Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Leo Flores, Rice University (Jones)

Leo Flores

Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business

“Purpose-driven, people-oriented, bridge builder passionate about helping others bring out the best in themselves.”

Hometown: Tulare, California

Fun Fact About Yourself: I was named after the Ninja Turtle, Leonardo, though I consider myself more of a Michelangelo.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of California, Berkeley, B.A. History

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Informed K12 – Head of Talent

What club or activity excites you most at this school? I’m most excited to be part of the Consortium Class of 2022 at Rice. We’re the third class of Consortium students and we’re already double the size of last year’s class! I’ve had an opportunity to meet all of my Consortium classmates through the interview process and through regular Zoom calls. It’s exciting to be surrounded by such talented and driven individuals who care about creating a more diverse business ecosystem and I’m so eager to see everything our class accomplishes and creates for future Rice Consortium classes!

What makes you most excited about getting your MBA at Rice? What makes you most nervous about starting business school? I’m most excited about getting to learn from my classmates. Throughout the recruiting process, I played close attention to who else was considering programs I was considering. Beyond the academic material which will be standard throughout most programs, you’ll be learning just as much (if not more) from your classmates. Each interaction I had with current students or prospective students who are now matriculating underscored how extraordinary the community at Rice is. I’m looking forward to learning from such a well-constructed class.

I’m most nervous about beginning my program during this current COVID pandemic. In a way, it’s forcing every business school to reimagine how it’s delivering its full-time program. It’s completely uncharted territory for everyone, so it is a little nerve-wracking waiting to see how it’ll play out. However, if Rice’s administration’s response and communication is any indication, I don’t expect my experience to be impacted negatively.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I consider my biggest career accomplishment so far to be building out three different roles at my current company, Informed K12. I joined the team as its first Customer Support Specialist and over the past three years I’ve gone from creating very technical and product-focused processes to helping found the People Operations team and serving as Head of Talent. I’m proud that my work focused not only on creating a more diverse and inclusive company, but also on pushing these efforts forward into the broader tech bubble. I’m proud of my proactivity in advocating for these processes and policies, and I hope to continue doing this throughout my career.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I loved working at an early-stage startup and getting to build and experiment so much. During this time, I developed my love of People Operations, and I knew this is where I wanted to take my career. When I began looking at different organizations, I became curious about how their people and organizational strategy impacts business outcomes. I realized I wanted to find myself at that intersection of people and business. Yet, I lacked some of the more technical business acumen. Business school was the clearest and best option to help me gain the business acumen I lack.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I applied and was accepted to UC Berkeley – Haas, University of Michigan – Ross, Georgetown –McDonough, and the University of Rochester – Simon.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I found the “Why an MBA now?” question the most challenging. On the surface, it’s such a simple question, but it requires such thoughtfulness and intention in answering. Beyond being a standard business school interview question, it requires a high degree of introspection and self-awareness. It’s the question I pondered over the most because it made me consider why this was the right step for me now and then forced me to convey my thought process to the interviewer.

What have you been doing to prepare yourself for business school? Quite honestly, I’ve been resting and enjoying the most time off I’ve had in years! I know business school is going to be a rewarding but intense experience, so I’ve taken the time to re-center myself as I enter this new stage in life. I spent this summer relocating from the Bay Area to Houston, so I’ve taken some time to settle into the swimming pool lifestyle!

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? About three years ago, I came out to the co-founder of the company I was working at. It was a pretty special moment to me because it was the first time I felt I could be comfortable being me at work. It was uncharted territory, but it helped me come into my own. I went from being perceived as shy or quiet to becoming an advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. I feel like my own experience trying to conform to fit in gives me a unique sense of empathy for others in similar situations and has made me fight to create environments where everyone feels heard, seen, and accepted. I’ve grown more as a person and as a leader in these past three years than I ever imagined possible. As I look to begin business school, I look back at this moment and understand how much richer my business school experience will be since I’m no longer afraid of being different. Rather, I appreciate my own differences and embrace those of others.

What is the most important attribute that you are seeking in an MBA employer? Why? The most important attribute I’m seeking in an MBA employer is their demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion, both inside and outside of their company. Long term, I see myself serving as a people operations or HR leader, so it’s very important to me to join a company that has the organizational infrastructure in place to elevate and support all employees, including those who may not fit the standard mold. Additionally, I’d like my future employer to not only promote this culture internally, but also pay it forward to the broader business community by partnering with other organizations to provide financial support to diversity organizations and outlets for employees to volunteer their time.

Pretend you have just graduated from business school. What will you need to have done to make your experience successful? I believe my business school experience will be successful if I approach different challenges with a learning and growth mindset. I recently reflected on my time in undergrad and realized, while I did well, I often strayed away from anything that wasn’t super comfortable out of fear of failure. For example, I may not have taken a class that looked interesting if I wasn’t confident I’d get an A. I may not have pursued a job or internship if I didn’t feel like I met every single qualification. In my career, I’ve learned to focus on the learning, which has allowed me to freely experiment. I’m excited to go back to school with this refreshed mentality. I believe if I approach business school challenges through this lens, I’ll have a successful experience.