Why you need to Teach, Why I need to Learn...and Sales

Posted by Jack Derby, Head Coach on Tue, Sep 16, 2014

And so, the rhythm of the fall has begun....

In addition to my Day Job, which continues to be very exciting, engaging and deliciously complex, and in addition to the privilege I have as serving as Chairman of Common Angels, my emotional touch point of value continues to be teaching at MIT and Tufts.  Now, fully back in the flow, with half day classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, the excitement builds as we move through the next 12 weeks.

I've been teaching at MIT, where I'm a lecturer, for 17 years now, and at Tufts, where I'm a professor, for 7.  A lot of people me a couple of questions:

  • Why do you teach?
  • What's it like?

sales learning First, I was never "trained" as a teacher.  Not at BC as an undergrad, not at Chicago as a graduate student.  The only "training" in teaching that I ever had was with the Peace Corps in a three month, total immersion, 18-hour-a-day, boot camp-like experience before we were shipped out.  As usual with the governnent, the preparation of student teaching in inner-city schools in Syracuse in the dead of winter, while living in campus housing, didn't quite translate that well to living in northern Tanzania near the Serengeti with daily temps at 100 plus.

But I loved the experience.  To this day, I remember many of my students' names and continue to communicate with some.  And, last year, I received a call from the State Department because one of my ex-students is now the Minister of Defense of Tanzania and wanted to meet with me when he came to Washington.  

Why do I teach, and why should you consider doing the same?

  1. I teach because I'm scared
I teach business planning at MIT and Marketing at Tufts.  Business planning is easy for me.  It's the way I think.  It's the way I'm wired.  I'm a planning kind of guy, and I've done this stuff my entire life at Honeywell, at Becton Dickinson and then at Litton Industries.  Big time planning, little company planning. It's in my DNA, and it's just what I do.
Marketing, not so much.  I think I'm really good at Sales.  I also know that I used to suck at Marketing, and I was scared of being left behind, when the worlds of Marketing and Sales collided, about six or five years ago, and the landscape dramatically changed.  I knew from our hundreds of clients that there was a fundamental shift occurring in the basic foundation of Sales and Marketing, but I wasn't totally sure exactly what it was.  What I did know is that I was not going to be left behind with my nose pressed against the glass looking in and wishing that I was with "the cool kids", who knew all about that "new and improved" marketing stuff.
And so, when I was asked to teach Marketing at Tufts, I said "yes" knowing well that Sales was my real game, and that I would need to run a ten minute marketing mile every semester just to keep up.  But it worked...
Over the past seven years at Tufts, and now also teaching marketing at MIT, I find that....
  • I'm more than comfortable in the new world order of marketing
  • I study harder in the field, than I ever have for anything
  • I constantly devour marketing blogs, articles, and books
  • I learn from the greats like Mike Volpe at Hubspot and David Scott
  • I now think about marketing in pretty much everything that I do.
...And all because I made a decision to take some of my time, which, like you, I never have enough of, and said "Why not?"  And, then I realized that...
  • I need to learn a lot more 
  • I need to make sure that I stay on the top of my game
  • Actually, I learned that I needed to play an entirely new game
  • I need to be around younger people
  • I need to learn more about _________ 
I've already filled in the blank above for the balance of this year at work, and I'm starting to work on what it will be for next year both at the firm and at school.  How about you?   How would you fill in the blank for 2015?
2.  I teach for the students 
I guess that's obvious, but for me, the experience goes far beyond the classroom.  Over 125 of my alums now work for my various customers, and every week, I'm contacted by a couple of my other alums looking for advice or connections.  I also know that I, and my business associates that I am constantly asking for their time, have a responsbility to connect these bright, eager, but inexperienced interns and graduates to the business world. 
So, that's why I teach.  Ain't for the money, although there is that.  It's for me, and it's for the students.  My question for you to consider over the next couple of weeks is whether teaching at a university might be for you?  My experience is that you've probably thought about doing it at some time in your life.  So, why not now?
  • You obviously have important skills. 
  • It does take a fair amount of prep time outside the classroom
  • There is a significant need on campus for your "real-life" experience  
At anytime, if you want to talk about how you might start in the process, just send me an email, and we can set up a call to talk. 
What started me thinking about this was a recent HBR article on the subject of why the best leaders are insatiable learners.    Take a look, and then ask yourself how you're going to become The Best Leader at your company.
I would suggest that the answer to that question is that you first plan on becoming the best student.
Good Selling...and Good Planning! 

Jack Derby 

Head Coach  

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