Where are they now? – Ismael Velasquez

Editor’s note: This feature is dedicated to profiling Van Horn High School Alumni and updating locals on what became of them after graduation.  The Advocate welcomes information for publication on VHHS Alumni and will try to highlight two Van Horn Eagles every week.

As a proud member of the Van Horn High School class of ’82, I was challenged by my peers when named “Most Likely to Succeed”.  The following fall, I started my journey to deliver upon those expectations by enrolling at Sul Ross State University, graduating in December of ’86 with a BBA in Accounting.

After graduation, I spent 6 months in Mexico, having the opportunity of installing satellite dishes throughout the country. A paid vacation that allowed me to truly know the diversity of that country, as well as exposing me to what would be the beginning of many international travels.

Upon returning to the U.S., I found a job in El Paso with a local company that provides boiler and industrial plumbing and mechanical services. This allowed me to implement a LAN, back then, cutting edge technology, resulting in the use of 5 ¼” floppies from the 10” floppies. More importantly, everyone was connected and able to share near real time information.

From this company I moved to a fortune 100 company that introduced me to the Maquiladoras (twin plants). At this company I was fortunate enough to be part of a team that turned around the finance organization, taking it to win both the “best improved plant” as well as the “best performing plant” in a global organization that included over 150 sites. In this organization, I was also part of the team that introduced the first commercially available fluorescent lights for domestic use. These leveraged the same sockets as standard incandescent lights.

My next professional assignment was with an automotive wire harness and interiors supplier. There, I started as a cost accountant, and ended my stay as the Director of Accounting. In this company, I held various positions, from plant controller, materials / SC Manager, plant manager, etc. The scope of responsibilities covered Mexico and Central America with over 40 sites. The highlight of this assignment was the opportunity to work with a Japanese joint venture. As the plant manager, we ramped up from 300 employees to over 3,000 in order to launch the production of harnesses for what would be the Odyssey minivan.  As part of the prototype development and build, I had direct interaction and responsibility to deliver prototypes to Japan, a once- in- a- lifetime opportunity that opened my eyes to the level of scrutiny and expectations that Japanese automakers have of their suppliers.

After all the exposure to the manufacturing environment, I was approached with an opportunity to start up a financial shared service center for a fortune 100 company. We would perform all the accounting functions for the North American operations, which covered over 150 sites. The startup coincided with the launch of a new ERP, which made it more complex. The highlight of this assignment was the opportunity to work with recent college graduates and molding them professionally.  After successfully launching this operation, I was asked to start up similar operations in China and Singapore; as well as further developing existing organizations in Slovakia, Mexico, and the U.S. Once successfully launched, and stabilized, we further consolidated operations.  After this assignment, I joined a project focused on globally deploying a common ERP for all manufacturing sites, (over 350) dispersed throughout 180 countries.

A new opportunity arose for me to work with a well-known car rental organization that had to undergo financial restatement. This meant recreating the accounting for over 3 years, filing with the SEC, etc. In this company, I was responsible for its shared service organization that handled the accounts payable, receivables, as well as the vehicle control and subrogation processes. All interesting big words, but at the end of the day, it meant we needed to know where each car was at the end of the month, plus recover any damages caused by customers. Probably one of the most fascinating industries I have been exposed to professionally.

While all of the above was taking place, I got married, had 3 children, and 2 grandchildren. I have been with my wife for over 28 years, my children are 27, 25, and 23, with the youngest being a boy. During all this time, we have managed to stay in west Texas, close to my siblings, Tony, Mercy, Lucy, and Victor. And of course, close to my mom, Lucita.

While this is meant to be a “where are they now” write up, it has served to help me realize that I still have more to do. So, where I am today will definitely not be where I am tomorrow, from a professional perspective. For now, I can only hope I delivered on my classmates’ expectations.