After Jesus Juarez had to give up his childhood dream of becoming a professional baseball player, he took an accounting course as an elective and found his true calling. But he had not seen his last curveball.
“I worked for a string of companies early in my career where things didn’t work out,” he said. “I worked for Metro PCS, which was bought out by T-Mobile. It moved all of the accounting work to Washington, so I got laid off. My job before that was with J.P. Morgan. It moved all of the positions to India, so I got laid off.”
Once the Marine Corps veteran found steady ground working for Energy Transfer in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, he chased down another dream. Juarez enrolled in the Master of Business Administration online program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He graduated in May 2019.
“Earning a graduate degree had always been a personal goal,” he said. “I knew the MBA would help me stand out in the marketplace as a candidate for a position.”
Juarez, who is now a senior financial reporting accountant with Brazos Midstream, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting from UL Lafayette in 2009. He looked at several online MBA programs at other universities before returning to Cajun country.
“I had an application in at LSU, and I had done everything but the personal statement,” he said. “That’s when I saw the UL Lafayette online MBA program on the alumni page on Facebook. I looked into it, and they called me right away.
“I said, ‘Okay, I’m not going to LSU. I’m going to UL Lafayette.’ It was affordable. I didn’t have to do a personal statement or take the GMAT. They even waived my application fee. I kept telling my wife, Anabel, that this was meant to happen. I couldn’t say no.”
Juarez grew up in Moses Lake, Washington, and enlisted in the Marines in 1998. Four years later, he returned home from the military as a lance corporal. Then, Juarez got married and graduated with an associate degree from Big Bend Community College in 2006.
“I used to drive with my uncle from Washington to Lafayette every Christmas because we have family there,” he said. “I love the area. When I finished my associate degree, I was either going there or Eastern Washington University. I decided on UL Lafayette.”
Although Juarez was excited about enrolling in the MBA program online, he was a little apprehensive about the format.
“I had a horrible experience with an online course I took while working on the associate degree,” he said. “But the way that UL Lafayette laid everything out was great. They made it easy and convenient.”
The online format was especially important to Juarez because he and his wife have a 5-year-old daughter, Lillian, and five Shih Tzus. Plus, Anabel started work on a doctoral degree at Baylor University in January 2019.
“That takes a lot of my time, but I was still able to go full time and finish the MBA program in a year and a half,” he said. “The flexibility has been huge for me. I like the way the sessions are laid out eight weeks at a time. It’s pretty intense.”
While BLAW 510: Business Law was Juarez’s favorite course in the online MBA curriculum, he found the majority of the information in the coursework applicable to his job. Progressing through the online program gave Juarez the valuable — if somewhat unexpected — side benefit of boosting his understanding of the American and global legal systems.
“I was able to learn about the many social, political and economic factors that have an effect on how businesses operate within the American legal system and internationally as well,” he said.
Living the Dream
As graduation day approached, Juarez looked forward to returning to Lafayette for the commencement ceremony.
“My wife didn’t give me the option to miss graduation,” he said. “She was excited. Now that she is back in school, we are trading off. I get to learn how to cook now and hang out with my daughter and dogs a little more.”
Although Juarez is also proud of his accomplishment, he returned to higher education without much fanfare.
“I am not one of those people who like to make a big deal about it,” he said. “I told my wife and a few close family members and that was pretty much it. They were happy for me.”
Juarez believes the MBA will help open the door to a management position, but he plans to focus on enjoying life until that day comes along.
“I don’t want to get too crazy,” he said “I am more focused on my family. I am very simple. Maybe I would like to be a controller one day.”
No matter the career trajectory for Juarez, he is happy he stepped up to the plate and earned an MBA.
“The most important thing about the online MBA program is you’re going to need to put in the time,” Juarez said. “There aren’t going to be any shortcuts.
“I have been training at 360 Jiu Jitsu for the last five years. I used to do 4-5 days a week. Since I started the program, I’ve probably been five times. I needed to put the time into my classes.”
All of the struggles Juarez endured early in his career made earning an MBA even sweeter.
“Once I finished my undergrad, I got thrown a couple of curveballs, but I finally got to the point where I was able to get a chance to start working on the master’s degree,” he said. “Thankfully, I had the love and support of my wife Anabel and my daughter Lilly, and without them none of this would have been possible. I never gave up.”
Learn more about the UL Lafayette MBA program online.