Technology touches every aspect of our lives today through innovative tools, platforms, analytics and data. Gilberto Villegas Jr ’19 MS MIS is one of the young professionals framing, fueling and driving that technology to build better communities.
While pursuing his undergraduate degree at Northern Arizona University, Villegas started his career in information technology at a local bank. He liked his job but wasn’t sure how far it could take him. “I think it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day,” he says. “If you had asked me back in the day if I wanted to get a master’s degree, I probably would have said no.”
As he made his way up through the ranks, his desire to learn and improve drove him to look for new opportunities. “When I saw Eller was number one in management information systems,” he says, “I knew that was where I could find other motivated people in my field.”
Villegas applied to the Master’s in MIS and, once enrolled, quickly found that he was learning more than just technical skills. “A lot of the coursework is relevant to what I’m doing now,” he says. “But I also learned to focus on integrity, collaboration and looking at the bigger picture to solve problems.”
After graduating in May 2019, Villegas accepted a job as the information technology director at United Way in Tucson. As IT director, Villegas helps the nonprofit organization connect Pima County residents to financial and educational resources. United Way prides itself on its data-driven approach to community problem-solving. “You have to have the guts to make bold decisions that tackle challenging community problems, but you also have to have the data to back those decision up,” he says.
Sometimes Gilberto is so busy shaping the future that he doesn’t get a chance to think about his past: “It’s crazy to look back as a kid who grew up in Nogales just minutes from the border. I went from using bonus codes in Super Mario Cart to writing code that helps people find the resources they need.”
These days, Gilberto is all about giving back to the community. He leads neighborhood clean-up projects during Eller Make a Difference Day and splits his time between his career and his growing family.
He doesn’t know what’s next, but he’s hopeful: “I think that I’m in a unique spot right now with all my IT leadership experience. With my master’s degree from Eller I’m in a really good place.”