2020 Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Mike Narvaez, Rice University (Jones)

Mike Narvaez

Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business, Rice University

“Husband, father, manager, student, and volunteer trying to make more right decisions than wrong.”

Age: 46

Hometown: Spring, TX

Fun fact about yourself: I have personally helped dozens of young men earn the rank of Eagle Scout, including my son.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Texas A&M University, B.S. Industrial Engineering

Where are you currently working? BP, Americas Lead – Project Apollo

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m most proud of the time I obtained my Certified Safety Professional (CSP) certification. I had to meet three triggers: work in the health, safety, and environmental field for five-years; study endless regulations and concepts; and pass two certification exams. It was my largest personal undertaking since getting my undergraduate degree. I had to study for years to obtain this certification and passed both exams in my first try. At the time, the pass rate for either exam was approximately 30%. Getting this certification opened doors for me professionally. I would not be where I am today in my profession had I not obtained my CSP.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I grew up in Houston so attending Rice is a thirty-year-old dream of mine. I never applied as an undergrad because I thought I had no chance of being admitted. I would’ve loved to have been a professional or executive MBA student, but couldn’t bear the thought of taking time away from raising my kids. The online program allowed me to attend my dream school and not sacrifice my goal of being a present father.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? Without a doubt, I would say the flexibility of an online format is the best thing. I have called in from or done schoolwork in over thirty cities both domestically and abroad. While working and attending school I have been able to schedule around church events, kids’ activities, and important life events. I can’t imagine being able to do this program and be on a strict schedule of having to be on campus every other weekend.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? When I started college, the internet and email had not been invented. I was tremendously worried that I would not thrive in an online environment. I feared that I only knew how to be a traditional student, and I would struggle to adjust. I was wrong. The ease and flexibility of the online tools allowed me to not only be successful but flourish.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? When I was seven- or eight-years-old, my father brought home an Atari. It was the first video gaming system we owned, and nothing would be the same after it. It was the first time I was truly mesmerized and hooked by technological innovation. My undergraduate time was pre-Atari and my online MBA experience feels like getting an Atari all over again. I am appreciative that I can learn what I want when I want. I’ve completed schoolwork in numerous settings on numerous devices, and I can’t help but think how far education delivery has come since I was an undergrad.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? Ask a million questions and share your fears and concerns with others. I’ve had the unique experience of getting to talk to several prospective students, those who were unsure if the online format was right for them. It always amazes me how similar their fears are about the online MBA platform. Once you get past this fear, then it’s important to be vulnerable with your fellow students. We all have tough weeks at work and need help in the program. When you don’t have tough weeks, pick up the slack for other students. Many hands make light work so trust and rely on your classmates. I promise this will be a skill that also appears in business.

What would you change about an online MBA Program? I would change any classes that are overly prescriptive or gated to the point that it’s difficult to complete weekly assignments. Luckily, I have not encountered this much in MBA@Rice, but it has surfaced a few times. When I have spoken to professors about these classes, they express concerns about people jumping ahead or completing the semester too quickly. I have no idea what people have that kind of time. Between school, work, families, and volunteer activities. simplicity and less red tape reign supreme.

How has your online education helped you in your current job? Simply stated, it sent a message to my supervisors that I was able and willing to do more. After completing just one semester I was asked to take on a project role in a global RFP where I would have responsibility for our entire Americas portfolio. I was told that I was considered for this role in large part because of my acceptance into MBA@Rice. While I have been in this role for the past year, I have been able to directly draw upon my education to handle numerous issues from my coursework (e.g., finance, organizational change, etc.). Many people have commented to me that there is a noticeable change in my business acumen.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I would love to manage a large team again. I could care less about titles or grade levels, and I have no desire to be a CEO. I’m good at managing people, so I would love to manage a team that had national or international responsibilities. I know I would wow people with what I could do with a sizeable team. Regardless of the assignment, I just want to be the kind of employee that my employer turns to in a time of need, or when a challenging problem needs to be resolved.

Don’t Miss: The Entire Honor Roll of the Best & Brightest Online MBA Grads of 2020

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