The 2019 Outstanding Young Texas Exes Winners on Their Road to Success

Rush Bartlett, BS ’08, Life Member

Rush Bartlett is an entrepreneur and inventor with 18 patents to his name. He works in health care, serving as global vice president for innovation for Lansinoh Laboratories and associate director of corporate education at Stanford University’s Byers Center for Biodesign—where he did his post-doctoral fellowship after receiving his PhD from Purdue. During and after his post-doc, he founded numerous medical technology companies, including Awair Inc. and Vynca Health, and co-created Primo Lacto, a device that aids mothers in feeding premature infants. He was a saxophone player in the Longhorn Band and has played at every Alumni Band game since graduation.

On learning from failure:
[Starting my first company] was the best education I could ask for. Nothing can prepare you for entrepreneurship besides actually doing it: license agreements, pitching investors, knowing what terms mean. All that education was invaluable. It was demoralizing—and I lost time and money—but it was very humbling, because if you don’t put in careful diligence, you go for the first shiny object you see and miss the point entirely.

On how he defines success:
People look at entrepreneurs and say, “You had a successful company, you must be extremely rich.” There are financial rewards, but also a lot of pain and heartache. We blew through all our savings so I could work for free for a year while raising money. It takes years of that kind of suffering before you become a “success.” If I’m going to do this, it can’t be because of the money. My purpose is to create things that don’t exist. There’s no better application to do that than in health care: making someone’s life easier, making somebody’s life possible.

On finding your people:
I love the band. The Longhorn Band is an amazing family. Traveling to Normandy [in 2015] was a humbling and sobering experience; it was wonderful to be there to honor the men and women who fought and died. We meet every year on campus and perform at a game and we tell each other the same inside jokes we’ve been telling for the last 15, or in some cases, 50 years.

Kevin Curry, BBA, BA ’05, Life Member

With more than one million Instagram followers, Kevin Curry is a certified nutrition and wellness influencer. The founder of Fit Men Cook, an online community that promotes healthy living for men and women, he has appeared on Live! With Kelly and Ryan and TODAY and has been featured in Forbes and Men’s Health. His book, Fit Men Cook: 100 Meal Prep Recipes for Men and Women, shot to the top of Amazon’s fitness category when it was published in December 2018.

On keeping an open mind:
I wanted to be an architect when I was really young. I also wanted to make people laugh—I didn’t want to be a stand-up, but I’d watch America’s Funniest Home Videos and think, Man, if I could do one thing in the world it would be pranking people. Don’t go in [to college] with a set amount of things [to do]. You’re making an incredible investment, and the best investment you can make is in yourself, and being as open as possible to discovering a new passion. Your end goal may not be what you study in undergrad. And that’s OK.

On staying humble:
Whenever I hear a comment back from somebody across the world: “I’m in Denmark and it’s dinnertime here, this was so amazing,” or, “I’ve been struggling with my weight, I’ve been doing your recipes for the last two months, and I’m down 15 pounds,” it grounds me. It reminds me that these are real people, just like me, trying to figure out healthy living.

On family:
When I received the President’s Leadership Award my senior year, my parents weren’t able to come to the ceremony. It was a really hard time for me. I had a work-study at the multicultural information center. I’m by myself on the very last row during the ceremony watching students and their families take photos. I feel a nudge on my side—my entire office was there. They said, “Move over, we’re your family.” It reminded me of what I love about Texas: family.

Renee Rodriguez-Betancourt, JD ’05, Life Member

A native of the Rio Grande Valley, Renee Rodriguez-Betancourt is the 449th District Court Judge of Hidalgo County, which specializes in the processing of cases for juveniles aged 10–16. She also serves on two committees for the National Council of Juvenile Family Court Judges and was recently appointed to the 2019 Supreme Court of Texas Children’s Commission Dual Task Force. The youngest district judge in the Texas Judicial Branch when she was elected, she previously spent a decade practicing law, where she handled state and federal cases.

On finding her passion:
I became interested in law because of the injustices my family endured as migrant farm workers. I knew it was a way I could help individuals like my parents.

On working in juvenile court:
Becoming a mother changes your life. Prior to taking the bench, I represented several school districts near Hidalgo County. I saw a lot of different issues that the schools dealt with on a daily basis. When you represent a school district, you handle contracts, employment, special education issues, and that sparked my interest: How can we make any system with children better? I had been practicing for 10 years, so I thought, This is a great opportunity for me to help others and specifically children. It has been an amazing opportunity to talk to the community about what I see in court and try to make some changes.

On work-life balance:
I have an extremely supportive, educated, and patient husband. He is by my side balancing a schedule with three active little girls, plus a social calendar and his work. [Then there are] grandparents, babysitters … the school director, when I was running for office, would bring them home sometimes. It takes a village.

April Underwood, BBA ’01, Life Member

In 2019, April Underwood stepped away from her chief product officer role at Slack—a company that grew from 150 to 1,500 employees during her almost four years there—to focus on #Angels, an angel investing (providing capital for equity in start-ups) group she co-founded. Previously, Underwood spent more than five years at Twitter, where she held positions like director of business development and director of product. In the last year, her focus has shifted from operational roles as an executive at established companies to advisory roles with startups.

On bridging the wage gap for women:
I encourage women to rely upon the growing body of resources. Some of the work that we’ve been doing is arming more people with both the information about how [compensation] works, and emboldening people to be more open and candid and to ask their peers. I make sure to ask a handful of people what they’re getting paid or what they believe the right market rate is. The most important thing is to get past the fact that sometimes compensation can be uncomfortable for people to talk about.

On finding what fits:
It’s not about finding one specific setup or one specific job. What kind of experiences do you want to have if you have a limited number of hours on the planet? How can you make sure that you allocate them in the right way if you look over the course of years or decades or a lifetime?

On how she defines success:
As I’ve come into more senior roles in my career, I am motivated by the opportunity to create opportunities for other people: bringing people onto my team, and giving them the opportunity to do things they’ve never done before. It’s not just that they get to do interesting work, but also it enables them to provide for their families in a meaningful way, or maybe take risks in their career in the future, like deciding to start a company or deciding to invest in other companies.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Photograph by Matt Wright-Steel.

The OYTEX award recognizes Texas Exes age 39 and younger who have made significant achievements in their careers and service to the university.

 
 
 

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