Josue Santana-Lopez on connecting people, tech and opportunity

Some people run from challenges, but Josue (pronounced HO’ sway) Santana-Lopez 09EvMBA meets them head-on, especially when it comes to business. “I’m very interested in the way business operates, and I’m always curious about how we can bridge some of what I believe are the most important aspects of an organization: information, human capital, and opportunities,” he says.

It was that curiosity and enthusiasm that led Santana-Lopez to enroll in Goizueta’s MBA program in 2007. He had previously held finance, Six Sigma, and pricing roles at GE Aviation in Cincinnati and GE Energy in Atlanta, but corporate bureaucracy and the predictability of the work had begun to weigh him down. He found Goizueta’s fast-paced curriculum and his classmates’ perspectives on issues to be a refreshing change from his corporate duties. “The curriculum was on par with the industry and up-to-speed with the business world,” he says. “My peers’ backgrounds were very diverse, giving me the opportunity to explore areas such as consulting, law, real estate, and marketing. These interactions offered me a variety of perspectives and helped expand my thinking.”

Exposure to those divergent ways of thinking has also helped Santana-Lopez excel in his position as finance director of the US Public Sector at Microsoft. Santana-Lopez oversees this $4B unit of the software giant, including P&L, pricing, overall financial oversight, and accounting policy compliance. “It definitely comes with all the challenges you can expect,” he quips.

The biggest of those challenges? Apart from the constant travel and breakneck schedule, it’s staying ahead of the curve and anticipating where the business is headed in times of ever-increasing competition, industry trends, and macroeconomic change. “I think being in finance offers a unique vantage point that helps you influence the direction of the business,” he says, adding that “Microsoft is in the midst of significant changes. We are basically moving our focus away from a software-only provider and toward one that enables people to thrive in a mobile-first and cloud-first world.” It’s a fundamental—and invigorating—shift, he says.

“In order to be successful,” Santana-Lopez continues, “we have to think differently about how we do business, what success looks like in the new world, and how we establish the necessary information infrastructure that will enable a dynamic conversation throughout this period of change.” He admits that “it’s a bit scary, of course, but it’s exciting at the same time. Seeing this big company turn on a dime is interesting.”

Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico—“one of the most wonderful places in the world”—Santana-Lopez has also used his business education to maintain close ties to his hometown, where he sits on the boards of several start-ups in retail, food services, and technology. “I am passionate about the growth potential in the island and the human talent we have,” he says. He, his wife, and their four-year-old son live in Atlanta but visit the island regularly, with the added perk that it’s an ideal spot for Santana-Lopez to pursue his love of golf and photography. —Nichole Bazemore

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