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Meet our alumni: we talk balancing civil construction and solar energy projects with Vitor Villela

24 July 2019

With an academic background in civil engineering, School alumnus Vitor Villela wanted to complete a unique course to complement the next step of his career. We talk to him about what he’s been up to since graduating from the MSc Construction Economics and Management in 2015.

Vitor Villela

Vitor Villela graduated in 2015 from the MSc Construction Economics and Management course. He now works in his family’s business as an administrative financial director alongside owning and operating his own company Vellas.

We catch up with Vitor to talk about his time at the School, what he has been up to since graduating and what advice he has for prospective students wanting to complete the same course. 

What inspired you to do the course?

It has always been one of my goals to attend a postgraduate course abroad after graduating in civil engineering in my home country of Brazil. It was by far the most interesting option to continue studying and evolving in my career. It was important to me to have graduated in Brazil so that I could familiarise myself with the local rules and certifications required for my chosen profession. However, I always knew that having a master's degree from a world-renowned university would help me stand out professionally, not only for the recognition that I would have, but also for the knowledge acquired. Therefore, I joined the Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management's MSc Construction Economics and Management programme in 2014.

Why did you choose to study our School? Would you recommend it as a place to study?

After studying my Master's options at top universities for a few weeks, I realised it had to be the UCL and, more specifically, the Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management. When I saw the magnitude of the university and the School, I had no doubts left and the conclusion came especially after reading the outline of the MSc Construction Economics and Management course. When I completed the course, I realised that my very first decision was the right one. Therefore I would definitely recommend the School to any student from anywhere in the world.

What have you been doing since you graduated? 

I returned to Brazil and began working as an administrative-financial manager in my family’s construction firm, Construtora Villela e Carvalho, which was founded by my grandfather in 1968. Nowadays, in Brasilia (the capital city of Brazil) it is one of the great examples of professionalism and quality in the local industry of real estate development and civil construction. After a year and a half of working in the office, I started moving into the energy sector. This came about because we were developing the project of a Small Hydropower Plant (15.5 Mega Watts of installed power). Meanwhile, different companies started approaching us offering solar energy power plant projects. So, we also started getting closer to the solar sector as well. 

Considering all that and based on my thesis, Opportunities and Challenges of Investing in the Renewable Energy Sector in Brazil: the study Cade of Photovoltaic Energy, which concluded my MSc, I realised that I should dedicate my attention, not only to civil construction but also to the opportunity of developing photovoltaic energy projects in a country with huge natural potential like Brazil.

In 2017 I founded the company Vellas. Since then I have reconciled my agenda as an administrative-financial director in my family’s construction enterprise, and as the CEO of my solar parallel project. In the real estate market, we are currently developing four big residential projects with the expectation of launching another four this year. At the solar perspective, in addition to small projects, we have now completed our first large one megawatt power plant and have begun developing the next one megawatt plant.

What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you when you were a student thinking about your future?

Do not waste time studying something you are not interested in or it won't be useful in the future, especially from the point of view of your professional career. Time is usually our most valuable asset. Besides that, and more importantly, always make the decision of choosing what you are going to study or do based mostly on your own thoughts, never do it based exclusively on other people’s opinions.

What is your best memory at the School?

As surprisingly as it seems one of my most significant memories does not concern the studies or the School. It is more about the greatness of UCL itself. I will never forget how impressed I was when I first encountered the unique staircase of the university’s main facade. It was during the annual event that precedes the beginning of classes. It was basically an interaction fair for new students. I remember that the architecture of that entrance really marked me. It was a really beautiful scene in autumn. I still have that photo.

What was the most helpful thing you learnt during your studies that has helped shape your career?

I believe that the study of corporate management, more specifically the subject of emotional intelligence, was the most interesting segment of the course for me. Naturally, as an engineer, I appreciated the rational matters, i.e. all the economy lessons, besides all the math and numbers issues. However, the emotional intelligence approach in order to help us develop, control and apply emotions and behaviours with the purpose of optimising our professional productivity has an immense application on my daily duties.

What did you enjoy most about being a student in London?

In my opinion, living in London has been the most interesting experience for me. The city is just incredible and the quality of life is enormous. From flawless public transportation to the happy hours in the pubs, I will always be grateful for the opportunity to meet countless people, places, restaurants, museums, parks, and so on. I wouldn't know where to start if I had to name the best ones!

Why should other alumni get involved or attend our events?

Among the different reasons that support this relationship between alumni, two deserve to be highlighted: networking and academic updating. Networking because the university concentrates students, teachers, former students, and professionals, who tend to be examples from the point of view of intelligence, dedication, knowledge, and professionalism. With alumni engagement you will keep in touch with people who are among the best on the market today, or will probably be in the future. And academic updating because staying involved with the university, not only with newsletters but also attending to the events, is perhaps the most efficient way of being around all the new facts that happen within a world-class university.