“Take out a piece of paper and write the word ‘problem’ on it,” Joyce Durst told MBA students crowded around the tables in Mays’ Cocanougher Special Events Center. “As I go through these slides, tell me what problems you see.”

Durst recounted the story of Infraworks, a firm that develops, markets and sells digital file security systems. She explained the start-up company’s strategy was much like that of others in the late 1990s. Venture capitalists couldn’t throw enough money at Infraworks, although the firm’s product and pricing strategies weren’t efficient or effective, Durst explained.

When Durst took over as president and chief executive officer in 2001, the firm was on the verge of bankruptcy. She drew upon her 18 years of software experience from BMC Software and IBM to turn the company around.

Through her experience at Infraworks, Durst said she learned how to ask the tough questions. She encouraged Mays students to do the same.

“As you look at the companies you want to work for, whether big or small, you need to ask the due-diligence questions,” said Durst, who graduated from Texas A&M in 1984 with a BS in computer science. “Make sure you talk to people that work at the company and ask about the management team, corporate culture and financials.”

And in the current era of mismanagement, Durst advised the students to seek companies that value integrity because “life’s too short to work for people you don’t respect.”