Pedro Ejzykowicz has never lived so far from the ocean.
The son of second-generation Polish immigrants, Ejzykowicz grew up in Rio de Janeiro. When he announced he was leaving for the United States in 2003, his parents were hesitant: the family had a relatively stable and comfortable life in Brazil with opportunities that not everyone had. Ejzykowicz, however, still felt too close to robberies, kidnappings, and death, and the year he had spent studying in Germany as an undergrad had offered him a vision of a different way.
“My parents’ perspective was, ‘We saw how difficult it was for our parents, and now you are second-generation, and you have access to all these things. Are you sure you want to give that up?’ And I said yes,” he says. “I wanted to give it a try because I thought that it would be best for my family.”
But even as he ventured north to the United States, Ejzykowicz kept near water, living in New Orleans and southern California. But when his big opportunity came knocking, it meant moving to Denver—away from the ocean and into the mountains. For that move to be worth it, he needed a special opportunity: a growing company in an evolving industry with stellar mentors and opportunities to learn.
In 2014, he met John Foster, who was consulting with an independent power generation company called Southwest Generation (Foster would later become the company’s CEO). At the time, Foster was working to restructure the company, sell assets, and refinance debt to position Southwest Generation for future growth. Ejzykowicz had previously worked in bankruptcy and restructuring, and he knew he could help stabilize the company. The real question was whether Southwest Generation would turn the corner and become a growing company that would challenge his professional capabilities.
Knowing it was a risk to uproot his family and move to Colorado, Ejzykowicz decided to accept the challenge. In 2015, he came aboard to handle finance and accounting, and the company named him CFO in 2017.
“I always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and if I could do that in a smaller environment with other people like me, that would be even better,” he says. “That’s what Southwest Generation presented at that time.”
As CFO, Ejzykowicz is responsible for finance and accounting, overseeing a small but highly skilled team. So far, Ejzykowicz has helped the company evolve toward a more mature, process-oriented state; automating and streamlining systems has freed bandwidth for more complex projects and strategic planning. The results have been extraordinary. Since 2015, the company has more than quadrupled, with more growth on the horizon.
Most of this growth came through acquisition, which stretched the organization. Southwest Generation hadn’t completed an acquisition since it was formed in 2008.
“The team here had not really worked on one and didn’t know how it would actually happen,” Ejzykowicz recalls. “We benefited from having a new accounting system in place by the time we did our first acquisition, but as we continued to acquire more assets, we continued to improve that process, which allowed us to keep the same number of people. That became our competitive advantage.”
Ejzykowicz says he’s often working outside his comfort zone, so he encourages his teammates to do the same—to attack new projects, develop new skills, and take risks, even if that means failing from time to time. In doing so, his promise is to support them according to their needs and drive them toward new experiences. He points out that enjoyment and competence often have little to do with each other; if you enjoy doing something, it’s worth taking the time to fail and learn from those mistakes, he says.
“It’s really about getting people to build confidence and test their own limits and giving them the opportunity to fail. If you’re in an environment where risk is accepted, you’re going to try things,” Ejzykowicz says. “The point is to understand what you like to do and what you’re capable of doing. Being capable doesn’t mean that you’re going to like it, and not being able doesn’t mean that you’re not going to like it, either. It’s not for me to decide but to give opportunities.”
To make Southwest Generation a safe place to take risks—and, therefore, a safe place to grow—Ejzykowicz does his best to embody that attitude. He makes sure to advertise his own mistakes—more than his successes, he jokes—and to let his team see him asking for help. That way, the team doesn’t conflate asking for help with failure. It’s important for people to enjoy what they do, and visible support can make the difference.
The company’s start-up culture will remain a strength as it continues to grow, Ejzykowicz says. Given Southwest Generation’s current size (fewer than a hundred), all the executives are both doers and strategic thinkers, and the company is evolving from a people-oriented enterprise toward a more process-oriented one. It’s a natural transition, he says, given the company’s rapid growth in a short amount of time.
“In the executive team, we all enjoy doing the work, but we also have to be strategic,” he says. “As we grow, the capacity to do the work gets diminished over time. I think that’s going to mean constantly looking for ways to improve processes, be efficient, understand risk, and look for the right people.”
Going into these next stages, Ejzykowicz has no doubt that taking on the CFO role at Southwest Generation was the right move. The cold weather in Denver has demanded some adjustments, but he and his wife and two kids are taking the opportunity to try new things themselves.
“It’s a challenge; I try to make it up by going to the pool when I can, but it’s not the same as the ocean” he says, laughing. “The family really enjoys the outdoors, so we’ve been enjoying the mountains and learning different things: road biking, skiing, all of those.”