Julian Lopez is currently the Assistant Vice President of Brand Strategy and Insights at USAA. He is also a 5-year member of the Marketing Leadership Institute’s External Advisory Board (EAB). Julian has thoughtfully shared his time to give us an idea of what his day-to-day career is like and what leadership means to him. As well as share some insight about his time on the board.
Julian joined USAA in 2017, leading in the Member & Market Insights area before moving to his current role in 2021. His roots trace back to his first roles in direct sales, specifically cold calling outbound sales. He says, “it taught me the importance of an effective sales engine and was also the hardest job I ever had.” However, this foundation has been essential for where he is today. “Understanding how to sell to one consumer, in my opinion, is a requirement for being effective at scale.”
Navigating Challenges & Defining Success
It wasn’t always easy getting from direct sales to Assistant Vice President at a Fortune 500 company. Julian shared “early in my career I had imposter syndrome that was my own design. Learning how to get past that was critical for my ability to grow into more senior roles.”
A lot of us suffer from imposter syndrome which is related to when we don’t allow ourselves to internally acknowledge, and find ourselves deserving of, success. To Julian success is “enjoying the work that you do, the teammates that you work with, and working for a leader that respects your talents. Checking the box on those three will typically lead to development opportunities.”
In a nutshell, Julian’s work involves collecting insights from internal and external data sources to make strategy recommendations. The majority of his day is spent working with others to elevate their work and messaging results to the c-suite. His favorite aspects of the job include leading a large team, helping others develop their careers, and the ability to influence at scale.
Major highlights of his career include a relaunch of a national brand campaign that gave a 100-year-old brand it’s first refresh, and leading a team of 75 people, knowing that he plays a huge role in whether they have a good or bad day. “It’s an incredible responsibility that I take very seriously” Julian says.
If you’re interested in a similar career his advice is to “learn the industry. Having an understanding of how your insights will be applied and the constraints that exist in the macro environment will separate you from your peers.”
Julian received his undergraduate degree from Texas A&M and his MBA from St. Mary’s University. Prior to his involvement on the External Advisory Board, Julian had no connection to UW. So what brought him to the Wisconsin School of Business?
Simply put, the predecessor to his role at USAA was a member of the board and offered him the opportunity to step into his spot. “The opportunity to access an academic view on topical issues, and maintaining a network of peers where there are no sales or development pressures” is what now attracts him to staying involved.
He sees his board membership as a two-way street. Sharing his work experiences with the students is a fulfilling for Julian. And stepping outside of industry and hearing the academic view of topics has helped him reframe the way he approaches work.
The mentorship opportunities that being a board member provides is a highlight for Julian. He loves the opportunity to help students develop their career plans and goals and says “My biggest priority is lending a hand to those who are just starting their career, it’s a qualitative goal, but I hope that five years down the road the students have interacted with will look back and say that they benefited from the guidance given to them for me and other board members.”
What does Julian want to impart to others as his final comments? “Work hard and treat others well. It’s the golden rule in life and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t apply in a professional setting.” In wrapping up, Julian Lopez’s journey from direct sales to Assistant Vice President at USAA reflects resilience and impactful leadership. As a dedicated member of the Marketing Leadership Institute’s EAB, he shares insights with students and gains a fresh perspective. Julian’s mentorship underscores his commitment to guiding early-career professionals, leaving them with the timeless advice: “Work hard and treat others well.”