Tony Alonzo serves as vice president of information technology (IT) for Master Electronics, a leading distributor of electronic components for more than three hundred suppliers, which operates in a market that’s expected to grow significantly by 2030. Alonzo came on board in 2021 to spearhead IT efforts that would help prepare the business for growth, absorb more sales, ship more products, and meet growing market demands.
Since he’s been in the role, he’s done a lot more than that. He’s fostered a culture of communication, visibility, and empowerment that sets his team up for success. For the VP of IT, the path to success starts with what he calls “creating the right ‘why.’”
“If I give someone a directive and they don’t understand what it’s in support of, the likelihood that they’ll be fully invested to make sure its successful is low,” Alonzo elaborates. “If you understand the ‘why’ behind it, it’s empowering because you also understand the decision-making process that got us to that place. Then, if you have to pivot or take a different approach, a lot of times, the solution matters a little bit less.
“If the ‘why’ is driving you and you know what you’re trying to accomplish, then the ‘how’ is less important and gives the team freedom to provide solutions and be creative in our system architecture and our tech stack,” he continues.
Recently, Alonzo has focused a lot on providing that context to his team of twenty-one employees to encourage innovate thinking as they’ve helped complete one of the most expensive and transformative projects the company has ever undertaken. The team built infrastructure, data connectivity, and more for a company distribution center with cutting-edge automation features. The features were unveiled in mid-July in a ribbon-cutting ceremony that was the culmination of two years of work.
Alonzo says the project is foundational to the company’s growth and is an opportunity to step into its future in more ways than one.
“It really was transformational for our business because it allowed multiple departments to work closer than ever and we have a culture of collaboration after this project that wasn’t there before,” he says. “Plus, now we have this 30,000-square-foot grid system with robots running on the top of it that does a lot for the organization’s ability to service its customers in a timely fashion.
“There’s only so much you can do when you’re constrained by space and people how we were in our traditional storage and racking system,” he continues. “Now, we can have someone standing at a pick port and the product comes to them, so they can send it off more efficiently.”
Those aren’t the only ways Alonzo has been preparing for what’s to come in his industry and his company. He also is focused on recruiting top-notch professionals who align with the company’s entrepreneurial culture and its vision for success. To find the unique individuals that would be successful at the company, Alonzo takes a unique and informal approach.
“Through the recruitment process it’s not only about finding out what they can do but understanding how they think about problems, how they work with others, and how excited they are to move the needle,” he says. “I tend to be an informal person because I like to get to know people for who they really are. I take them out to lunch and ask them about what makes them excited. I have them rank priorities for what they’re looking for in their next place of work. It’s as much about who as it is about what.”
Alonzo’s leadership philosophy came from watching and looking up to leaders he wanted to be like. One leader he worked with inspired him to get good at simplifying complex ideas, understanding business needs, and staying calm in crisis situations.
“One thing that stood out to me about him was that when there were critical situations or when things needed to be fixed, he was always like, ‘What do you need from me?’” Alonzo recalls. “He was one of the first leaders I saw approach situations from that perspective and didn’t create chaos. Instead, he created a sense of calm that led to better outcomes.”
“Never waste the opportunity of a crisis,” the leader would say. “Because from it,” Alonzo explains, “you can carry forward a lot of lessons to improve or prevent certain issues in the future.”
Moments like that in Alonzo’s career journey stuck with him and encouraged him to emulate similar traits as he became a technology delivery manager, then a director of technology service desk and end user computing at AAA Arizona, and finally a VP of IT at Master Electronics. Those experiences further engrained valuable leadership lessons.
“It’s not about you,” he says. “Great leaders empower people and don’t do things for self-motivated reasons but for the success of the people who work for them.”