Ben Gonzalez went from Plan B to Plan MBA.
After working as a math teacher for nearly five years, the Port Isabel, Texas, native returned to college and graduated with a Global Master of Business Administration with a concentration in General Business from the University of Houston-Victoria in 2012.
Now, Gonzalez is nearly one year into a position as a market analyst specialist for procurement with Phillips 66 in Houston. Prior to that, he was a petrochemicals analyst for S&P Global Platts for almost two years.
"I got a teaching job because I couldn't get a job in economic analysis after getting my undergrad in mathematics," he said. "I went to a teaching fair and looked at every school that needed a math teacher. I went with the one that paid the most and was in the roughest school district. I did it to get a job, but economic analysis is what I wanted to do."
Gonzalez landed a position as a senior analyst and project manager at Jacobs Consultancy as he was completing a master's degree in education management at UH-Clear Lake in 2008.
"When I finally got my foot in the door through a friend, I was doing a lot of economics and a lot of forecasting, which is great for mathematics," he said. "But I still wanted the economic background and the opportunity to learn business fundamentals.
"The MBA got me out of my first job and into a chemical analyst position because it was one of the requirements for preferred qualification."
Gonzalez started an MBA program at St. Thomas University before he transferred into the hybrid program at UHV. He went on campus near where he was living, in Katy, for the in-person courses, but enjoyed the online courses as well.
"It was great," he said. "The flexibility of the online format is huge."
Gonzalez graduated with a bachelor's degree from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in 2003. While working as a math teacher, he opted to earn his first master's degree in case he stuck with a career in education.
"I wanted an MBA, but didn't want to spend that much money," he said. "After one year at St. Thomas, I transferred some classes. I think UHV is one of the only MBA programs in the area that does that. Luckily, I got my foot in the door right when I was finishing the master's in education management."
FINC 6367: International Finance, taught by Dr. Xavier Garza-Gomez, was Gonzalez's favorite online course in the MBA program.
"That was the best online class I have ever taken," he said. "Dr. Garza-Gomez had videos where you could see his face as he was speaking while he was going through the exercises on the rest of the screen. A lot of those exercises matched the exercises he wanted you to do independently, in addition to reading the book. It was a great experience. You feel like he's talking to you."
MGMT 6369: International Business Strategy was also a standout course for Gonzalez.
"You basically had to run an international business," Gonzalez said. "It was a simulation done through an online program. You had to build, factor in the different regions and sell the business in the U.S. That was the ultimate experience. It was really cool putting everything together — the marketing, the accounting, the economics."
MGMT 6367: International Operations & Supply Chain Management made the biggest real-world impact for the job Gonzalez was doing at the time.
"I was able to use the Six Sigma principles to increase the efficiency of our communications process," he said. "We were doing a multi-client consulting report, and I was able to help reduce the time from research to publication of that report."
Mining for Gold
Now that Gonzalez is firmly established in his analytics career, he finds himself in the right place at the right time. He expects the expanding role of big data and data analytics in supply chain will mean career opportunities for the well-prepared.
"Everybody is looking to analytics as the future. It's really not — it's just the fact that there is more data. That's really the difference. You need people to make sense of it," he said.
Gonzalez hopes to continue applying the skills he learned in the MBA program and feeding his passion for economics for the rest of his career.
"I want to be a leader in what I have been doing for the last 11 years, which is market analytics and economics," he said. "I have covered a lot of different commodities. Being a leader could be going to a consulting company and leading that consulting practice or staying at Phillips 66 and being a manager of marketing analysis for a certain group."
But he also wants to enjoy time with his wife, Melanie, and their children — Destin (18), Benjamin (13) and Rebecca (10). All of that education and hard work apparently rubbed off on Destin, who will enroll at the University of Houston as an economics major in Fall 2019.
"The school of economics invited me and a lot of other people who work in the oil and gas industry to speak to the students at UH," he said. "It was roundtable discussions. It's amazing how many people in the school of economics want to do exactly what I am doing.
"That's what made Destin want to go to UH. He loves economics, but it made him more interested in doing it when he saw all of these other students wanting to do the same thing."
Although Gonzalez had to stray from Plan A for a few years, it was well worth the wait to eventually do what he loves for a living.
The support he received from family and friends when he was considering a return to school stayed strong as he progressed through the program.
"My wife said, 'If this is what you need for a promotion or we're better off, then go for it.' It was a good experience," he said. "I didn't have to do the MBA, but I wanted to. I am glad that I did because it paid off."
Learn more about the UHV online Global MBA with a concentration in General Business program.
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