After high school, Jason Arigoni ’05 was not considering college. He already had established himself firmly in a retail career, working since he was a teenager at the Southeastern grocery chain Winn-Dixie and then joining Target after graduation.
It wasn’t until 2001, when Arigoni played a round of golf at Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club and had a casual conversation with another golfer, that he seriously thought about a degree. That golfer turned out to be a Saint Leo admissions counselor. Arigoni started classes in January 2002 and graduated in May 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Working full time while commuting and taking a full course load at University Campus left Arigoni with little time for campus social life. “My time was spent in class or at work,” Arigoni said. “I was working 40 to 55 hours each week, but I did occasionally come out to support sporting events.”
Yet, Arigoni’s Saint Leo experience made an impression.
It is, perhaps, no coincidence that Arigoni is now regional vice president of the New England region at The Home Depot, a company that espouses core values similar to Saint Leo University’s.
“In all honesty, I think all of Saint Leo’s values align with Home Depot’s,” Arigoni said. “The Home Depot is a values-driven organization. We encourage entrepreneurial spirit, doing the right thing, building strong relationships, giving back, respect for all people, creating shareholder value, excellent customer service, and taking care of our people.”
Taking care of people, especially his customers and his employees, may well be what Arigoni does best.
He made time to speak with Saint Leo while waiting to board a plane on a Friday afternoon. Arigoni’s emphasis on communication skills was evident as he tuned out the airport noise and answered every question thoughtfully—even as he was headed home to (the Boston suburb) where he, his wife, Lina, and their 4-year-old daughter, Gulianna, now live.
“I was really attracted to the values and the culture of The Home Depot, that feeling of ‘We’re going to do this! We believe it! We live by it!’” Arigoni said.
“I didn’t realize how rare it was to be recruited by The Home Depot,” Arigoni said. “I really enjoyed working for Target, so when The Home Depot tried to recruit me, I went back and forth with them for a year and a half.” Once Arigoni made the decision to join the world’s largest home improvement retailer, he never looked back.
Arigoni is a proponent of the “inverted pyramid” model of organization and leadership used at The Home Depot. In that business model, front-line associates (employees) are the most important people in the company’s hierarchy because they are closest to the customers.
He said he believes in investing in his associates and attributes his success to that investment.
“The moments that stick with me the most are the ones where you inspire associates who didn’t think they were capable of growing their career, for whatever reason, and you show up and help them break past that notion,” Arigoni said.
“Many of these folks go on to obtain roles that are actually life-changing,” Arigoni said. “The most motivating part is realizing in real time that you are part of one of these career/life-changing moments.”
As focused as he is on his job, Arigoni makes time for other important facets of life. He and his wife and daughter are working their way through a list of the 100 best things to do in the Northeast. They especially enjoy exploring the Atlantic coastline and hiking.
Through his position at Home Depot, Arigoni is the “community captain” supporting the service work of the 800 stores in the northern United States. Outside his job, he serves on the executive advisory board for the Ron Burton Training Village, which offers a seven-year program for at-risk youth to guide, support, and mentor them in education, social skills, moral values, leadership, and fitness.
He also makes time for entrepreneurial side gigs, running among other businesses, a property management company.
Arigoni offers this advice to his team and to anyone who aspires to grow their careers: “Understand your personal balance and how that aligns with your personal vision and values. Make time for what motivates you outside of work.
“Remember that you’re in marathon, not a sprint,” Arigoni continued. “Whether you are making a lateral move to get ahead in your career or working toward a college degree that takes a long time to finish, it’s all OK, as long as you meet your end goal and help others along the way.”
Photos courtesy of The Home Depot