Kristi Hotze left home to come home.
In 2017, Hotze left her job as Managing Director for Global Workplace Solutions at Houston real estate company CBRE after working for the firm for 21 years.
"I was traveling and working many hours to support a global business model," she said. "I'm a mother of three, so there was not much time for my children. I had been with CBRE for so long that I was ready to make a change. It was very hard and an emotional experience for me because I grew up in that company, but it was time to do something new and different."
Hotze isn't wasting a moment of her career hiatus. She enrolled in the Baylor University online Master of Business Administration program. Hotze, who is on track to complete the program in 2019, graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration from Baylor in 1991.
"The thought process was, 'I have many years of work experience with all different types of companies,'" she said. "Knowing that I would be going back into the business community at some point, I felt like getting my MBA was something I really needed to do. It was good for the soul to step back a bit. I definitely recommend it."
Hotze is doing some consulting work as she plans an eventual return to the business world. She is also working with a university-model homeschool program with a K-12 college preparatory school for her children, Leah (14) and twins Hannah and Hunter (9).
"They have enjoyed me being back in school," she said. "They know when my homework is due. They want to know what I'm learning about in school. My older daughter has particularly been interested in the case studies and some of the discussions. It's been an open process. I've let them know what's going on and why mom is doing this."
Since everybody in the household now has homework, Hotze and her children encourage one another to succeed.
"I push them in their studies, so they push me in mine," she said. "It's been a great experience so far. They understand what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. They want to do the same thing one day. They are quick to tell me, 'Mom, you need to get your reading and homework done.' It's very much role reversal. I'm focusing on school for them and for me."
Fast Track to Success
Hotze wasn't sure which direction to take her career after completing her undergraduate program, but she landed a job as an administrative assistant at a real estate company one month after graduation.
"I didn't know anything about real estate," she said. "I gave it a chance and it just grew from there. I was blessed to be provided with many opportunities, challenges and wonderful mentors along the way that allowed me to learn and develop as a professional. My career within commercial real estate has been a tremendous experience."
Hotze, who grew up in the Houston area, started at CBRE in 1996. When she left the company, she was responsible for building engineering services and facilities management for a large oil and gas company account.
"It was much more than a traditional real estate arrangement," she said. "It was managing their assets, understanding their processes and becoming an extension of the client to the marketplace. You have to learn their business, so I have been very fortunate that even though I was with a commercial real estate company, I have had the opportunity to learn about all types of businesses."
Another reason Hotze returned to Baylor was for degree credibility in the industry.
"I looked at some other schools," she said. "Working in the industry and geography that I'm in, Baylor is a highly respected university that had already served me well from an undergraduate perspective. It was an easy decision for me to come back to Baylor."
Even though Hotze is taking a break from her career, she believes the Baylor MBA is giving her the insight to lead even more effectively once she returns.
"It's about how to understand and lead people," she said. "It's not necessarily, 'You follow these steps and everything is going to work perfectly.' Looking at it from the perspective of having been in the industry, the MBA is applicable."
Time on Her Side
In addition to allowing Hotze to earn a graduate degree from Baylor, the online MBA program provided her the ability to spend time with her family without missing a beat with schoolwork.
"I'd recommend the online format to anybody and everybody," she said. "It really is flexible, but you still get the information and the learning. You still get interaction because there are web conferences and team projects in most of the classes.
"There are a lot of discussion boards, but all of the live conferences and interactive exercises have been great. You're getting that interaction without having to go and drive and sit in a class. I think it's a great format. I have absolutely loved it."
So far, Hotze's favorite courses in the online MBA program are those focused on administration.
"I love management and leadership," she said. "I'm taking Ethical Leadership [BUS 5421] right now, which has been a great class to get people to think introspectively about how they make decisions and how those decisions affect their business relations. I also enjoyed Managing for Higher Performance [MGT 5410]."
Hotze's extensive real-world experience has served her well through the first half of the online MBA program. She has also been on several boards of directors, including the Greater Houston Women's Chamber of Commerce, and worked with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) education programs.
"I always tell people, 'The experiences that were the most stressful and the biggest challenges for me, are the things I learned the most from," she said. "Going back to school is no different."
Hotze, an avid sports fan, quickly learned that dedication and purpose are the two most important keys to success in the online MBA program.
"It's not impossible, but you have to be dedicated to it because you have to put time into it to get something out of it," she said. "You have to understand what it means, what it's going to do for you and want to do it. Otherwise, don't start it.
"It is hard sometimes to pick up a book at night. I do a lot of reading in the parking lot of the school waiting for my kids to come out of activities. It always has to be on your mind, something you're working toward and focusing on."
Hotze knows her career will be even better with an MBA. Plus, her children are already looking forward to making the trip to Waco for graduation day. And Leah hopes to follow in her mom's footsteps and also attend Baylor.
"Trying to lead by example, I'll probably be there for graduation," she said. "This program was a way to do something that I should have done a long time ago but, quite frankly, never forced myself to make the time. I wish I would have. I would recommend it to anybody, no matter what level they are in their career."
Learn more about the Baylor online MBA program.
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