2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Kevin Doffing, Rice University (Jones)

Kevin Doffing

Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business

Age: 41

“Renewable energy executive and combat veteran focused on accelerating the energy transition.”

Hometown: Houston, TX

Family Members: Wife (Alicia), Daughters (Edith-8) (Marti-4), Son (Michael-2)

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

Where are you currently working? Clean Energy Services, Chief Commercial Officer

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • Atlantic Council, Non-Resident Senior Fellow
  • Veterans Advanced Energy Project, Director
  • Energy Underground, Founder
  • Rice Business Cleantech Club, Executive Advisor
  • Rice Business Veterans Group, Executive Advisor
  • CleanTX, Board Member
  • ImpactHUB Houston, Board Member
  • Rice Business Executive Class of 2023, Class Co-President

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I started the Energy Underground last year as a way to continue to connect all the amazing people I’ve met along the way on my journey to a career in renewable energy. It’s created a network effect for the community looking to accelerate the energy transition.   

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My military experience, while relatively brief in terms of time, was the most impactful – especially my combat experience in Iraq. During my time in Iraq as an infantry officer, we not only stabilized the region we operated in, I got to be a part of rebuilding the economy by empowering local commerce. The examples of energy insecurity, energy poverty, and the power of markets has never been lost on me. It is what drives me to be so dedicated to this energy transition. After all, energy security is national security.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Al Danto single handedly made me wish I had gotten my MBA immediately after the military when I was running my business instead of 15 years later as an executive. His experience and ability to communicate the fundamentals of business evaluation, acquisition and operation is second to none. In one class in particular, he posted a single slide of lessons learned and things to avoid in acquiring and operating a business. It encapsulated my own 10 years of battle scars from the trenches of running a business in a way that I’d never been able to articulate. It was shocking, humbling and enlightening at the same time. That class alone was worth the price of admission and the long nights doing homework after the kids go to bed.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I had recently been an executive in residence with Rice and kept seeing the university’s growing role in the energy transition. I wanted to stake a flag within the university and open a deeper relationship with the students, teachers, and staff working on this in Houston. I’ve been very lucky that I’ve met amazing people and been able to fulfill that objective to develop a new and highly impactful sphere of influence in my network and accelerate Rice’s place in my industry. I didn’t bother applying anywhere else.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? I came in very insecure and underrating my capabilities and experience. The insights on communication styles and processes were invaluable. As an introvert who plays an extrovert in my career, I need all the tools and mentors I can find. I’m leaving the program with more confidence and conviction of where I’m going and what I’m capable of, along with the benefit of access to an amazing network at Rice. Ultimately, it’s all about the people here.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? In order to juggle all the requirements at this stage of my life and career, the one ball I didn’t want to drop was my family time. I did a lot of class team calls during my kids’ bath time or had to schedule around bed times. I had to take a break from one timed final online to put my 1-year-old back to bed, for the third time, which was a bit stressful in the moment. Then I had to crank through work emails once I was done. I got really good at being bad at sleeping so I could cram it all in. I hadn’t had to go that long on minimal hours of sleep days on end since I was in combat, but in the end it was worth it.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? The biggest thing about an executive MBA program, even more so than the other MBA programs, is the cohort. You don’t know who exactly will be there, but you can look at the programs, electives, and alumni to get a sense of if this is a network you want to access and you can add value to. The academic rigor of the first year is great level setting across any program and the electives give insight into the flavor and tastes of the alumni and the expertise of the professors. Without a great professor, there are cheaper ways to get the academics down, but there’s no better way to supercharge your network at this age than plugging into an executive MBA program with the right school.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? It’ll be hard. I don’t think that after so many years in industry that it’s hard. But I completely underestimated the time necessary. I think that it really boils down to making the time for it. The hardest thing about the MBA program for some folks on the academics was if they came from a non-business specialized background like medicine, law or engineering. If you’ve had P&L responsibility, you learned a lot of this the hard way with your reputation or your own money on the line. Those are lessons you don’t easily forget. But the time commitment is massive. I would have had more fun during the program if I had been younger and with less obligations, but it still was amazing.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wish I’d had more time to spend with my classmates and the students in the other programs. I tried to do a call or coffee with 2-3 students currently enrolled each week. Usually, students are already interested in or working in energy transition, since that’s where I could add the most to their career journey. But I also loved getting to know people in the medical field that had no impact on my career other than meeting someone amazing who knew an entire industry I was, and still am, ignorant of the details.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Rupesh Nigam is who I admire in the class (unless you print this, then he’s just the class clown). Rupesh has a tremendous sense of humor and leadership style that is simultaneously no-nonsense and a sense of humor that is even dryer than my own. He has that unique capacity to not take himself seriously, but always take the work at hand very seriously. Most leaders I’ve seen can’t separate themselves from the work to retain their authenticity, humility, and humor. Something that Rupesh does with ease.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I honestly didn’t think I’d be accepted into the program. I didn’t think I was an “executive”, but wanted to get to know those who were. I was trying to punch above my weight and gain the in-person option I knew would be critical to building the relationships I sought by doing the program.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Make Houston the energy capital of the future by aggregating energy transition activities in financing, manufacturing, project development and thought leadership here. I think that Houston is the best place suited to lead the energy transition and will accelerate this phase of developing a more robust, secure, and lucrative energy future for our world.

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

“Kevin Doffing was a very memorable student in his class. He is a military veteran with a strong sense of discipline and purpose. He has an infectious can-do attitude, that he brings to every task he undertakes.   He inspires others through his servant leadership and a contagious sense of purpose, hard work and commitment.

Despite having a family, working full time, and often traveling between classes, Kevin was a high performer in the classroom. He was always well-prepared and contributed to all our class discussions in a very meaningful way. Beyond the classroom, Kevin was a natural leader and volunteered in several extra-curricular initiatives that benefited our MBA program and the wider community.

How he did it all, I will never know!

There is no doubt that Kevin will continue to be a highly engaged, impactful alumnus and will continue to support Rice Business and our community.”

Al Danto
Senior Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship
Jones Graduate School of Business, Rice University


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