Rather than just spout out a bunch of rhetoric about statistics and impressive data around the Duke network (which I am sure are staggering and inspiring and all that jazz), I’ll just spell it out for you with real-life interactions I’ve had over the last few years.
Most immediately, upon joining the Weekend Executive MBA (WEMBA) program I added my classmates, 90 new, high-end contacts to my personal network. Like 14 year-olds, we virally added our whole class to each of our LinkedIn accounts once we survived the first weeks of team building exercises (which was amazing, by the way).
About three months into the program I was receiving emails via LinkedIn, recruiters and other sources with job inquiries and various opportunities about every other day, which was not the commonplace prior to adding Duke to my profile. One of those emails was from a senior recruiter at MetLife for a position which was perfectly aligned to my skillset. Long story short, I accepted a global director position with their Enterprise Infrastructure and Architecture team in Raleigh a few months later. After I was onboarded, I asked the recruiter how he found me and he replied, “I was searching LinkedIn using collaboration key words and the term Duke.”
About midway through the program I decided to open a cheese shop (don’t ask), and like usual I pitched it around the dinner table with my WEMBA cohort (talk about a real world shark tank!). During that pitch, one of my classmates Kalipha (from Gambia) said that his best friend Dawda (also from Gambia) wanted to open a cheese shop. Despite my surprise at the Gambian ‘fromagepreneurial’ spirit, Dawda and I would press on and he became the general manager of my shop in North Raleigh: Six Forks Cheese. By the way I sold it for a nice profit nine months later because I quickly realized I was neither a cheesemonger nor willing to do business in the retail industry!
Before I joined Duke I attended a bunch of the lunch networking sessions to get a feel for the type of people who went to, and wanted to go to, Fuqua. During one of those sessions at An in Cary, NC, I met Robert who was an alumnus that owned his own consulting business. Fast-forward 12 months and Robert and I were sitting in one of the conference rooms at Duke while he and his board pitched an investment firm concept designed to buy small, profitable companies and take them to the next level. Lo and behold, I owned one of those businesses named SlatePlate, and wouldn’t you know it, four months later they purchased it as their first portfolio acquisition. I made a nice profit there too, and they are doing great with the company well over a year later.
Near the end of my classes I realized I had sold all of my investment properties and my companies and that I was getting the entrepreneurial bug for something new. At a Fuqua Friday cocktail hour I was introduced to Howie Rhee who runs the Fuqua Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. He spouted out innumerous ways to get reconnected, two of which I took action on: I became a mentor in the Venture Mentoring Service at the Council for Entrepreneurial Development and a Groundwork Labs ‘guru.’ From there I have come in contact with another completely different network of entrepreneurial-minded people by way of the Duke network!
Also towards the end of the program I was called up by a past CEO of mine who needed my “specific skillset” in Charlotte and knew I was the right guy for the job. Before I took the position, I reached out to two Duke alumni at the new company to get their unbiased insight. I also reached out to Fuqua’s Career Management Center (link) and worked with Malcolm to make sure taking a jump that soon after accepting my previous director role wasn’t corporate suicide. Long of the short, when a CEO of a $2 billion company calls you and asks for you to come help him, offers an amazing relocation and salary package, and a solid title and career advancement…well the feedback you get is pretty unanimous. I took the senior director of Enterprise Architecture role at Avintiv (a Blackstone Company) and that’s where I currently hang my hat.
Lastly, I enjoy meeting prospective students and recently I had coffee with one from Peru. Coincidentally, I have had this hair-brained idea that I want to sell non-profit coffee plots in Latin America where local fair-trade farmers grow coffee on your plat, harvest it, package it, and send it back to the States for you (sorry for the pitch…can’t help it). Anyway, I didn’t know anyone in Latin America who could help, but Favio sure did. Additionally, we took the conversation all over the place and we ended up becoming the U.S.-based cartel (jokingly) for some crazy healing root named Maca out of Peru.
Moral of the story: the network works for you, and sometimes even before it is officially your network…and if you want a coffee plot or some Maca root, you know who to contact!