Alumnus shares insight to success

by Emily Mosier

“We’re giantkillers,” said Derek Ellington to a room packed with business students. “That’s what Trojans do. We impact. We lead. We influence, and that’s the opportunity in front of you today.”

It was 9:30 a.m. on a Thursday, and a lecture room inside John Robert Lewis Hall was full of students. They listened as an accomplished Troy alumnus spoke about achieving success. 

Derek Ellington is the Executive Vice President and Head of Small Business Banking at Wells Fargo. While at Troy, he majored in computer science and business administration, was an SGA senator, and played linebacker for the Troy Trojans football team from 1988-1992.

“I crave depth and inspiration, and I left inspired and moved by Mr. Ellington’s speech,” said Avery King, a sophomore business major from Chelsea, Alabama. “The three keys of success he shared inspired me to come up with three of my own keys to success.”

Ellington presented a seminar about fearless leadership, leaving attendees with three keys to succeeding in a global workforce: commit to being a lifelong learner of your industry craft; master skills that make you valuable as a team member but are also transferable to other divisions in your field; and develop a personal brand.

He used these three points to discuss things such as a digital footprint, why it’s important to be kind, the importance of being prepared, and making sure your skills are known and seen.

“I want every person here to understand they have the ability to compete effectively globally,” Ellington said.

The seminar was interactive from the beginning. He started by having everyone in the room who was an SGA member, a part of Greek life, a student athlete, or a member of any campus organization, to stand up. 

“You’re looking in the mirror,” Ellington said, as nearly every student rose. “You are me just a few years ago.” 

Throughout the presentation, Ellington asked questions to the audience, and the first student to answer would receive prizes such as a Wells Fargo tumbler or a notebook.

The first student to answer a question was Samantha Ballard, a senior human resources major from Langford, Massachusetts. Ballard was in the Navy for 20 years before starting her Troy journey. She said her nontraditional background is what made Ellington’s words resonate with her.

“Absolutely everything, especially what he said about life-long learning, really hit home,” Ballard said. “Everything’s always going to be competitive, but you have to keep going.” 

During a question and answer session, a student asked Ellington if he thought he had achieved his definition of success. Ellington said no.

“There is still gas in this tank,” Ellington said. “There are still things I think are possible, still goals to achieve, both professionally and personally.”

The entirety of Ellington’s seminar can be found on the Sorrell College’s YouTube page.

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