2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Anita Valdez, University of Texas (McCombs)

Anita Valdez

The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

“Highly-driven, life-long learner, aspiring to be the best example for my family, colleagues, and community.”

Age: 45

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Family Members: Raul Valdez (Husband), Sons- Jaime Rivera (26), Ethan Valdez (11), Zachary Valdez (8)

Fun fact about yourself: Google created a Google Advertising Professionals (GAP) program in 2005, and I was one of the first 100 in the world to be certified.

Google Ads (previously AdWords) was created in 2000, and I began to work with the platform in 2003. Receiving the designation in 2005 was exciting, but what a blessing it was when a faculty member of my alma mater asked me to mentor students in a global challenge created by Google across 4,500 schools because of my history in the industry. It is still a great blessing to be a part of this program ten years later.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Houston, Bachelor of Arts (Communication)

Where are you currently working? TopSpot Internet Marketing, Co-Founder & Vice President of Operations

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: For the last ten years, I’ve mentored Bauer School of Business students competing in the Google Online Challenge at the University of Houston. As a UH undergrad, there were many community business leaders who took active roles in helping students. I am grateful for the opportunities they provided and take pride in the responsibility of paying it forward.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m proud of the leadership framework I was asked to create my first semester of the program. There are many reasons for that, and it starts with how far I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to set up the interviews that the model was to be created from. We were expected to aim high and request interviews with whomever we respected no matter the person. I reached out to people I would have never thought it would be okay to contact. It was hard to ask for a favor (interview) from someone who was busy and had no idea who I was, but once I got started, there was really no stopping me.

The interviews were inspiring and honest, and provided an insight into many walks of life, overcoming adversity, and experiences that are critical to succeed as a leader. I’m proud to follow in the footsteps of so many that have paved a road of strength, humility, and strong values.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Looking back almost 17 years, the business we created with only five people and now being a team of 130, our growth, and the amazing people we get to call teammates was not anything I ever imagined. We helped – and continue to help – small-to-medium-sized industrial businesses establish a digital presence. Through that, I’ve had the opportunity to grow as an individual, and leader, while being a part of American manufacturing, an industry that touches every single person’s life.

Our team’s dedication and results allowed me to step away from the office and commit to my studies every other Thursday and Friday (with classes on Friday and Saturday) for two years. Some of our clients gladly participated in my EMBA experience, by allowing access to their businesses for class projects, and I believe they did it because of the relationships we’ve built on results and trust.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I was visiting a client of mine in California a few years ago, and our contact’s father, their founder, joined us for lunch. He was a wonderful man talking about sending his kids to college, and mentioned Admiral William McRaven’s book, Make Your Bed, and his 2014 UT Austin commencement speech. I watched the speech, ordered and read the book, and that was the nudge I needed to apply. I wanted to grow my business acumen, and my leadership. I knew to do that, I needed to be surrounded by a top-caliber community.

Also, I had always dreamed of going to the University of Texas; however, it wasn’t an option for me earlier in my collegiate career.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The entire experience was amazing, including the faculty, the cohort of students, and the guest speakers. Everything and everyone was a mentor. Two years is really a short amount of time when you’re in great company. If you did not take every interaction as the opportunity to gain new knowledge, you would miss something.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Having been in my career/company for the last 16 years, being in a new environment enlightened me to many ways we could improve in our organization. It helped me get outside the bubble of my office and see what our teammates may experience as they begin or change their careers in a new environment.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Having two young sons at home, my husband was a champ. I’d leave every other Thursday for work. From there, I’d drive from Houston to Austin for the program and would return on Saturday evening. He was definitely the glue that held everything together at home, and my parents were great at stepping in when the boys had football and soccer practice on the same nights, or special events.

The drive to Austin varied from quiet rides to listening to class-assigned readings. It was important for me to get to Austin by mid-day Thursday to get settled in and ensure I was prepared for the class weekend. My work week twice-a-month was short, but my colleagues and I knew that, so we all were diligent to get what we needed from each other. They were wonderful in allowing me the opportunity to leave the office and accommodated my passion for school. They also didn’t mind my excitement and passion once I got back from class weekend, and they wanted to put what I learned into practice.

Juggling work, family, and education was a group effort, and I’m grateful for everyone’s grace, guidance, and help.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? If you’re waiting for the perfect time to start, the time is now. The experience is beyond learning new curriculum. The breadth of knowledge around you, be it professors, guest speakers, the network, and also the growth in yourself as an individual are all very difficult to put into words. So, just start now.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? Speaking from my specific lens to those who keep telling themselves right now is not the time because you simply do not have time – If you are thinking about going back to school, it is because you have a drive in you to be a better version of yourself. More than likely, up to this point you have made the time to accomplish other goals. You can do it this time as well!

What was your biggest regret in business school? Having our semester of in-person class sessions shortened due to the unprecedented situation that is Covid-19, I do regret not spending more time with my classmates. We still had two months and a global trip left to spend together, but when that was no longer an option, all the ways I could have spent more time with them came to mind.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire the entire cohort. At any given time, life was happening to someone. Through loss, illness, and disappointment, my classmates persevered and others provided so much compassion. No one was afraid to step up and offer support, regardless of the situation. The kindness, humanity and leadership they exhibited was and is admirable.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was taking community college classes on a high school campus while pregnant at 19. I knew I had to finish college to provide my unborn son with a bright future. I made a promise that we both would make it through college, and that I would continue until I earned my Doctoral degree.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My long-term professional goal is to maintain a strong desire to learn from everyone and every experience. Regardless of the type of businesses, we will run, participate in, we are all in the people business.

To be successful in the people business, you need a strong sense of confidence, a desire to be open to other ideas, and great listening skills. I am confident in my ability to persevere through any situation, and execute on a high level to get results, but bringing people along with you will bring optimal success and that requires being a lifelong learner.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like for my peers to remember me as a kind, humble, results-driven, dependable person.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

My top two bucket list items are:

  • To begin a non-profit which supports underprivileged children to learn business, take up running, and pursue other hobbies, which would allow them to have a fruitful life.
  • To become fluent in French, and serve on the board of a French company.

What made Anita such an invaluable addition to the class of 2020?

“Anita exemplifies the spirit of a Texas McCombs Executive MBA student – determined, kind, and committed to both her success and the success of everyone around her.

A mother, entrepreneur, and university lecturer, Anita commuted from Houston throughout the 22-month degree program and could routinely be found in a study room before 7 a.m. during class weekends. Anita also enrolled in an additional course beyond what was required to fulfill degree requirements and served on the McCombs Ambassador Committee (MAC) to help recruit talented students to the Texas McCombs Executive MBA program. She displays excellent interpersonal skills and her ability to juggle multiple demanding roles is both admirable and a terrific representation of our program.”

Jamie Bandy, Sr. Advisor, Executive MBA Student Affairs

Sharon Barrett, Director of Working Professional & Executive MBA Recruiting & Admissions

Alma Moore, Career and Talent Development Consultant, Executive MBA Program

Joe Stephens, Sr., Assistant Dean & Director, Working Professional & Executive MBA Programs


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