Francisco Castro ’02
I was born and raised in Mexico City. I thought I wanted to be an architect or a pilot when I grew up. It was during my last year of high school I decided I wanted to go in a different direction. I decided I enjoy business and the way the economy works. In Mexico you don’t have a lot of time to decide what you want to do. You have to choose very quickly after graduating what you would like to go into. I decided to study economics because that gave me the opportunity to learn both the micro and the macro level of looking at the world.
The second half of my career I realized I needed an update on my academic skills and decided to look for where to do that and how to go about it. I wanted to go abroad and had a lot of projects at the time so I was looking for location and ease of schedule. I was looking for quality over brand and flexibility of the program without sacrificing the academic rigor. I needed a lot of flexibility because my window of opportunity was very small. Rice University had a good reputation for being a quality school and was connected to where I was doing business. The Jones School ended up being the only university I applied to.
Director Wil Uecker and Assistant Director Kay Henry were the first people I met from the school; they did a great job running the EMBA program. I expected to be surrounded by a lot of kids. To my surprise there were very senior guys from varying industries trying to get their MBA alongside me. I was very happy they were my peers and in the same age group; it was comforting and encouraging. Culturally it was surprising, I was the only one who was living abroad and not a resident in the U.S. The second year I took a year sabbatical off of work and took a lot of electives with the FTMBA program. It was definitely different from the EMBA courses.
I was on two teams. The makeup of the teams was very interesting. We had a Venezuelan man, an Indian woman, an Arabic man, a Russian man, a British man and some American men and myself. We were a very mixed cultural bag. The other thing that was very interesting was how we struggled with communication. I was traveling a lot and communication was not easy then in 2000. We struggled to make our team efficient and worked well if people were traveling and could not immediately respond with answers. The mixture of cultures, industries and styles along with the complication of different schedules, time zones and scheduling was the real challenge, but we worked it out.
One of my favorite stories was when I was trying to acquire a small company for my job and it became a very difficult negotiation, and at that time I was taking the negotiations course. I applied the negotiation skills I learned at the Jones School to my work negotiations. Everything I was learning in the negotiation course worked. It was like a live laboratory of what we were doing in classes.
I remember George Kanatas being an amazing teacher. He taught economics that ranged from theory to the real world; it was great. Bala Dharan was out of this world, I remember when we first started he talked about the Enron case and could never support Enron and all the weird things he saw happening. He predicted Enron’s collapse in our class. At the time Jeff Fleming taught futures and options, and I wanted to audit it. He said no, I had to take it for the grade. I decided to follow his advice and did so and it became one of my favorite classes. My second year I received the Financial Executives International (FEI) award and was recognized as a scholar by George Kanatas and David Ikenberry, who took me to the awards dinner with all the schools in the region.
I would say I got a fresh perspective on how to approach things on my business from my MBA. I changed some methodology, the way I conducted my business, things I needed to consider in valuation and how to assess business opportunities. It was a freshened approach for how I did business. I was not expecting to make more money, but I got a fresh new way to do things. After two years I had been independent in 2005, I decided to have a more structured company to conduct my business. Before my MBA I was working as a consultant and did M&A and restructuring. I had little venture capital experience, so when I came back I put together a group to finance some of those companies. I had quite a few different projects with different financing at different levels. Eventually I got financing as part of the advising. After my MBA I took on more projects and participated in the financing directly.
I live with my wonderful wife and have three amazing kids. The two oldest are in college and the youngest is a junior in high school. My most recent passion is show jumping and riding horses. I play tennis and run marathons a lot. I have run the half marathon in Houston 11 times, six full marathons, and I plan on doing my seventh this coming year.