The Tufts Entrepreneurial Leadership Program provides its students with unique opportunities to study under and meet with exemplary businessmen and women, who serve as invaluable mentors for learning. Jack Derby, who teaches the ELS Sales and Marketing class (ELS 105), feels as though real-life work situations coupled with teaching from his own business experience are of value to his students.
Asked to teach at Tufts five years ago Derby says he looks forward to each semester with the students. He has made it a personal goal to "introduce students to real-life business situations," through the venue of entrepreneurial start-ups that are clients of his company, Derby Management. Currently, Derby management is involved with a number of exciting new startups, and is also working closely with the Boston Police Department in the development of their strategic three-year plan.
After completing his undergraduate degree at Boston College, Derby went on to do some graduate work at the University at Chicago. He found a rich liberal arts education at B.C., and earned majors in Biology and English. He left "prepared for anything", and sees this same well-rounded education reflected at Tufts. However, Derby remembers reflecting on the general expectation of grad school after college: "I remember thinking, what else is there in life, and what should I be doing with it?" He was drawn to the Peace Corps.
The Corps had always been alluring to him. Upon joining, he was assigned to Northern Tanzania, Africa. He taught language at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro in a secondary school, and it was an experience that he claims, "Totally changed my life. Working with the people there and in that foreign environment really changed how I thought about school and work." Derby left a middle class upbringing and was thrust into different environment that required him to mature quickly. After spending 2 ½ years in Africa, Derby returned to the U.S. with a strong desire to start work and earn money.
Upon his return, Derby started working for Honeywell Computer Systems, then later at Becton Dickson Medical Systems, where he grew as a business manager. As President of a Division there, he leveraged a buyout to achieve the position of CEO in the resulting company, Datamedix, which he sold four years later to Litton Industries. From this "first half" of his career, Professor Derby emphasizes that entrepreneurial students should pursue positions in bigger companies. As he found out himself, people are better trained in corporate situations, in which you can learn critical skills early in your career then you can apply these when it comes to creating your own startup.
In his second entrepreneurial "half" of his career, Professor Derby left the position of President at CB Sports, and returned to Boston to start his current Company, Derby Management. For the last 19 years, he and his company have specialized in working with emerging technology companies, venture capital-backed startups and smaller companies, most of which are entrepreneurial-born.
Derby applies his educational and professional experience to his classes at Tufts, bringing real-life business experience into the classroom. Each semester, Derby separates his class into teams, and employs them with real companies to assist in marketing deliverables, which come to fruition after a semester-long project. The intention of the class is to merge academics with experience, and Tufts has given Derby an open platform to experiment with this teaching tactic. He comments on the challenging and interesting dynamic that the Tufts students provide him in his class, and how he learns each semester, as well: "When I first started this course, I felt that although I was an expert in the world of sales, I was only a "good" marketer. Now, through the Tufts experience, I’ve become a much better marketer and am continuing to learn more about the ever-changing, new rules of marketing used today."