Atlas Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month: Meet Juan Ortiz

Juan and his family gather to celebrate their heritage at an annual fall barbecue.

Juan and his family gather to celebrate their heritage at an annual fall barbecue.

Juan Ortiz, Jr. has been a part of the Atlas family for more than 20 years, starting in 1999 as Duty Manager. Over the last two decades, he’s supported both Atlas and Polar as certain operations were combined or shifted. In March of 2020, Juan assumed his current role as Senior Manager, Express Network Operations for Polar.

Being part of the Atlas and Polar family is second nature for Juan, who hails from a large family himself. He credits his parents’ emphasis on hard work, family, and integrity for how he approaches his work every day.

“My parents are from Puerto Rico, but they met here, in the Bronx, fell in love, and started a family. They worked really hard to make the best life possible for me and my three older siblings,” he said.

“My father, like many Hispanic immigrants, came to the United States to improve his life. His first job was as a dishwasher at the Rockefeller Center restaurant ‘Down and Under.’ He took great pride in working there as part of a community of Hispanic immigrants from Puerto Rico, Cuba, and countries across South America. For 30 years, he never complained once about his work, his coworkers, or the management team. I saw it from a young age and learned that working hard and being humble was the path to success.”

Juan also learned early on that family should always be a top priority. Coincidentally, it was the importance Juan’s parents placed on family that led Juan to aviation.

“When I was 12, my mom took me and my cousin to Puerto Rico for the first time to visit with extended family – it was my first time setting foot in an airplane,” Juan recalled. “It was a PanAm 747, and the flight attendant took me to see the upper deck. I was completely amazed by the aircraft and the feeling of being up in the air and inflight. From that moment on, I knew whatever I did in life had to involve planes.”

As a result of that trip, Juan set his sights on Aviation High School in Queens, New York. He applied when he was 14 years old and spent a grueling day taking proficiency exams, completing skills assessments related to math, engineering and mechanics, and participating in a one-on-one interview and oral examination, where he knew how he presented himself was as important as what he knew. He relied on the influence of his parents to be confident but humble, kind, and enthusiastic.

Juan was accepted to the highly competitive high school, one of only two in New York City that licensed students as FAA mechanics.

After high school graduation, Juan enlisted in the Marines on the airwing side, whereas part of Aviation Operations, he worked with both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.

Following the Marines, Juan joined Tower Air, where he held multiple roles including FAA flight dispatcher, system control, loadmaster, and passenger service representative. He was with Tower until he joined Atlas. In reflecting on his career, Juan shared, “I have been so fortunate to spend my entire career in aviation, a field I love, with the ability to take on new roles, learn new things and collaborate with great people. We all hail from different walks of life but what we share is a passion for flight and an interest in solving challenges and helping people.”

As Senior Manager of Polar’s Express Network Operations, Juan works closely with the EOC (Express Operations Center) in CVG (Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky Airport) and serves as the direct liaison with Brussels to oversee the network schedules. In addition, he manages the first 24-72 hour flight period to make sure scheduled service operates on time and that Polar’s DHL Express client has a direct line of sight into all flights at all times. Juan is also responsible for long-range planning and is currently working on Spring and Summer 2022 schedules.

“What I enjoy most about my role is that no two days are the same. I have to know the ins and outs of every flight, back-up plans, contingency routes, what’s being shipped, what the requirements are, and what aspects outside of our control might impact on-time performance,” Juan explained.  “As a result, each day presents a new opportunity to think differently. That’s what makes it so exciting.”

Juan said his Hispanic heritage serves as an important foundation for his career success.

Juan’s shirt features a tribute to his ma and pa

Juan’s shirt features a tribute to his ma and pa.

“I treat my colleagues like family, just like my dad did. We spend a lot of time together; we rely on each other’s strengths, and we support each other,” he said. “Additionally, speaking Spanish has helped tremendously in my international role. Communicating with people in their primary language can help them feel more comfortable, especially if there’s a challenge to overcome.”

Juan and his family make time to gather together to celebrate their heritage every fall. With his wife and five children, his three siblings, and their spouses and children, they honor his now-deceased parents who worked so hard to give them the best opportunities.

They prepare family favorites including pernil, arroz con gandules (rice with chickpeas), pasteles, octopus salad as well as a few traditional American barbecue selections such as hot dogs and hamburgers. The entire family dons t-shirts featuring the Puerto Rican flag and a special tribute for Juan’s ma and pa.