Jose Gutierrez first came to Mizzou in 1982 as an international student barely speaking English, yet determined to achieve his American dream. Today, he is president of Wholesale Solutions, a multi-billion dollar business owned by AT&T, an American multinational telecommunications corporation. He also serves as an alumni adviser to Mizzou’s Trulaske College of Business.
In an interview with the College of Business’ Dean Joan Gabel, Mr. Gutierrez shares his experience as an international student at Mizzou, obstacles he faced as an international student, and how the lessons he learned at Mizzou led to his successful career at AT&T.
When you came to Mizzou it was your first entry into the United States and you faced a lot of obstacles. Can you tell us how you did that and what inspired you to do that?
I was a very young, scared immigrant and spoke very little English. But Mizzou changed my life and Mizzou is America for me. It embraced me and made me work very, very hard- harder than I had ever worked. But the people at Mizzou changed my life and still do. Not knowing the language was the main difficulty, but it has taught me a valuable lesson which I use in business all the time- which is that I try not to defeat myself before I start something. If I had known when I arrived at Mizzou- coming from Madrid, not speaking the language- if I had used a rational method of determining what are the chances I’ll make it, I probably would have just turned around and left because the odds were so overwhelmingly against me and so when I start a new venture I always tell myself don’t defeat yourself and go after what you want.
One advantage of the US and Mizzou is the tremendous access to education. What are your thoughts on what educators need to do so they can equip students to access these opportunities?
I have no doubt Mizzou is going down the right path in terms of the curriculum. To me, what Mizzou gave me that I didn’t see as much at other institutions is the personal, nurturing touch. I think it is very unique to the Mizzou brand- that nurturing, caring brand. I think we have to preserve that. Missourians are like that by nature, so I think we have to cherish it and treasure it. Because if you combine that care and the educational vocation we have in the Mizzou faculty, which is very superior, and you mix it with the Mizzou curriculum, I think that is a winning formula.
What advice do you have for college students?
What I would advise every student is to be optimistic. If a student at Mizzou approaches life and their future with optimism, they are 95% there. They wouldn’t have gone to Mizzou if they didn’t have a good foundation. They wouldn’t be graduating from Mizzou if they didn’t have an improved foundation. So just be optimistic because you are at Mizzou, so what can stop you? The sky is the limit.
The full length interview where Mr. Gutierrez talks more about his time at Mizzou and his work with AT&T can be viewed below
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