José Luis’s passions collided (in a good way) when EF Education First acquired the EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale professional cycling team. Originally from Colombia, where cycling is just as culturally important as fútbol, José Luis’s passion for road racing began in his youth.
When the opportunity arose to combine his nine years of EF know-how with the sport he loves, he jumped at the chance. Now Head of Sales and Marketing for EF’s International Language Campuses, José Luis is focused on sharing EF’s mission at and around cycling events and races across the world, primarily in Europe.
Recently, he answered a few questions about his own international journey – since working for EF he has lived in Barcelona, Mexico City, Peru, Chile, and Zurich – and why a cycling team upholds the mission of EF.
What were your prior roles at EF?
I was most recently the Country Manager for Chile, after being Country Manager for Peru, Sales Manager for Latin America based in Mexico, and Sales Manager in Spain. I’ve lived in different markets with the same division, which is EF’s International Language Campuses, which offers language courses abroad for students and adults. We have offices on six continents and in five hundred cities. It’s huge.
How did you get involved with the cycling team?
Last year, at our international team kick-off in Paris, a worldwide email was sent explaining that EF had just acquired a professional cycling team. My first reaction was to reply back saying, “Wow! This is so exciting. Congratulations! I’d love to be involved.” I couldn’t believe it.
Shortly after, I had a meeting in Boston, and was asked if I had thoughts on what could be done with the team, and that’s how it started!
Has cycling always been a passion?
I’ve followed pro cycling since I was 22 or 23, when I was serious about competing within different divisions at my university. I was super involved in the sport then and continued with competing for fun.
Also, I am Colombian. In Colombia, cycling runs in our blood. We had big stars back in the late 80s, early 90s, so I was introduced to the sport a long time ago. I’ve always been a big fan.
What were your initial feelings about the job?
When I was offered the job, I remember thinking, “I shouldn’t take it. I don’t think I have the know-how.” I was very concerned. But, every challenge shows a different set of skills. I was ready to try something new.
What does your work with the cycling team look like now?
Right away, I envisioned so many opportunities. It was easy to map cool ideas because we have offices all across Europe, and that’s where most of the races take place.
Giro d’Italia, for example, was the first Grand Tour with our whole new EF team together. The goal was to get the right branding out there so people know what EF is all about. For our Italian staff, they saw opportunity in having a local presence on the ground. That physical presence makes a difference. We also held events and made sure we got the right online exposure.
Staff engagement is also a big deal. When teams are working on the ground and they see the buses, bikes, coaches, riders, gear, and uniforms, it gets everyone excited.
Why is the cycling team right for EF?
The sport and EF are meant to be. Pro cycling has a very high density of people watching it over TV and the internet. Cycling features people from so many nationalities, speaking different languages, and they travel and race all around the world. The riders and staff have to adapt to different cultures to become a successful team. If you compare all that to our EF mission, it’s pretty much a match made in heaven.
What’s something you’ve learned and come to love since working for EF?
I’ve met tons of colleagues from all over the world. For EF’s International Language Campuses, every country has its own beauty and challenge. This has helped me learn to adapt so I can get the right results faster.
My father used to say something. I value it more and more the older I become. “Intelligence is about adapting to situations.” In no other job is that statement truer. This job has been one hell of a ride. Hopefully, it never ends, because it’s a dream job.