Alumni Spotlight: Mike Higuera '04
Rice University ECE graduates have been known to make significant contributions in a variety of fields, redefining the limits of what it means to be an electrical or computer engineer. We invite you to get to know our community and read about fellow Owls who share the Rice experience and can offer a viewpoint into the multitude of career options one can pursue “beyond the hedges,” be it industry, academia, non profit or startups.
|| Name: Mike Higuera ‘04
Company: Rational Systems
Industry: Oil and Gas
Hometown: Ft. Worth, TX
Tell us about yourself.
I graduated from Rice in 2004. The year after I graduated I worked as a sub-contractor for a small engineering firm, co-designing control systems for custom factory automation equipment. Very small but that was fun. I moved to Houston for family reasons and am now with a company called Rational Systems. It’s a big data company in oil and gas. I started out as an analyst and am now a developer.
Tell us about Rational Systems.
It’s everything that an energy trader would want to know – production data coming out of the ground, sliced and diced by who is drilling and producing what and where, which formations and what states, where and how are they drilling as well as utilization on the big pipelines, weather, market prices…there are different pieces of that. We are trying to take what is currently out there a step further, by gathering information, making it presentable, useful and interactive. We are close to going live. When I was hired there were seven employees, we have now grown to 25.
What has been most rewarding about your career?
I would say I’ve been able to really see the direct impact of my work, and I think a large part of that is because of the size and nature of the company I’ve been working for. I am trusted with what I do – I am given a broad assignment and run with that and get to see the fruit of my work.
What aspects of Rice helped you to determine what field you wanted to work in?
Rice doesn’t have a scripted curriculum per-se, the answers aren’t always obvious. Especially in my experience–things were not black and white, and were very theoretical and conceptual more than anything. I feel like that cultivated a mindset of wanting to, and being able to, figure things out on my own. It cultivated a drive to be entrepreneurial and creative instead of taking a laundry list of work and do that laundry list of work, and that’s all that work is. The theoretical part of Rice was challenging – I didn’t always understand what I was doing, I would advise students to ask the right questions to define problems and build their own adventure.
How did you feel the Rice community helped guide you towards what you do now?
My last year at Rice – I was a part of the trio that founded the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) chapter at Rice – adjunct faculty member Pat Moore was a mentor me and continued to be a mentor to me post-Rice. I still keep in touch with him to this day. He guided me as to what it means to participate in a corporate environment. He helped me get a real understanding of how businesses work and how certain endeavors work even beyond a business.
Tell us about your experience with EWB.
Engineers Without Borders – that really shaped my career. The EWB opportunity arose when I was starting to think about what to do after graduation. This was in 2003, my junior year. I didn’t want to go and build the next widget to make comfortable people more comfortable. The first trip the three of us took was to a rural village in Mali in Africa – some of the poorest people in the world struggling to have water. It gave me a perspective of why I was out there in the market doing what I was doing. After graduating I tried to start a non-profit to do something similar to EWB and Pat Moore was part of that process too. The timing wasn’t right. I recognize now that even though I’m not out there doing the things that EWB did, I still have opportunities to help support other organizations and similar efforts. It’s part of my DNA.
What are some Rice memories that really stand out?
Blue hair, beer bike. I was part of the first class that entered Martel, that was fun and new and exciting. And I was really heavily involved with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I did play soccer for the Martel intramural team. We had a lot of spirit.
What advice do you have for current Rice students?
Get involved in big projects – whatever that is. Not necessarily academic but get involved in projects that take a year, where you can be part of the entire process from the blank sheet of paper to the end result. That is actually something at Rational that we kind of hire people for – we look for people that can handle that. Those are the kind of people that can work fairly autonomously and that is a really big plus in our company culture. Someone who can take really high-level instruction and a general idea, then flesh it out, take ownership of it and make it happen. Big projects really develop initiative, drive and that ownership aspect we look for.
We welcome suggestions of alumni to profile. Please email name, class year and a brief introduction to the individual to Jennifer Hunter or call her at (713) 348-4212.