Master’s Class of 2024
Note: Biographies were compiled in July 2023. Listings are in alphabetical order.
Rob Andrews is the Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Allen Austin, a leadership advisory and executive search firm. A former operating president with major convenience store and supermarket chains, Rob has built a successful consulting practice focused on building peak performance cultures, using tools he developed over decades of studying organizations that perform at the very top of their sectors.
A former top-performing operator, Rob is a strategist, visionary, and human capital leadership aficionado and lends his passion for facilitating and building high-performance teams to boards and CEOs worldwide. Rob is married with two adult daughters and enjoys continuous learning and golf.
“I believe the HDO experience will make my firm and me better at what we do, will allow me to put a fine point my decades long study, architecture, and be in a better position to influence global leaders to focus more on the human dimensions of organizations, and avoid the quantitative bias so prevalent in today’s business community. “
After a childhood dream of being an illustrator fizzled out—Yen Chang spent his early career in an extremely niche field of designing learning games for the US government and other clients, leveraging his MS in adult learning and general love of video games. Recently, he’s had stops plying his trade at Apple, Uber, and back to Apple again.
Living in the Bay Area for nearly a decade has made him soft to the Texas heat, so Yen spends plenty of time indoors these days. When the mood strikes, he’ll attempt to start an art project, finish one of the many books purchased, scout out a new restaurant, plan a trip, or more likely find a TV show to binge.
“More than anything, I want to learn more! The workplace is such a microcosm of society’s positive and negative aspects. And I want to develop the functional skills to better communicate ideas, navigate ambiguity, and influence in my current organization.”
Deborah Degner earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin and comes from a long line of Longhorns. Reflecting her love for change, she has worked in numerous industries. Common threads in her career include building support for initiatives and coalitions and managing teams in the communications and government/public relations fields. In 2016, she took a leap of faith and started an executive coaching and leadership development business. Her company, The Leadership Bridge, serves clients throughout the country and she specializes in team development, hard conversations, and trust building. Currently, the majority of her clients are in the Oil & Gas industry and faculty in higher education.
Deborah enjoys traveling, cooking, reading, and making fun memories with family and friends. Currently, her Goldendoodle Gus holds the record for most pictures on her phone.
“I hope to gain research-based knowledge and information about the impact of employees on company success. I look forward to learning from a wide variety of academic leaders and finding ways to apply their expertise to support my clients. I am thrilled to get to know my cohort and look forward to developing lasting friendships and support for our collective goals and interests.”
Julianna Gonzaba earned an undergraduate degree in government from the University of Texas at Austin. Starting her career in the Texas Legislature, she served as a Chief of Staff in the Texas House of Representatives and later worked on local and statewide political campaigns. Her current work is in the nonprofit sector, where she has helped to raise millions of dollars for organizations serving veterans and small business owners. In her free time, she enjoys tennis, going to the movies, and spending time with her family in San Antonio.
“The whole playbook for nonprofit fundraising needs to be rewritten, and while I have my ideas on how that should be accomplished, I recognize that I need to upskill to be able to drill down to the root of the issue. Through the HDO program, my hope is to build up my skills in leadership, team building, and strategic planning to bring lasting change to nonprofit fundraising. I also want to be able to lead in a way that helps others build their own sense of purpose and respond to organizational challenges with innovation and new ideas.”
Heather Hernandez is an innovative technologist with over 16 years of experience in the financial services industry. After completing an undergraduate degree in computer science with a mathematics minor from the University of Texas at San Antonio, she has continuously pursued her passion for disruptive technologies. She has worked closely with industry leaders in the Machine Learning and Generative AI space to develop cutting-edge solutions. Heather is a multi-patented inventor, and her work has been featured in publications like the New York Times and Fortune. She is a co-founder of the Nexus employee resource group at USAA and is a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.
Heather is a former food blogger who enjoys traveling with her husband, taking their corgi for walks, and hearing updates from their daughter at Rice University.
“I am excited to learn from HDO how to better understand people, teams, and organizations. I want to reignite my passion for creating diverse and inclusive spaces and learn how to leverage psychology, history, philosophy, and other disciplines to make a positive impact. I am eager to share my knowledge and insights with others so that we can challenge our assumptions and open our minds to new possibilities.”
Jose Lazala earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in business administration from the University of Texas at Arlington. A veteran of the United States Army he has been doing Contract Administration for the past 8 years.
During his free time, he enjoys traveling the world, BBQing with friends, listening to music, participating in community service, and attending/watching sporting events.
“My goals entering the HDO program are to grow as a leader on my team and in my community. I am excited for the opportunity to embrace a new challenge in my life and to soak up all the knowledge from the faculty and cohort in the program. I am looking forward to acquiring a deeper understanding of the human perspective of an organization to be a bigger asset in providing solutions in my organization.”
Mercedes Perry has consistently demonstrated a commitment to public service and social justice throughout her career in the non-profit industry and extracurricular involvement that includes political activism, social service advocacy, parent and family engagement and advocacy, and community volunteerism.
Perry has a successful history of using her knowledge, skills, and abilities to develop education programs and workshops, manage non-profit community engagement strategies, providing facilitation of group conversations and coalitions on a range of topics relating to race, gender, self-identity and policy, and facilitating strategic planning processes.
She has worked with organizations such as the Round Rock Black Parents, MEASURE, Austin Public Health, Diversity Awareness Wellness in Action and Full Humanity Consulting.
“People seem to have a high level of cognitive dissonance when considering our role in building the reality around us. Systems have been humanized while I watch people get dehumanized by the very systems that we have created. We cannot fix what we do not acknowledge is broken, so first we must “break” the way we think about organizations. I hope that participating in this program will create the space to narrow my lens and truly identify a way to think critically about what this process of “breaking” looks like practically and measurably.”
Raul Resendez began his State Farm Insurance career as a “scratch” new market agent in Mission, Texas in 2006 and now currently owns several agencies in the Rio Grande Valley.
Before joining State Farm, he had a 15-year career with the HEB Grocery Company. He was recruited by HEB as a Management Trainee right out of college, rising through the ranks into senior leadership positions concluding with Director of Operations Southwest Region.
Raul considers himself a lifelong student citing education as an instrumental part of his career path. He earned an undergraduate degree in management and holds master’s degrees in interdisciplinary studies, business administration, and public affairs.
“As an entrepreneur, I hope to continue working to identify problems and solutions to new experiences and unforeseen outcomes. I want to continue to gain a variety of soft skills which will help me develop key leadership and teamwork traits in our changing business climate. Working on providing my organization with innovative solutions to help enhance our services and improve resource modeling in a more efficient way. Improving my understanding of how a particular action is completed, and working on the theory which is the motivation for that practice is something I hope to gain.”