Versatile, turnaround expert, energetic, personable. Those are just a few of the adjectives used to describe Mike A. Aviles. But if you ask him, Aviles, MBA '90, would rather use the word "lucky."
Aviles accepted the Jerry I. Porras Latino Leadership Award at a banquet hosted Feb. 26 by the Stanford GSB Hispanic Business Students Association. It was the 15th time the association has honored an alumnus who has made a significant contribution to the business and Latino communities.
Aviles, a resident of Austin, Texas, isn't the shortstop for the Kansas City Royals, as he is quick to tell you, but an executive with a track record for managing companies selling products as diverse as software and sunglasses. From 2006 to 2009 he was president and CEO of Vignette Corp., a major player in the enterprise content management industry. Currently, he heads his own consulting firm, Grow2Day LLC.
He has been active in the Young Presidents Association and with the Stanford GSB Alumni Association and mentorship programs. In Austin, he has served on the board of trustees of St. Edward's University.
If he has a passion, Aviles said in his brief remarks at the banquet, it is for education.
"I was born in Puerto Rico, raised in New York, and neither of my parents graduated from college but [they] understood the value of a college education," he said. While at Stanford, he worked with the East Palo Alto schools and with the Breakthrough Collaborative, which helps low-income students pursue careers in education.
Stanford holds "a special place in my heart," he said, and it has had a "tremendous impact on my career and life."
Before an audience of alumni, faculty, and students, Aviles talked about why he may "not be the most interesting man in the world but the luckiest. I am blessed in many ways. I was three times a CEO, but how I judge success is family, friends, relationships, experiences, and giving back to the community."
He offered some advice about work, life, and community:
? Be responsible for your career and your destiny — don't wait for someone to "give you something." And find your own way. "How you define success is about how you define it — not someone else. You have to understand what's really important to you and decide what's best for you."
He harkened back to his upbringing in Brooklyn. "My father stated that you can do anything you put your mind to. The first thing you do is convince yourself you can do anything, then convince the person across the table from you."
- Don't take too much risk ... or too little. "Take what risk you're comfortable with. The ones who distinguish themselves ? figured out what to pursue and took appropriate chances to fulfill some of their dreams."
- Be strategic about how you manage your personal life as well as your business. "Make personal decisions before you make professional ones."
- Embrace the power of positive thinking. "I carry myself around as if I am the luckiest man."
- Give something back. "I've learned once you give back to the community you get richer."
In addition to his stint at Vignette, which was sold in 2009 to a Canadian competitor, Aviles was president and CEO of Activant Solutions from 1999 to 2004, and president and CEO of Foster Grant Group from 1996 to 1998.
By Joyce Routson