We are happy to welcome, Juan Torres, Chief Operating Officer, to the team Voxy-style!
Juan is a straightforward entrepreneur and executive. An active learner and intense listener with a long standing passion for technology and building successful businesses that move forward human learning and, hopefully, the human condition.
Juan has a diverse professional background, including being a CPA and Attorney. However he eventually turned to the education industry. Here’s why…
It’s not too dramatic for me to say that education saved my life. Without a quality education I would likely have been a familiar statistic, growing up poor in the South Bronx. I had so many chances to fail and I didn’t. Much of that felt random and unfair, because it is. That feeling motivated me to try to start a charter school in a poor, urban community in 1994, when charter schools were basically science fiction. I failed to get that launched, but that failure became the kernel of my successful launch of a network of charter schools years later. I think that both my interest in education and the understanding that failure is feedback began there.
He has also played many different roles in his career, which has shaped his perspective on leadership and growth…
Labels are important, they are just not sufficient. Taken together these roles have helped me to appreciate what its like to be the other person in the room. I think its important to appreciate that if you are going to build and grow successful companies. A few other things I have observed in successful startups:
- People basically enjoy what they are doing. That is not the same as having a passion for what they are doing, and it doesn’t have to be every minute of every day, but you should basically like what you are learning (skill) or who you work for (the company’s mission). If you are lucky, you have both.
- A critical mass of people at the company can deal with ambiguity. Growth startups get a ton of things wrong, often don’t make sense and are generally very messy. Most human beings have a hard time with ambiguity.
- They are honest. Not cruel, not snarky, but honest. They are honest about standards, how good (or not) people are at what they do. They are honest about whether or not they are meeting their goals and whether they communicate well with their people and with the world.
- The Godfather was wrong (dated reference) – great business is personal. Its the ability to do business well, when its personal, that is hard. I think people at great growth companies get that right more often than not.
- Leadership is practiced outside the senior team. People have opportunities to lead all the time. When more people beyond the CEO take that opportunity, it’s a good thing.
Its starts with people. That may sound like a cliche, but its true. Someone I respect introduced me to Paul who introduced me to Gregg, Aron, Katie etc, all of whom I enjoyed talking with. That started things and I became more excited once I talked to people outside of Voxy about Voxy. When I combined that with the personal experience of having to learn english as a second language, it seemed that working at Voxy should be something I should seriously consider.
Other Interests / Experiences
I think I use to have more hobbies, but given how hard I work, I find I spend most of my free time with my wife and 16 month old son. I came to marriage and fatherhood later in life and I am enjoying it immensely. When I am not doing that, I study and enjoy afro-puerto rican drumming.
Can’t really list a favorite, but I had a glorious dish of Fejioada at The Cecil restaurant recently and I cant wait to have it again.
Favorite place traveled to!
Too many to list but I really love walking in Barcelona, the 24 hour nightlife in Havana, hiking in Mount Tamalpais and eating in Southern Italy.
If Juan were Voxy’s DJ for a day…
My heavy rotation on Spotify over the last 3 weeks has been: 1) Dave Holland and Prism; 2) Baaba Maal’s Nomad Soul; 3) Madeleine Peyroux’s Careless Love; 4) Roberto Fonseca’s No Limit: Afro Cuban Jazz; 5) Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, M.A.A.D city.
I still get an actual hard copy delivery of the New York Times on saturday and sunday, but I have only read digital books for the last 5 years. Oh, and I still read books.
Again, welcome to the team, Juan!