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Jefferson Maldonado

Jefferson Maldonado, 34

Director of Robotics & Automation

ArcBest Corp.

Fort Smith

Professional achievements
• Developed the Vaux Freight Movement System, named a best invention by Time in 2023.
• Holder of numerous U.S. patents for Vaux system.
• Won 2016 Vex Robotics World Championship.

Community involvement
Judge and referee in robotics competitions; adviser for Vaughn College of Aeronautics & Technology in Queens, New York.

Professional inspiration
“My professional inspiration is pushing the boundaries of technology to solve real-world problems and make a positive impact on society.”

Where you see yourself in 10 years
“In 10 years, I see myself pushing the boundaries of robotics and automation on a global scale, spearheading breakthroughs, and reshaping logistics with innovative supply chain solutions.”

Making Arkansas more attractive to young professionals
“Investing in innovation and technology is essential. By creating more opportunities in these fields, we can attract and retain talent, driving economic growth and positioning us as a hub for innovation.”

One word to describe you?
“Innovative.”

Most fulfilling career moment
“My most fulfilling career moment was witnessing the launch of Vaux Smart Autonomy to the public. Seeing the culmination of our team’s hard work and innovation positively impacting supply chain operations was incredibly rewarding.”

Professional “aha” moment
“My professional ‘aha’ moment occurred when I realized that I don’t have to be the smartest person in the room to drive positive change. It dawned on me that leadership is not solely about having all the answers, but rather about empowering and collaborating with others to achieve shared goals. This insight liberated me from the pressure of feeling like I needed to have all the solutions, allowing me to focus on leveraging collective intelligence and fostering collaboration to drive meaningful progress in my endeavors.”

First job and lesson learned
“My first job was as a student aide for the technology department in high school. It taught me valuable lessons, notably the importance of time management for success. Additionally, I gained insight into the less glamorous aspects of adulthood, like taxes.”

Most valuable lesson
“The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is to embrace failure as an opportunity for learning and growth. Rather than seeing setbacks as obstacles, I view them as valuable experiences that offer insights and lessons for improvement. By reframing failure in this way, I’ve been able to cultivate resilience and develop a growth mindset, allowing me to approach challenges with confidence and adaptability, ultimately leading to greater personal and professional development.”

Top challenge facing Arkansas
“Some Arkansas businesses are facing challenges in finding enough qualified workers to fill jobs, specifically in areas like manufacturing that require significant labor pools. Overcoming these types of labor shortages requires employers to be innovative, competitive and creative in attracting and retaining talent. It also requires thinking outside the box — including utilizing technology to augment the work humans do.”

Advice for future 40 Under 40 honorees
“Stay passionate, stay humble and never stop learning and giving back to your community.”

Career dream as a child
“As a child, my dream was to become a fighter jet pilot and astronaut.”

Learning from a mentor
“Craig Wahlmeier has instilled in me the importance of caring for my employees on both personal and professional levels. He emphasizes leading with kindness while also encouraging me not to shy away from voicing my opinions and concerns. Through his guidance, I’ve learned that effective leadership entails empathy and communication, fostering a supportive environment where individuals feel valued and empowered to contribute their perspectives to achieve collective success.”

Best thing about Arkansas
“The best thing about Arkansas, in my opinion, is its breathtaking natural beauty.”

Advice for your 18-year-old self
“If I could advise my 18-year-old self, I would say: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; they are opportunities for growth. Embrace challenges as stepping stones to success, and maintain a curious mindset, constantly seeking to learn and explore new horizons. Remember that every experience, whether positive or negative, shapes who you are and prepares you for the journey ahead. So embrace the uncertainties of life with courage and curiosity, for they will ultimately lead you to greater wisdom and fulfillment.”

How you define success
“To me, success means making a positive impact on others and leaving the world a better place than I found it. It’s about using my skills, passion and resources to contribute to the well-being of those around me and to enact positive change in the world.”

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40 Under 40

June 10, 2025

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