in VMBC’s new partnership with TracFone.
“He hired me personally because I had experience in customer service with phone companies and some tech support,” Pablo says. “I also had a good level of English. I have a feeling that he had TracFone in mind when he hired me, because he knew it was coming and he knew I’d be a good fit.”
That was in 2008, when there were just three seemingly simple components to the project: enroll customers, create a database to keep track of them, and set up a call center, from scratch, to support them. To build a reliable infrastructure, Pablo contacted colleagues from his last job, men and women he knew and trusted to work hard, to come to VMBC. They were a modest team of 15, taking around 100 calls a day. Today, in 2015, approximately 20 million people have signed up for the service, and the call center receives about 20,000 calls each day. Like his very own child, Pablo has seen the TracFone project grow from day one.
Today, with a total of 60 people working on TracFone in Argentina alone, tasks are spread across call center management, quality assurance support, development, analysis and maintenance for all ongoing TracFone activities. There are 700 agents total, located in other call centers around the globe, and 2,000 street team agents bringing TracFone services to the public.
In the beginning, when Pablo was the operations manager, he didn’t get too involved with the development side of the project. He was in charge of managing the agents in the call center, not for creating the deliverable product. But over time, he’s found that much of his day is spent answering requests from all directions: he liaises between stakeholders and vendors, takes calls from clients, communicates the client’s needs with the development team, and offers opinions, positive and negative, to all departments on their operational side of the fence. After working with him over the years, people have grown to trust his style; they feel comfortable if they can get Pablo’s seal of approval.
“Even though I’ve never been in charge of delivering the actual product, clients and colleagues have seen how much I care, and how much of myself I put into the project. That’s my positive impact.”
Maybe it’s due to the time he spent on stage, or maybe it’s just his personality, but Pablo’s strengths revolve around direct communication and blunt honesty. Work is a busy place, and you can get caught in the crossfire of stakeholders and customers with complicated requests and emergencies. Pablo typically finds the position to get the job done and take the lead.
“My honesty is what people love and hate about me,” he says, with a slight chuckle, talking about his management style of tough love. Pablo is happy to coach and guide his team through their mistakes the first and second time, but by the third time, Pablo will show his frustration. He notes, however, that by now, his team knows where this is coming from. If he weren’t fully invested in his company’s product, and the success of his team, he’d let these mistakes roll off his back.
“My team knows that I will be the first person here busting my ass until stuff goes the right way. I’m not the type of manager that points fingers and says, ‘Do this!’ and then disappears. My team can count of me until the work is done and done correctly, and they know that.”
Pablo’s voice vibrates with passion, whether he is talking about work, his family, or his personal life. While it might not happen as often as it might in an ideal world, traveling is Pablo’s great joy. In contrast to all the rigidity in his workday, he travels to be liberated of schedules and planning.
“When I’m on a plane to somewhere I don’t know, I’m a little anxious, a little nervous, and very open-minded, and it thrills me,” Pablo says, making one think about the open-minded career path he’s traveled. “For me, it’s the most freeing thing there is.”
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