Alumni Spotlight – Derrick Thompson SVMP ’02

An alumnus of the Class of 2002, Derrick Thompson has been building a phenomenal reputation at IBM for a decade. He shares valuable lessons on success, continuous learning and dreaming big.


Alumni Beat: What is your current role at IBM and what do you do in this capacity?


In my current role at IBM, I lead marketing and business development for cloud computing. There is a lot of buzz around cloud computing in the marketplace and we know that it can significantly reduce IT costs and complexity. Part of the mission of our group is to help deliver that message and the capabilities therein through and with our robust portfolio of business partners.


AB: What do you remember as the highlights of SVMP?


DT: First, the opportunity to interact with peers from so many different walks of life and the relationships that were fostered during that time. Secondly, the unique access to such renowned faculty and the genuine interest shown on all occasions. This was particularly encouraging, especially given the schedule that most endured. “Time” is always being positioned as such a valuable asset and to give it willingly speaks volumes of one’s character.


AB: How have you applied the valuable lessons from your SVMP experience into your professional and personal life?


DT: SVMP reinforced two very simple yet important lessons that I continue to draw upon today. They are to dream big, but execute bigger and work hard, but work smart. In my opinion, dreaming big is less about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and more about maximizing the unique experiences along the way. Every big dream can be systemically broken down into small, incremental but important achievements that shape and mold you for the next step. It’s probably fair to say that everyone has been encouraged to work hard and work smart but very few people are able to put it to practice when it’s needed the most.


AB: What advice can you share with alumni who would like to follow a similar path as yours?


DT: From a professional standpoint, I would suggest to continuously understand not only one’s role and how it fits into the larger scope of an organization, but how the organization fits in the world economy. At my company, I have been able to witness and participate in perhaps one of the most phenomenal shifts in the industry, certainly the economy and its subsequent impact on the world. Staying current and understanding the major trends in business, even if at a high level, can help you maintain your credibility and ensure you are aligned with initiatives that make an impact.


Overall I would say to know your definition of success. There are several books, political leaders and business giants who will try to define this for you but it is critical to develop this definition for yourself and work toward it with unmatched passion. The ability to impress others has always been an attractive lure. Master the ability to constantly astonish yourself and others will notice.


AB: Now that you have benefited from SVMP, graduate school and years of work experience, what are some of the most important things you have learned about yourself, and what are your dreams for the future?


DT: A lot of what I’ve shared is certainly a reflection of all the things that I have learned but I will expand upon two items in particular as they relate directly to me. One is how I allot my time. I’ve learned that it is very important to make time for those that you care about the most and to do the things that you care the most about. As much as we try to quantify time and place tangible values to it, the true value and impact in the long run is immeasurable.


I’ve also learned how important it is to listen and appreciate that you can learn something from everyone. My experiences have taught me that it is important to listen to understand, rather than listening to respond. People don’t realize how often they can cheat themselves out of extraordinary learning opportunities by failing to listen to and humbly acknowledge resources that seem insignificant.


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