Martin Juarez, vice president of operations at Infoblox, can be counted among the numbers of people in Silicon Valley who made the transition from engineering to business, and he gives much of the credit to the MBA program at Santa Clara University School of Business.
Juarez earned a degree in electrical engineering and computer science and began a long career at Hewlett Packard. He started as an engineer, working on products, and enjoyed the technical challenges, but soon found himself fascinated by business challenges as well.
“I began to take interest in the business end,” he says. “I found I was pretty good at leading teams and working with suppliers and customers, and I eventually moved into management, working in HP’s Network Server Division.
“But as my responsibilities grew, I began to realize that some of my business skills were lacking, and concluded that if I wished to advance further, I should go back to school for a master’s degree in business.”
Juarez took a hard look at graduate business programs, seeking one that would provide a first-rate education while meshing with his work and family life. Santa Clara, with its Executive MBA program that caters to mid-career professionals with classes on Fridays and Saturdays turned out to be the right fit, and HP sponsored him for the program.
“I really liked that it was a cohort program,” he says. “All my classmates had careers and were looking to enhance their toolbox with business-related skills. The curriculum had a great deal of relevance to the issues faced by Silicon Valley companies, and the faculty was reflective of the leaders of Silicon Valley.
“And something else I really appreciated was the Jesuit value system with an emphasis on ethics and giving back. I had enough work and life experience to know that it’s not all about advancing in your career and making money. The program fit with who I was.”
At Santa Clara, Juarez acquired detailed and technical business skills in areas such as finance, negotiations, accounting, statistical modeling, and managing a supply chain.
But in addition to the technical business education, he says the Leavey MBA program taught a way of looking at issues and solving problems that has a near-universal application.
“Santa Clara offers a very pragmatic program that gives a set of skills and a perspective for solving problems collaboratively. You don’t graduate from there with a Lone Ranger mentality.
“The program teaches you to see things from multiple dimensions. Sometimes what seems like a technical problem can have its roots in an organizational problem, which in turn is linked to a human relations issue. We were taught to look at problems holistically and try to get to the root cause, and that it takes the whole team to solve the problem. You can’t leave anyone out.”
Not long after Juarez earned his MBA, HP underwent a major restructuring and offered employees financial incentives to leave. He’d been there long enough to qualify and decided to move on and look for another position. That’s where the network of people he’d gotten to know at Santa Clara became invaluable.
“We’d get together for lunch and talk,” Juarez says. “People would put in a good word for you, give advice on how to interview at a certain company, help you understand what a company’s culture is really like.
“There was a tremendous amount of information exchange about jobs opening up, and you could get the real story about a company by talking to people who either worked there or had a spouse who did. I also found that more than half the interviews I got came from referrals.”
In 2012 Juarez was hired in the operations division of Infoblox, a rapidly growing company that provides software and hardware to help businesses manage their networks. He began as a supply-chain director (a subject Santa Clara is known for teaching well), and when his boss left a year and a half later, Juarez was named vice president of operations for the company.
The job requires him to work with a wide range of people to make sure the supplies the company orders will work from an engineering, financial and operational standpoint, which necessitates truly understanding the relevant issues in each area.
His Santa Clara education, he says, has been “invaluable” in that regard. “Companies move so fast these days that you and your team have to be able to step back and analyze problems in multiple dimensions if you’re going to keep your customers and investors happy.”