2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Kris Decker, Texas A&M (Mays)

Kris Decker

Mays Business School, Texas A&M University

Age: 37

“A lifetime learner who enjoys building great things, be it family, community, or at work.”

Hometown: Katy, TX

Family Members: Husband – L.J. Decker, Children – Danny (12), Franky (10), Gideon (7), Jacqueline (6), Reagan (6), and Emma (4)

Fun fact about yourself: I am a perpetual motion machine – I am always on the move and take great delight in accomplishing my goals. My hobbies include CrossFit, woodworking, and sewing – and of course time with my kiddos.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor’s degree from Regent University in Business Management

Where are you currently working? Global Custom Commerce, a Home Depot company – VP of Category Experience (My Home Depot title is Director of Interconnected Retail)

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Active member at my local church (children’s ministry, small group leader, foster care ministry). I previously was a foster parent for three years and am a big advocate for adoption, though mostly serve in an advisory capacity for individuals interested in foster/adoption lately.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Besides working full time and attending business school, I am also a homeschool mom. My biggest achievement during business school was finding a way to not only get my own schoolwork done, but continuing to engage in teaching my children. This is important to me because I believe education is essential and I want my children to understand and value it as well. While my kids thought it was weird at first for mom to be doing school side by side with them, they also got to see me persevere through subjects I found difficult and truly be a role model. I know the ability to press on, even when things are hard, is an important lesson to learn early – especially for my kids with learning disabilities.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my second year of business school, I was promoted to my current position and had to build a new department from the ground up right as COVID caused the whole company to go remote. We are still remote, but through new process design, intentional relationship building, and people development I now lead an effective, collaborative team. I am proud of this accomplishment because COVID provided many excuses that would have been reasonable for my team not to be effective, but we were able to overcome and drive the business forward.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Dr. Withers, who taught Corporate Strategy. The materials were interesting, the class discussions were engaging, and the topic is one of natural interest. In November of 2020, I was asked to lead my company’s strategic planning session for 2021. I asked Dr. Withers for advice, considering it was such a unique year and the future was so unknown. He provided me with great advice and resources that I used to lead a successful strategy session.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I started my undergraduate degree at Texas A&M, but transferred to another school because I ended up getting married and moving. I really enjoyed my time at Texas A&M and the thought of going back and finishing what I started was really appealing. When I started to research potential schools, I found that Mays fit all my personal requirements. I wanted an environment focused on learning, not competing against classmates. As an established professional, I wanted to have classmates who could come to the table with experience and ideas – not worry that they were focused on beating me on a grade. This is what I found at Mays and after being accepted early, I didn’t even consider another school.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? While I learned many tactical things that have been helpful at work, the most helpful has been the ability to think holistically about the business. Mays’ EMBA program is designed so that everything you learn is building on previous courses and it gives the student the ability to think across functions of an organization and see the bigger picture. I use this at work every time I participate in a senior leadership discussion. Instead of coming to the table to represent my function, I come understanding how the organization works as a whole – and if I hear something that sounds off, I’m not afraid to ask about it. Training my brain to see the big picture makes it easier for me to identify areas of the business that are struggling and ask pointed questions to uncover more information. It has increased the value I’m able to bring to my organization.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? To be honest, all the credit goes to my husband. When I started the program, we rearranged our life with one goal in mind: impact the kids as little as possible. This means most Saturdays (on the Saturday I did not have class) I would get up before 6 a.m. to start my day and get school done. My husband would take care of breakfast when the kids got up and I would come out of my office just about the time they were dressed and ready to start the day so that I could be with them. Then, when it was time for lunch, I would eat while studying while my husband fed the kids lunch and put on a post-lunch movie. Again, I would appear from the office soon after the movie ended and engage with my kids some more. Dinner was always as a family. After dinner was over and the nightly routine finished, I would hit the books again. The kids would see me quite a bit, but I would still manage about 8-10 hours of schoolwork on a Saturday. I also did schoolwork every night after the kids were in bed. I was only able to do all this because my husband stepped in and took care of everything else. I quite literally could not have done this program without his support.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? I think the biggest myth is when people think they can’t do it because they have been out of school too long. I know I thought learning how to study again would be incredibly difficult after so many years in the workforce. However, I found that most courses were very applicable to my day-to-day work – which is a completely different experience than taking a U.S. History in undergrad. My mental framework for school in undergrad was reading facts, memorizing facts, and then having to reproduce those facts during a timed test. However, business school is about understanding concepts, analyzing information, and applying mental frameworks to situations. It is completely different and a lot more enjoyable.

What was your biggest regret in business school? The fact that we had a national pandemic start my second semester definitely made the experience less than ideal. I wish I had had more time face to face with my classmates.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Martial Byrd – he was always fully engaged in the conversation, had something incredibly insightful to add, but was also extremely humble. He gave his opinions, even if not in agreement with the majority, but did so in a disarming way. I always thought his answers were well thought through and enjoyed what he contributed to the class discussion.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? It was for the network. I am by nature quite introverted and knew if I went part-time or online I wouldn’t connect with my classmates – which is half the purpose of getting an MBA. May’s residency week was great for me. It put me in situations where I got to know my classmates well at the start, which then gave me the rest of the program to build on these relationships.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I would like to either be the CEO of a small company or the General Manager of a business unit for The Home Depot. Either way, I would also like to start a non-profit specifically aimed at helping youths aging out of the foster care system.

What made Kris Decker such an invaluable addition to the class of 2021?

“I am pleased to describe what made Kristen (Kris) Decker such an invaluable addition to the class of 2021. I had the pleasure of having Kris in my EMBA strategic management course this past fall semester, and I served as her faculty advisor on her capstone project. During this time, I have become well acquainted with Kris and gained insights into her strengths and potential. She stands out in our program given her managerial acumen and executive potential, and she impressed me with her dedication necessary to succeed and continue to develop as an executive and strategic leader through our EMBA program.

From my perspective, Kris is such an invaluable addition because of her ability to combine insights from her work experience with the concepts and materials that were being covered in the courses. Despite the challenges that accompanied this past year, Kris was a major contributor to our class discussions with comments that were astute and perceptive, which positively impacted the overall class learning experience. She was always highly prepared and ready to discuss the class materials. She also directly brought in her experience from leading a new department, which her organization created just as the COVID-19 pandemic began in the U.S. She leveraged this experience to discuss the unique strategic opportunities and challenges that had emerged over the past year for her and her team. She also documented this experience in her capstone project. I was impressed with her ability to describe these opportunities and challenges in detail while offering a nuanced analysis of the underlying strategic issues and articulating a vision for how she would continue to approach these opportunities and challenges through her leadership.

In closing, given her academic performance, the positive impact she had on her classmates’ learning, and her potential to contribute as a leader in her organization, she is an invaluable addition to the class of 2021.”

Dr. Michael Withers
Associate Professor/Gina and Anthony Bahr (’91) Professor in Business/Presidential Impact Fellow/Doctoral Program Coordinator

 

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