In May 2023, Alejandro Martinez joined Fourth Economy + Steer as a Senior Consultant. He earned a Masters of Urban Planning from New York University in 2020, and most recently, he worked as a Senior Analyst James Lima Planning + Development in New York, where he resides. Prior to moving to New York, Alejandro spent six years working in various roles in the City Planning Department of San Pedro Garza García, Mexico.
We asked Alejandro a few questions about his current and past roles, the tool he uses most frequently in his work, and what he’s excited to accomplish at Fourth Economy. Hailing from Monterrey, Mexico, we also asked Alejandro to share the perfect itinerary for a day in that city.
You are a Senior Consultant for Fourth Economy. What does that entail? What does your work look like on any given day?
As a Senior Consultant at Fourth Economy, my role encompasses all phases of the project cycle, including business development, client communication, project management, project development, and various tasks within these phases like ideation, planning, monitoring, and execution, among others.
As a team member based in New York, my mornings begin with a protein shake at home. Thanks to our hybrid environment, I have the option to go to the office. If I choose to do so, I take a bike ride to downtown Brooklyn during spring, summer, and fall (opting for the subway in winter). Once at the office, I settle into a desk and start my day with a coffee.
A typical day involves working on two to three different projects. It often starts with a client meeting to discuss progress, gather feedback, and plan future tasks. Following each meeting, I address immediate follow-ups, such as organizing further discussions and sending out information. Then, I dedicate a couple of hours to advancing the current project or shifting focus to another one.
Before lunch, there might be a second meeting, this time internal, with objectives like brainstorming a task, reviewing progress, distributing the workload among team members, and setting deadlines. I take a brief five-minute break to reset before moving on to the next task. Lunch is typically around 1 pm, a 20-30 minute screen-free break for reflection, listening to music, reading, or, if I'm in the office, enjoying time on the rooftop.
The afternoon is usually quieter, with fewer meetings and emails, providing an ideal environment for concentrated work. I focus on a single project, which might involve data analysis or desktop research. Before leaving, I review my calendar to plan the next day and send out any final emails or follow-up notes.
In 2014, you became the youngest City Planning Director in San Pedro Garza Garcia, a municipality in the metropolitan area of Monterrey, Mexico. What learnings from that experience do you find yourself still using or reflecting on?
San Pedro Garza Garcia is a city of 125,000 inhabitants. It's part of the Monterrey metropolitan area, the second-largest in Mexico, with a population of 5.5 million. Born and raised in this complex city, which developed in the vast valley of the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range, I've always been intrigued by its industrial nature. For example, the city's large number of engineers and its geographical advantages attracted the new Tesla Giga Factory. I joined the Department of City Planning in 2008 and progressively ascended through various positions until 2012.
In 2013, I was working in Mexico City as a consultant for the Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiatives at the Inter-American Development Bank. On a random day, the mayor of San Pedro invited me to lunch in Mexico City, during which he proposed my candidacy on a shortlist for the role of City Planning Director. After a three-month process involving interviews with city council members and presenting my plan to them, I was elected as the City Planning Director.
From this rich experience, I gleaned several key learnings that continue to guide me:
Listening, listening, listening. Listening to the community, team members, and stakeholders is more important than speaking.
City planning, as its name suggests, requires time for actual planning, as day-to-day operations can otherwise dominate.
At a young age, I had a significant responsibility. Building partnerships with academic institutions, the private sector, and community leaders was essential to amplifying my influence.
As the director, I realized that my role was to manage and contribute to the long-term vision already established by the community. Innovation in planning and projects should be incremental and aligned with this vision.
This role gave me the opportunity to actually implement projects directly and see their effects on my city. While I deeply appreciate this experience, my intellectual curiosity and passion for exploring multiple cities and their communities were major factors in my decision to eventually join a consulting firm.
Your work requires a lot of data and policy analysis. What are your favorite strategies or tools for organizing and synthesizing all of this information?
The work, indeed, requires extensive data and policy analysis. One of my favorite tools for organizing and synthesizing information is mapping, which I use in almost all my projects. It provides a visual and spatial understanding of the data being analyzed. Additionally, mapping allows me to overlay different topics on a map, enabling me to spot trends, patterns, and correlations that might not be evident from numbers alone.
For example, if I am studying job growth in a city, I would map the information to see whether the growth is concentrated in central business districts or if it's more scattered. I would also want to know the factors in play – for example, whether it's due to place-based incentives or strategic locations (near natural resources or transportation nodes, for example). Mapping also allows me to correlate additional factors, such as whether workers in these jobs live nearby or if there is a need for housing or transportation to job centers. It is thus a crucial tool for understanding how data and policies affect a particular community.
What do you hope to accomplish with Fourth Economy this year?
This year, I aim to get to know the team and their work style better to understand how I can contribute effectively and create synergies. This collaboration will enable us to give our best when solving problems for clients.
I also want to have a positive impact on communities across the country, learning from each experience and striving for continuous improvement.
Photo courtesy of Roberto Perez Maldonado @roberto_pema.
What is your vision for a perfect day in Monterrey? Where would you suggest people go, what would you recommend they eat, and what should they make sure not to miss?
Monterrey is known for its mountains, so a perfect day in Monterrey involves a lot of nature, gastronomy, and arts.
Wake up and go for a hike in Chipinque Ecological Park. The summit reaches 7,300 feet above sea level, and there is a spectacular view of the city. After a refreshing shower, I recommend having breakfast at Frida Chilaquiles, a colorful place to start your day. Once your stomach is full and your heart is happy, I suggest a walk along the Santa Lucia RIverwalk to Fundidora Park, an old industrial park repurposed as one of the largest parks in the city. Afterwards, a good option is to visit the modern Museum of Contemporary Art, best known as MARCO.
For lunch,you need to try our typical dish, “Cabrito,” which is goat roasted on a spit over open coals, often using mesquite wood. A very colorful and traditional place to try this is “El Rey del Cabrito.”
After an amazing meal, head to La Huasteca Park to walk and admire the canyon. Feel surrounded by mountains while watching people climb, hike, and enjoy nature. In the afternoon, attend a soccer match of one of the two local soccer teams. Choose Tigres for a more passionate environment (you might see Rob Schneider & Adam Sandler rooting for the team) or Monterrey F.C. for a quieter atmosphere in a beautiful stadium surrounded by mountains.