MBA Student Takes On Grueling Competition Along French Shore

Published on January 3, 2011

Bauer MBA Represents North American Branch of GDF Suez
In Annual Outdoor Adventure Challenge

Weekend bike rides in Bear Creek and Memorial Park are a favorite for MBA Jacob Munoz.

A six-year Navy veteran, Jacob Munoz (’08) thought his days of running drills on sandy beaches were over when he landed a position as risk analyst at international power company GDF Suez while working on his MBA at the University of Houston Bauer College of Business.

That is, until he stepped up to compete in his company’s annual outdoor adventure challenge, which sent him to Atlantic Coast of France to do just that.

“The GDF Suez Raid is no ordinary company competition,” Munoz said. “To even be considered to compete, you have to submit an athletic résumé of sorts that shows you can handle the physical demands.”

For Munoz, who runs and bikes for exercise whenever he gets the chance, deciding to go after a spot on the GDF Suez North American team was a no brainer. “I’ve competed in triathlons and other obstacle races, but it’s not often you get the chance to compete in a multiple-day event of this magnitude.”

The race revolves around orienteering, a competitive form of land navigation where a participant must get through unfamiliar terrain with only a map and a compass.

To put it in perspective, imagine TV’s reality show “The Amazing Race,” where groups of players compete in challenges while racing against each other to get to a final destination.

“In this case though, there were 145 teams, with six employees each, from GDF Suez branches around the world. Over twenty countries were represented overall,” Munoz said.

Throw in the athletic intensity of the World Games and play it out on the moody beaches and mountain-scapes of South Atlantic France, and you have the GDF Suez Raid.

“It was an honor just to win the spot to compete. I’ve never done anything like it,” he said.

The race was a three-day long event that involved biking, canoeing and running through a region of France known as the Cote d’Argent, or Silver Coast. Munoz competed with the only North American team, The New World Warriors, an assemblage of athletes from Houston, Toronto, Hartford and Tampico, Mexico.

According to Munoz, the team aspect was a critical component of the group’s success. “Your team members should push you harder to do what you need to do. You get to know your team members’ strengths and weaknesses and use that to your advantage as you plan your strategy for the day.”

If his days touring Europe and the Middle East on the USS Wasp weren’t enough, Munoz knows a bit about teamwork from his experiences as a student at UH Bauer College – first as an undergraduate in the Global Energy Management program and now as an MBA candidate, pursuing graduate certificates in energy investment and entrepreneurship.

The challenge reinforced foundational principles Munoz tries to apply in his daily life, “Whether it’s work, school or working out, task commitment and dedication to what you are doing is important.”

For the last mile of the race, Munoz and his teammates sprinted on the beach, 30-pound mountain bikes in tow with the wind at their faces after a day spent running, canoeing and biking in the Great Pyrenees.

“At the end, we celebrated. There were bands and local food and wine, and we got to be friendly with co-workers from other countries we had been competing with the previous days,” Munoz said.

“It’s a great feeling of accomplishment,” he continued, “to be able to finish something like that and share the success with a team.”

By Lori Reichardt

Posted Under: Graduate

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