Enjoying Unlimited Visibility
When planning to dine, shop or see an art exhibit, few consider selecting a continent. Reynaldo Roche (MBA ’07), who joined Delta Air Lines after receiving his MBA from Darden, has frequently encountered such luxurious decisions, having logged more than 500 flights to more than 85 countries. But he has also found the aviation industry to be "brutally competitive." He somehow manages to chart a course between these two extremes, grounding himself through lessons learned at Darden and in life.
"Air travel is a symbol of freedom and success, but I have learned to measure success by internal growth; the impact I have made in an organization; and the contributions I have made to my community, family and peers," said Roche. "I probably would have been a bit misguided in my career were it not for Jim Clawson’s "Level Three Leadership" class, where I learned that people who are themselves at work go further than those who alter who they are in order to fit in." To ensure that future Darden students benefit from that lesson and to bolster the community's commitment to strengthen through diversity, Roche created an endowment for the ongoing support of Pride at Darden (PAD). "Organizations like PAD are a key component to attracting top talent and creating an environment where people can feel comfortable being themselves," Roche said.
As a child, Roche considered the airplane "the best invention ever." His first flight was at age 7. He immigrated to Queens, New York, from the Dominican Republic with his parents and four older siblings. Soon after, he could identify aircraft by engine sound as they took off from LaGuardia Airport; by 18, he was a certified aircraft mechanic and licensed pilot.
Now, as general manager of technical operations strategy and business performance, Roche uses his intimate understanding of all things aeronautic to manage a billion-dollar budget. Last year, he identified $200 million in savings without making any compromises in safety; this year, he expects to save another $100 million. How does he do it? "I clearly remember entrepreneurship class with Venkat," he says.
Roche balances a long-standing dream of owning an airline ("current fuel technology will remain for decades; what will change will be the cabin — a unique, comfortable flight experience that cannot be replicated”) with a firm commitment to the people around him. "This was a great opportunity to really learn the industry I want to lead, and I have never felt like I had to hide who I am." Who he is, in no small part, was shaped by a saying his parents taught him as a boy: "Él que aspira llega." Or, "The one who aspires, gets there."