2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Gabriel Puente, University of Texas (McCombs)

Gabriel Puente

The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

Age: 43

“The most underrated businesses man in America.”

Hometown: Harlingen, TX

Family Members: Wife: Karla Puente, Son: Giovanni Puente (age 5) and Daughter: Kamila Puente (age 8)

Fun fact about yourself: Collegiate Tennis Player, Snowboarder, Surfer, and movie buff…Especially 80s and 90s action films.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Texas at San Antonio, BBA Business Marketing

Where are you currently working? RGVision CEO

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Herb Kelleher Entrepreneurship Center Board Advisor (2023), IDEA Public School Board Member (2010-2020), Capable Kids Gala Committee Board Chair (2016), Palm Valley Animal Shelter (2022-present) Teach For America Gala Committee Chair (2018)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Co-founded and started a legacy fund-raising event for future Executive MBA students with ATX Base Camp to serve homeless veterans in Austin in 2022. 

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Bootstrapping my own company without having to borrow or collect investments for. I am also proud to be providing careers and opportunity to individuals who are underrepresented by matching them with a high-paying job and positive work environment through a company I founded.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Luis Martins, I love his attitude and openness to be vulnerable. He is a true servant leader.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I chose the program for the diversity of individuals and careers I would be getting to know through the program.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Business Valuation, I am not only applying that to my current organization, but it is a tool that will help with a new venture to assist small businesses in emerging markets to better plan for mergers, acquisitions, exiting, or succession planning.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? On October 11th, 2022, my father passed at age 85. And my organization was going through change management and restructuring. As the market started to anticipate a recession, we had to quickly assess systems in place to maintain the quality control of the clients we were serving while I was also dealing with my family situation. During this time, I also had to meet project deadlines within the program. Thankfully, my team members had given me grace during this time, but I also used my time wisely to ensure my project assignments did not negatively impact the rest of my team. At times, it was working after everyone was asleep until 2 am. The minimum amount of sleep I could get away with without affecting my daily performance was 5 hours. So, I did that and worked out during lunch to keep my endorphins running for what was prepared for me that afternoon. My wife was a major hero during this time and helped me in the process.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? If you have the opportunity to invest in yourself, do it… especially through programs like the Executive MBA at McCombs. The knowledge, skillset, and friendships you will make are far greater than the cost. And once you are there, understand this… you belong there. Everyone there is there to help and support. It’s not easy to get out of a competitive mentality, but this program should be more collaborative and supportive than competitive. So check the ego at the door; everyone has imposter syndrome initially. The faster you are open and honest about your intentions in the program with your team, the quicker you will overcome those invisible barriers to a much better experience.

Also, If you are married, over-communicate with your significant other about the commitment that you are making… TOGETHER. This program is very demanding for any executive; being open and transparent about the program is beneficial. Do the same for the teams or company you work for, and have a plan of action in place for when you are away to ensure your work doesn’t fall off during the program.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth about going back to school was, “There is nothing more an academic program can teach me what the real world has put me through in my success as a leader and businessman.” I had this in my mind, and also heard it from colleagues. And after the first few months in the program, I knew I had made the right choice not to listen to those voices.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not making the Global Trip with my cohort due to COVID. It’s during these emersions where we build stronger friendships and bonds with one another.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Rahul Prakash. He is kind, helpful, and someone who I have noticed has been positively impacted the most by the program in his attitude and leadership.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? It was the commitment, cohort, and facetime I would have with the faculty, staff, and other students just as dedicated to this program as I was.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Help build stronger leaders in business and provide resources to individuals who don’t have the means and resources to optimize their organizations in emerging markets.

What made Gabriel such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“Gabe lifts people. Whether a classmate struggling with a personal situation during the program (as he did) or simply someone on the street need a helping hand, Gabe is there with a big smile and a hearty word of encouragement. As a CEO, his list of responsibilities to his own organization is lengthy and demanding. But it didn’t seem to matter when it mattered most to others. This is a person you want on your team, rooting for you – because Gabe will come alongside to help you get over your real or perceived barriers. This was demonstrated countless times in the ways he impacted our program and local community in Austin and in the Rio Grande Valley – from starting a legacy fund with classmates for homeless veterans to volunteering for an animal shelter and various children’s organizations.”

Joe Stephens
Senior Assistant Dean & Director, Working Professional and Executive MBA Programs

“Gabe Puente is the quintessential leader. He cares deeply about having an impact on all the communities to which he belongs, be it his team, his EMBA cohort, his company, or his local community. He has expressed and demonstrated a deep passion for improving life in the Rio Grande Valley, and his company is an example of how he combines this purpose with a keen business sense to produce what is truly a purpose-driven company. Despite his many successes, Gabe remains modest and considerate, and demonstrates an uncommon touch with people.

In the EMBA program, Gabe was someone to whom most students in the class went to for advice and support. His classmates hold him in the highest regard, noting his humility, caring, thoughtfulness, work ethic, and strategic thinking. The most common phrase they use to describe him is “a genuine leader.” Gabe also is active in giving back to the community — in the Rio Grande Valley, at the University of Texas, and beyond. He volunteers his time generously, including through board service, primarily focused on education. Gabe is the full package, and I am proud that he is a Longhorn.”

Luis Martins
Professor and Chair
Department of Management and Director, Herb Kelleher Entrepreneurship Center

“Gabe is deeply committed to making an active contribution to his community, whether he is shining a spotlight on local businesses professionally, or listening intently and sharing purposeful stories that transform how the class views challenging topics. Through his approachability, positivity, and polished executive presence, Gabe easily instills confidence and a sense of trust, creating an inviting space for honest conversations, with an always evident focus on strengthening others around him. His creative and playful leadership style made the classroom experience that much more engaging and memorable.”

Alma Moore
Director of Working Professional Career Education & Coaching


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