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TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico’s Ivan Burgos sharing best practices as SJU Terminal Manager

By Hilary Reeves

Ivan poses in front of a tower of TOTE shipping containers.

Ivan Burgos was born and raised on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, and dreamed of becoming a pilot or an astronaut. After graduating from high school and a stint in the U.S. Navy, he found a much higher calling.

“I worked for two years teaching English and math, and I really enjoyed it,” he said. “There’s no doubt that if I wasn’t working (for TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico), I’d still be a teacher.”

‘Burgos left teaching to take a job in logistics 20 years ago as a messenger at Sea Barge. Three months later, he was promoted to Dispatch Clerk. Since those early days, he’s been a Traffic and Documentation Supervisor, Traffic and Regulatory Supervisor, companywide Regulatory Director, and most recently, SJU Terminal Manager at TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico. He spent four years as part of the organization’s Core Business Team, where he was afforded the opportunity to experience company operations as a whole, not just the San Juan business, an experience he said has helped him better understand the larger picture.

“What I like most about my job is that there’s never a dull moment,” he said. “You learn something new every day, and you have the chance to impact people’s lives. The biggest challenge has been myself. Being ex-military, I’ve always pushed myself to do better. But I realized that it wasn’t enough to grow within the organization. It wasn’t until I delegated and learned to develop others that I was ready for more opportunities. All I’ve accomplished is because of the grace of God. I also give thanks for the blessing of being part of this great family, Saltchuk.”

Ivan poses in front of container crane rollers.Burgos said that while he regrets not finishing the engineering degree he began after leaving the military, instead earning a Bachelor of Business Administration later in his career, there’s one thing he regrets more.

“I ended up marrying my high school sweetheart after we had taken different roads. It’s a long story – it could be turned into a movie. I should have married her back then, but I don’t think I was prepared,” he laughed.

Burgos’s wife and four daughters – Raisa, Ivanna, Paola, and Nastassia – are the light of his life.

“They’re what keeps me going everyday,” he said. “My kids are my most valued treasure, and TOTE believes in building a company where you’d want your kids to work. That says a lot.”

He also holds his Certificate as Port Executive (CPE), acquired last year at the Port of New Orleans, and Facility Security Officer certification as sources of pride.

“I’m excited to have been able to visit other terminals with the Caribbean Shipping Association, such as Causedo in the Dominican Republic and Cartagena, Colombia, to share best practices.”

According to Burgos, the most successful among us know how to manage and embrace all of life’s unexpected changes. His secret: just enough structure to transition without chaos, something his third-degree Black Belt in the traditional Japanese art of Shotokan Karate has trained him well for.

“In order to truly embrace change, you must prepare for an easy transition,” he concluded. “I’ve gone through a lot of changes with this company, but I’ve been able to manage successfully because I plan ahead in an organized way. It’s like John F. Kennedy said, ‘Change is a law of life, and those who look back only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.’”