Rafael Flores was 15 years into his career when he decided it was time to go back to school and pursue his MBA.
After graduating in 2005 from the University of Rochester with a degree in Economics, Rafael began his career in the finance and banking sector with Chase Bank and Northwestern Mutual. Eventually, he found his way to Allstate, where he’s worked for almost ten years.
“As I continued to develop in my career through various roles, I regretted not diving further in understanding the finance subject matter and strategy discussions from an executive level,” he says. “I found myself with enough work experience to where my MBA coursework can be directly applied to my job, such as challenging myself to take on broader roles and lead a larger scope of employees.”
Despite having a successful career with Allstate, Rafael kept looking back at his undergraduate experience wishing he could’ve done more as a student. Funding was in the way of a lot of his potential endeavors, and so he made it his mission to get his MBA as soon as he finished paying off his student loans.
This past year, he finally did.
While researching graduate business schools to attend, Rafael met with Dave Jackson, Senior Admissions Officer for the Weekend MBA at Dallas/Fort Worth program, and was impressed with both the network and recruitment opportunities at McCombs. He also appreciated the flexibility that the Working Professional program offers its students.
“I [chose] McCombs due to its strong network culture, career development resources and credibility as a top business school in the country,” Rafael says. “When I considered those factors alongside the benefits of being able to take advantage of everything as a working professional without having to leave my job or move away from the Dallas-Forth Worth Area, I realized McCombs was going to be my home.”
From Corporate to Campus
Rafael had to learn to navigate being a non-traditional student by deciding to get his MBA after ten years of working at a corporate level. Rafael learned more about time management and organization but says the biggest lesson that helped him overcome challenges was relying on his peers.
“There has to be a time for family, work, and most importantly yourself (not necessarily in that order at times). I still struggle at times to get everything done; however, my UT friends, study group, classmates are all a part of my extended family now, and we make it work,” he says. “I just keep remembering to adapt to changes and continue to move forward.”
Aside from his schoolwork, Rafael considers his position as McCombs Ambassador Committee (MAC) Chair Member as amazing to his overall MBA journey.
“My own admission process is what inspired me to get involved. I had a lot of questions and uncertainties about starting my MBA. The admissions process didn’t just walk me through how to showcase my personality and academic ability; it also introduced me to the structure and culture of McCombs, which I fell in love with.”
Since the MBA schoolwork relies heavily on collaboration, Rafael says he is balancing out his work and student organization responsibilities a lot smoother. As MAC Chair, Rafael has maintained strong connections with his classmates and UT friends.
“The experience I hope to gain is already becoming a reality. I wanted to make sure the future incoming candidates experience the culture of McCombs and fall in love with the program. Personally, I wanted to get involved in as many networking opportunities amongst the McCombs family.”
Look for a Boss, Not a Job
Following a list of “unsatisfying” positions after undergrad, Rafael’s family advised him to “look for a boss, not a job.” That advice ultimately led him to his current position at Allstate. He says his current manager listens to his ideas, nurtures the skills he has while pushing him to develop new ones, and introduces him to the people that can help him reach his goals.
“A job is something that pays the bills, but a career is a lifestyle that gives you fulfilment and gives you a reason to wake up in the morning. Part of having a satisfying career is working for someone that you believe in,” he says.
Rafael works full-time as a claims manager for Allstate where he applies his MBA coursework in his role as a team leader. He was celebrated by Allstate for his efforts as a leader and his ten-year commitment to the company earlier this year.
Leading Through Experience
Rafael was also excited to contribute his experience with diversity and inclusion to the McCombs community through Allstate. He is involved in the company’s diversity team as a certified trainer for the “Leading with Inclusive Diversity” training course. This training allows him to discuss with employees and leaders the importance of creating inclusive environments by developing intercultural competence.
“To me, diversity and inclusion is about marrying the various experiences and backgrounds of everyone in the workplace. By making sure that we are self-aware of our differences and using enhanced communication techniques, any organization can leverage its workforce to create an inclusive environment.”
Rafael says he’s also personally leveraged his cultural and social diversity to assist with his understanding of other’s points of view at McCombs. To him, this is a key factor in his overall success with leading teams.
“At McCombs, I continue to leverage my inclusive diversity skills to enhance the material we learn, and also tackle differences of opinions when discussing highly technical or complex problems. This has been a huge win for me and for any organization that drives my passion to work towards a more inclusive workspace.”
Rafael says his management style took a turn for the better when he stopped being a boss and started being a leader, which, to him, starts with empathy and listening to his team.
“I take the time to understand the challenges and obstacles that my team is facing. Sometimes these can be personal or work related struggles. I try to make my team aware that I am here to support and keep them on track to our shared vision of helping our customers and achieve our organization’s goals,” he says. “We celebrate our successes together, we learn from our mistakes, and we keep accountability high to make sure everyone is reaching for success.”
The coursework offered at McCombs has strengthened Rafael’s experience in leadership and management. For him, the key to having an amazing team starts with celebrating their diversity and nurturing their skillsets.
“I recently had the opportunity to talk to our Executive Vice President and Chief Claims Officer in my organization, and he solidified for me this concept very clearly. ‘Work has less to do with you and it’s more about the team.’ His thought mirrors perfectly to what I am currently studying in my MBA leadership class with Dr. Dave Harrison.”
“This is key in making sure that fresh ideas are heard and help us find better and smarter ways to work. Each time I achieve results, it’s actually my team that deserves all the credit.”