Meet Managing Director, Enrollment Management Services, Raul A. Vazquez
“My experience in college was so transformative for me that after graduating I decided to make higher ed the focus of my life's work. It allowed me to see a world of opportunity and endless growth. I used my education as a catalyst to transform the environment around me and to move beyond the means that I was exposed to growing up.”
Managing Director, Enrollment Management Services, Raul A. Vazquez is experienced in operations and strategy within the higher education management space. He is skilled in training and development, as well as developing outreach strategies and systems. Raul is a graduate of Bridgewater State University with a BS in Business Management. His college experience provided him with his first real taste of international travel and business by working on projects in such disparate countries as Nicaragua and Cambodia.
Where are you originally from, and where were you raised?
I was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, though I traveled with my family quite a bit throughout my childhood. I spent time during my early years in Puerto Rico, Chicago, and New Jersey. Growing up it was tough to describe where I was from and raised because I lived between a few states or territories. I graduated from Springfield Central High, then attended Bridgewater State University, also in Massachusetts, to earn my B.S. degree in Business Management.
Do you recall a specific moment when you decided to make education the focus of your life’s work?
My experience in college was so transformative for me, that after graduating I decided to make higher ed the focus of my life's work. It allowed me to see a world of opportunity and endless growth. I used my education as a catalyst to transform the environment around me and to move beyond the means that I was exposed to growing up. It was difficult growing up in a low-income household with a single mother where your experiences are limited and you don't see someone in your family in affluent positions. I made a conscious effort to be the first in my family to break those barriers to ensure even more success can come after me. Knowing the lasting impact education has made in my life, I wanted to be in a position where I could pass my learnings to others.
Describe how your career has been enhanced by exposure to diverse people, places, or experiences. Please provide a specific example.
My career has been enhanced by exposure to diversity in a few ways. When I went to college, I was able to travel abroad at the age of 19, and that initial experience in Paris opened up my eyes to the world outside of the towns I grew up in. It was the very first time I felt like I was on the right path because the fulfillment of the trip really did influence the trajectory and experiences I would have for the rest of my time in college. After that initial trip to Paris, I ended up traveling to several more countries on educational tours while in college. Another transformative experience was building a water filtration system in a rural community in Cambodia, which was part of an alternative spring break trip funded by the President’s office. After we completed the project, we had the opportunity to share information with the community on the development of the filtration system and the benefits of using it for their water supply. These two experiences showed me the fundamental impact of education and enhanced my overall understanding of what it means to collaborate with and be impacted by others from diverse backgrounds.
What makes a leader great?
A great leader is willing to take risks and willing to think outside of the box to achieve their goals. A great leader empowers their teams by creating a culture where team member inputs matter, where a vision and strategic plan are created and followed, and where team members’ development is prioritized. Empowerment is the result of a “we” mentality that asks how will we achieve these outcomes, rather than an “I” centric approach. Sharing a broader vision gets people excited about where you’re going as a team. This mentality creates a team who will work hard towards the common goal. With this approach, you will gain the trust and commitment from your team that empowers them to rise up to the occasion to achieve your common goals. Without a great team, there is no great leader.
When you think of great leadership, who comes to mind? Why?
Bob Iger is an example of a great leader. I learned so much from reading his book, The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company. It clearly showed the risks you need to take in order to be successful. It was a pleasure to read his book and follow him throughout his career. It truly resonated with me as the story of someone who began as an entry-level worker but who earned his way to eventually become a CEO of a high-growth organization.
How has your personal leadership style evolved?
My personal leadership style has evolved over the last 10 years through my work with a variety of contrasting managers and direct reports. In the beginning, I was more invested in the quantitative details, but over time I’ve achieved more of a balance between the quantitative and the qualitative. The result is that I now provide data-driven feedback with a qualitative lens that empowers my team in a way that’s constructive. This approach allows individuals to understand the why behind what we do and where we’re going.
What is it about your background or career experiences that successfully positioned you for your role at Noodle? Describe that role.
Working for startups in higher education has made a difference in enabling me to become Managing Director for Enrollment at Noodle. The experience has allowed me to continuously consider the entire enrollment position: What are the different strategies we need to consider in order to evolve the department as Noodle grows?
How do you support the success of your team?
I best support my team by providing a vision of success, communicating an effective plan, and by determining the path needed to scale our operations further. I also provide insights I’ve seen at other fast-growing Edtech organizations I worked for in the past. I’ve been able to be a part of a multitude of launches that have equipped me to work cross-functionally and serve as a liaison to ensure the success of the team. We’ve been moving quickly and our teams have grown to enable us to work well with other departments.
What are some of the most effective tools in your leadership arsenal?
I am both data and process-driven. I’ve been able to understand how to make effective reports, and build collaboration. I am a relationship builder and have grown great relationships both with our partners and internally, as a people leader. I never think of it as a top-down approach, but rather I look at what is happening at the ground level to determine and address the concerns of my team members.
Please tell us something about yourself that people would be surprised to learn.
I’ve traveled to more than 40 countries over 6 continents and my goal is to reach the seventh, which would be Antarctica.