“I was always more attracted to all the processes and services that we take for granted everyday.”

Everyone’s way of life is influenced by an engineer. From the water effortlessly streamed into homes to the roads taken on the way to work, “you use all those things without realizing that someone did them for you,” says Juan Carlos Villalba, Fluor Corporation’s director of commercial strategies. “That’s what engineering was for me: so important.” Here, Villalba shares what drives his passion for engineering and how he is adding value to one of the world’s largest international design, engineering, and contracting firms.

Juan Carlos Villalba, Director of Commercial Strategy, Fluor Corporation

Growing up in Bogotá, Colombia, I always wanted to be an engineer. I remember in middle school some of my classmates’ parents worked in Colombia on this big dam. They would tell stories of a tunnel they were building and the construction they were a part of. I wanted to be part of those big construction projects. So, I attended Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá for civil engineering.

Though my parents were very supportive of my dreams, my career track was something new for my family as most everyone, except for my parents, are attorneys. I never felt like I was part of the litigating crowd—though I am married to an attorney (I like to say she is the attorney of the lost causes. I make fun, but she does help many people).

I was always more attracted to all the processes and services that we take for granted everyday. You use things during the day that you do not realize—you get water in your house, you use the restroom—everything works automatically, and that is all part of being an engineer. You give those services to everyone.

After finishing my degree in Bogotá in 1995, and working a few years in Colombia, I wanted to get my master’s in transportation, so I traveled to the United States in 1999. I stayed in the US and began working in Baltimore, Maryland, in a consulting engineering firm that specialized in infrastructure. Edwards & Kelcey was the company that introduced me to how engineering is done in this country. It was a great way to learn about the infrastructure in the US.

I was fortunate to work in important transportation projects around the Northeast. I spent time in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Virginia, and Illinois, which led me to an opportunity to work with transportation engineering in Miami. While working for [infrastructure solutions firm] HNTB in Miami, my passion for big projects was reignited. I enjoyed managing project development for toll roadways, but what intrigued me the most was the business aspect of engineering. This influenced my decision to go back to school for my MBA.

I came to Fluor because it is a world-class engineering, procurement, and construction company. Fluor is a Fortune 500 company that designs and builds the world’s toughest projects for governments and clients in diverse industries. Clients depend on the expertise of Fluor’s 41,000 employees operating globally, to deliver capital projects safely, on schedule, within budget, and with the quality they expect.

At Fluor, I have the opportunity to leverage the company’s supply chain intellectual capital to bring material management and contracts strategies to projects. For my part, I have saved hundreds of millions of dollars for clients—many of which are in the petrochemical and refinery business—by finding ways to lower the costs of projects.

As I continue to find new ways to save our clients money and contribute to the success of Fluor, I hope to one day become an executive within the company with a focus on corporate strategy. As one of the largest publicly traded engineering, procurement, and construction companies, Fluor has been a challenging yet very rewarding environment in which to work.