Title: senior manager of global development for Brinker International
Hometown: New Orleans
Now resides in: Dallas
Degree: 2000, B.S., Management, B.A., Spanish
How I got to Tech: I have a long history of Tech graduates in my family. I liked that the University had a business law curriculum; I also have a lot of family still in Ruston, so it felt like I was living away from home.
After graduating: I had always planned on going to law school. But, the week before I graduated, my uncle said, ‘Why don't you send me your resumé, just to see if there's anything out there?' That was on a Wednesday. On Thursday, I got a phone call from KPMG consulting. They flew me to Dallas and I interviewed on Friday. On Monday, I ran into the FedEx carrier. In one hand, he held my job offer from KPMG; in the other, he had my acceptance letter from Louisiana State University Law School. I decided to see what the corporate world was like.
What I do now: I'm the senior manager of global development for Brinker International. I oversee development in Europe, Africa and the Middle East for the Chili's, Macaroni Grill, On the Border and Maggiano's restaurant brands.
How I became interested in the restaurant industry: It all started in Ruston. I was a kitchen manager at Ponchatoulas. (I started as a cook and worked my way up.) The owners gave me a lot of freedom to implement what I was learning in the College of Business. As small as Ponchatoulas was, there are many things that I've been able to translate into my job at Brinker.
An average workday: I wake up at 4 a.m. and start answering e-mails, because my region is six hours ahead of the central time zone. I'm overseas for more than 30 percent of my time. Recently, I went to Dubai for an On the Border opening; this is our second restaurant in the Middle East.
The best part of my job: For me, it's learning about different cultures and different languages. I speak Spanish and English fluently. Also, I'm a Japanese American and speak some Japanese. Right now, I'm learning Arabic.
What people are usually surprised to learn about my job: Our brands are widespread across the world. We are in 24 countries. Also, people are surprised when they find out that I'm 29.
Advice to someone who wants to enter my field: Try to learn as much as you can and get a breadth of knowledge.
My toughest professional challenge: Being laid off from Brinker, and then re-hired with a promotion three weeks later. About 129 of us were let go on the same day. I've never been let go, fired or downsized in my life. My network of friends and colleagues helped me get through that challenge. We stayed in touch constantly and shared job leads.
Memories of Tech: All the homecoming games and all the home football games.
I knew I was grown up when: I owned my first home - and I had to buy a ladder and a tool chest.
If I weren't a brand strategist, I'd probably be: Operating my own restaurants. I love this business.
If I've learned one thing in life, it is: Everybody is different, but that's what makes us special.