Alum Spotlight: Jose Francisco Cabello

Jose Francisco Cabello

Jose Francisco Cabello, originally from Monterrey, Mexico, is a 2015 graduate of the Northwestern MEM program. He studied Mechatronics Engineering at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education. Jose currently works as Procurement Manager at Amcor and is based in Chicago, Illinois. His hobbies include running, swimming, and playing the piano. Jose’s secret talent is his ability to play baseball! When he’s not playing or following sports, he is probably enjoying a serving of Chiles en Nogada. You’re most likely to run into Jose at Booze Box on a weekend!

We asked Jose a few questions about his MEM experience and his journey thus far, to which his responses were as follows:

Can you give a short description of your role and job responsibility?

I work in the Procurement department at Amcor, managing the areas of Capex (Capital Expenditure), Utilities, MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Operating Supplies), and Facility Management for North and South America, totaling sixteen facilities. The objective is to minimize costs and in turn bring value across all categories by analyzing, negotiating, and implementing procurement initiatives addressing a spend of $60MM.

What’s your favorite class or teacher in MEM. Why?

My favorite class was Financial Issues for Engineers. The financial valuation of projects is one of the main drivers of a project realization. As an Engineer my exposure to financial valuations was very limited. This class completely opens your view on the feasibility of a project. Today, I engage in a lot of Capex investments and every investment has to be backed by the financial valuation with a certain rate of return over time. If we can’t really achieve those numbers for one project, we invest the money in a different project. It sounds quite simple, but there are a lot of variables that play into the equation.

How has your MEM experience contributed to your career path and your current job role (your progression into senior management from an engineering background)?

Before joining MEM, I was working as an Operations Engineer in the Steel Industry. After the MEM program, I got hired as a Business Development Manager in the plastics industry. My main responsibility was to develop the business across North and South America for food packaging, targeting the meat and dairy market. This was my first experience crossing the bridge that connects Engineering and Commercial roles. I had to inspect a number of facilities and machinery while also understanding the commercial side which implied assessing the product’s market and financial strategy. In doing this, the MEM program gave me the tools to navigate across different disciplines like Engineering and Business without fear. After two years of working as a Business Development Manager, I got offered a new role as a Procurement Manager in the same industry. In this role, I analyze the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of Capex, Utilities, MRO, and Facility Management.

What new job, position, project or responsibility were you able to secure that you believe can be attributed to completing the program?

As an international student I was able to secure a job as a Business Development Manager for two years and currently I am a Procurement Manager. Thanks to the MEM program and the skills that I acquired at MEM, I have been able to have these roles and an overall more robust career trajectory that is both engineering and management focused.

What new skills did you gain and how did this impact your career or professional life?

Through experiences at the MEM program, you start analyzing things from multiple perspectives – not only taking into account the engineering or technical aspects, but also adding the business perspective to your decisions. You learn to mesh the two in a way that gives you a more holistic angle to any engineering or business question.

What unique aspect of the program did you experience that you felt was unique to Northwestern’s program?

Having experienced classmates, who bring at least three years of work experience made a big difference. Every issue, example, or solution is grounded in real-life tried experiences. I don’t believe any other MEM program across the country offers this unique experience.

How did the program structure help to make earning this degree a possibility for you?

The initial classes were quite useful to prepare you for the rest of the courses. It equipped me with a solid framework that I used throughout the program.

What connections were you able to make with classmates, faculty or industry and how?

I keep in touch with many of my classmates, especially those who I had projects with. In fact, I just returned from a classmate-turned-friend’s wedding in Bogota, Colombia. I would definitely say that besides the learning, you leave the program with new connections that are very helpful. I always wait for the program’s annual Industry Night, a good place to connect with old classmates and faculty and hear about the program’s new developments.

Word of advice to future students:

If you are looking for a program that will open the doors for you in the business world without leaving behind your Engineering backbone then this is the program for you. Northwestern and the MEM program offer a lot of opportunities – go to every networking event, explore and utilize all the resources! Your success is facilitated by the program but it largely depends on how you use the tools effectively.