Tamara Hughes

Rice MBA for Executives Class of 2016

Hometown: Houston, TX

Undergraduate School and Major: South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, B.S.E.E. Electrical Engineering

Employer and Job Titles: Solaris Oilfield Infrastructure,VP, Product Technology

What led you to pursue an MBA? During the course of my technology-focused career, I built and managed both large and small teams of technologists; created and delivered high performance, large-scale, and customer-focused solutions; and was awarded three software patents. I began my career as a software engineer at Honeywell working on the groundbreaking avionics system for the inaugural Boeing 777. My last role was as CTO of a cloud-based startup with responsibility for building an efficient, scalable web and mobile video encoding and delivery solution for everyone’s treasured family videos.

In my past roles, I made technology choices in the context of the company’s financial goals, but I was not fully able to understand, predict, or measure the bottom-line impact to the organization of the technology decisions or of the available technology options. I did not possess the knowledge or skills needed to drive the business-focused discussions of technology strategy covering essential topics such as cost of capital, ROI and gross margins. My decision to pursue an MBA stemmed from my desire to possess such skills and knowledge.

Why did you choose Rice for your executive MBA? A combination of Rice’s reputation, the structure of the program and personal logistics – my husband has long-standing ties to Houston.

What has been a highlight of the program? During our last class, our accounting professor presented a slide documenting the level of accounting knowledge (for most of us in the class) on Day 1. The slide stated: What are the basic financial statements? Balance Sheet, Income Statement, Cash Flow Statement and Statement of Stockholder’s Equity. He then presented a slide reflecting the level of accounting knowledge on our final day of class. The slide included the bullets: determine the primary reason the company’s effective tax rate differs from the statutory tax rate; perform a constructive capitalization of the operating leases to see if the additional leverage makes a difference in ratio analysis; and identify the gains and losses from available for sale securities during the year. Holy Generally Accepted Accounting Priniciples, Batman!

Besides surprising most of us, that simple comparison encapsulated much of the experience in the Rice EMBA program: an incredible amount of knowledge is gained; the professors who guide us on the journey are highly skilled and genuinely passionate; and we do possess the ability to get from Day 1 to the last day. 

What has surprised you about the journey so far? When I began the MBA journey, I thought it would be a career-transforming experience. I was wrong. This journey is an all-encompassing transforming experience. 

What advice do you have for prospective students? Lots of advice to offer! Take a vacation before classes start. Dedicate an evening or day to family time; adhere to it religiously, yet practice begging for forgiveness. Realize the time goes by much faster than expected. Take advantage of what Rice and the Jones School have to offer beyond the classroom. And, prepare for an absolutely amazing, challenging, and rewarding experience!