Breaking Barriers: Whitman Alumni Are Redefining Workplace Roles, Leading Through Innovation and Technology and Carving Out Diverse Paths to Success

Jose Quiles


  • Alumni

The connection I have to Syracuse and the Whitman School goes above an MBA or being successful in my career.

Whether it’s educating its students and faculty on issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion; fostering new ventures through research, innovation and entrepreneurship; or tapping into the experience, generosity and leadership of its vast alumni network, the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University is working to break barriers every day with a campus culture that continues to evolve, advance and promote its students with the support and skills they need to not only succeed in the business world but become leaders that are truly making a difference.

Pursuing Goals in Graduate Education

Growing up in Puerto Rico, Jose R. Quiles ’19 MBA always walked the hallway of his home where his father and mother’s diplomas were hung. He distinctly remembers a framed master’s degree diploma of his father’s that loomed particularly large, and that image represented a goal he wanted to achieve for himself one day.

Fast forward to 2009. Quiles moved to Tampa, Florida, trading the comforts of his home, his language, food and culture for the promise of a better life on the mainland. He traded his car for a bike he bought at the Salvation Army and left behind his family and childhood friends for the chance at greater career opportunities and a better life.

“Until then, I never knew how easy I had it. Now, I had to start over, but I was determined to make it. I needed to venture into something completely new,” he explains. “As a Latino in the United States, I had other layers and challenges to overcome, too, but I was determined to succeed. Failure was not an option for me.”

In 2011, he joined Citi in Tampa, as a retention specialist for Citi International Personal Bank. As he moved through the ranks at Citi over the next seven years, the image of his father’s diploma was never far from his mind, and eventually he began to explore MBA programs. He chose the Syracuse University online MBA program through the Whitman School for the flexibility he needed while working and raising a family, as well as to achieve the skills he required to further his career.

Shortly after enrolling in the program, Quiles joined JPMorgan Chase as a senior associate, regional implementation manager, where he oversaw corporate client implementations in Latin America, serving as one of the lead implementation managers for local, regional and global projects. The combination of experiencing another side of the business in his new role, along with the information he was learning at Whitman, was invaluable, according to Quiles.

“Looking back, the MBA helped me with the skills I needed to succeed in the corporate world and prepared me for more senior-level challenges,” he says, noting that he returned to work at Citi in March 2020 in his current position as senior vice president, U.S. service department head and senior global service manager, where he works with corporate treasury departments to achieve excellent client experience. “The online format of the program was also very helpful. We live and operate in a virtual world, now more than ever; at Citi, I work, manage and collaborate with people from all over the world. The program really gave me a lot of the tools I needed to be successful in the current business environment.”

Quiles is committed to helping others obtain graduate education, too. He has served on the board of Prospanica (formerly known as the National Society of Hispanic MBAs), an association of Hispanic MBAs and business professionals, which gives support and scholarships to “empower and enable Hispanic professionals to achieve their full educational and social potential.” He was a member before joining his local board, and the opportunity to network with other Latinos who spoke the same language and had shared experiences made him feel that achieving his MBA was doable. He is also a founding member of Citi Parents Network Tampa Bay and involved with the Citi Hispanic Network. Both organizations are employee-led groups focused on building diverse cultures and communities.

Like his father, Quiles is also passing along the desire for education to his own children. One of his fondest memories of working on his MBA was when his young daughter, now age 9, would come downstairs to “rescue” him as he studied late into the night. “She’s already made it clear that she will be attending Syracuse University one day,” he says. “Sometimes, I see her looking at my diplomas and certificates up on the wall, just like I used to see my father’s, and she’ll say, ‘I’m going to have the same diplomas as Daddy one day!’”

Quiles’s mother, who was a teacher in Puerto Rico, had always been skeptical of an “online” program. “My mom finished her studies shortly after I was born. She valued education and knew firsthand how hard it can be to finish a degree, especially with a family of your own. It’s funny because she wasn’t sure this program was real. She had a hard time understanding the online format,” he says.

In 2019, his mother traveled from Puerto Rico to Syracuse to attend Quiles’ graduation. She loved everything about Syracuse University and was blown away by the architecture of the campus and all the new friends Quiles had made during his two years at Whitman. He proudly shows off a photo of him in his cap and gown, hugging his mom at graduation. Sadly, it was the last time he and his mom were physically in the same place, as she died recently. “Syracuse was the last place where we shared a meal with my mom. It was the last place where I saw her smile,” he says.

“The connection I have to Syracuse and the Whitman School goes above an MBA or being successful in my career. The skills I gained, together with the memories and the friendships I was able to make during those two short years, will forever be the hallmark of my time at Syracuse,” he says. “And, I’ll never forget my mom, my daughter and my wife screaming and cheering for me at graduation when I received my master’s degree, which, like my dad’s, is now hanging on the wall, and which makes it mean even that much more.”


By Caroline Reff

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  • Alumni