Going long distance with Mariano Legaz of Verizon

Whether it’s at work or on his own time, Mariano Legaz always goes the extra mile. As an employee of Verizon Communications Inc. for more than 16 years, Legaz has had 12 different supervisors; a number that reflects the dynamism of his career. Now as vice president of supply chain services at Verizon Services Operations, he oversees a team of about 1,700 while working with some 500 contractors. In his downtime, Legaz enjoys long-distance running, and has completed several marathons over the past seven years. Here, he shares with HE the secret to his endurance.

What’s the most important quality that helps you succeed in your role? 
The ability to learn and adapt quickly. If I look at what I’m doing today, and what I was doing 10 years ago, there’s probably only about 10 percent overlap. If I look at what I’m going to be doing five years from now, half of what I’m doing then will be different. As you get used to change, you become energized by the process. It’s an opportunity to do new things and to grow.

Can you describe your average week?
A big aspect are the formal touch points with the team, as is managing the relationship with our suppliers (although I am rarely involved in the negotiations). I handle the communications side, understanding the strategic opportunities that we might have working with our key suppliers and internal stakeholders. Among other duties, I also get out and about. I’ll go to the garages to talk to the mechanics, or visit the store room/supply room. In an average week, I’ll usually have some [interaction] with the various organizations I’m involved in, and I’ll support our employee groups.

Is this an exciting industry to work in?
It’s fascinating. The industry and the company both. Verizon is very dynamic. Inside, people are running left and right, there is so much going on. It’s an environment that I prefer: one that is constantly looking to improve. When you look at the landscape, there aren’t many companies that have thrived and evolved in the way Verizon has over the last 20 years. What differentiates us is that drive to look at things in a new way. I feel pretty good about coming to work every morning.

Could the company have taken a different approach to being global? Maybe. But, the reality is that I can’t point at that many companies who have done it as well as we did. But (and this isn’t corporate hot air) you cannot point to a moment in history, either with a project or initiative, with customers or employees, when the company has acted without complete integrity. It’s something we take for granted, but it’s fantastic to know that you can always count on that.

Best piece of advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?
I would say, “Don’t.” … Only joking. My advice is made up of a few things. First, try to look for opportunities that offer as much learning potential as possible, especially early in your career. Don’t just focus on the title or the money; that early experience can pay off later on. Secondly, focus on what you want to be really good at. If you’re good at something, exploit that strength as an advantage—it’ll give you a chance to shine. The other part of the advice is to stay humble. As you start moving up, don’t lose perspective that for everything you know, there’s about 10 times more that you don’t know.

Finally, the thing that wraps around all of this is not to lose sight of what really drives you, what’s your motivation. I’ve never known anyone who puts in a 10 to 12 hour day for a scorecard. You need to find out what drives you. What’s your ulterior motivation? It doesn’t matter how big that paycheck is—it’ll never be enough.