Alumni Update

Three tales of alumni, the stories ranging from a new book to Duke's classic rivalry to tennis pro Roger Federer
May 1, 2015


Greg Brandeau M.B.A. ’92 returned to Duke to talk about his book, Collective Genius

This past spring Greg Brandeau M.B.A. ’92, former chief technology officer at The Walt Disney Studios and the coauthor of a new book from Harvard Business Review Press called Collective Genius, returned to campus to talk to students at the Fuqua School of Business about leadership that has the power to transform companies. He calls it the “collective genius.”

“Everybody has some slice of genius,” he said. “You don’t know how it is going to express itself.”

And that’s why you need everyone to contribute, Brandeau said. Together, those diverse perspectives help create a stronger, more dynamic company.

But it’s not enough to have diverse thought. You need a leader who can bring out the best in employees so that they can contribute to the collective, Brandeau said.

In the book, Brandeau, along with three additional authors, including Harvard Business School professor of business administration Linda Hill, explores how companies such as eBay, Google, and Volkswagen have created an environment in which employees have the freedom to try new ideas and to fail without being criticized.

“You don’t get fired for making a mistake. The only failure you could have is if you didn’t experiment and you didn’t learn something.” In that kind of environment, innovation continues to replicate itself naturally, he said.

Brandeau told students that learning to work as a team and to respect everyone’s opinion is something he first learned at Duke when he was assigned to work on projects with an English major, an art history major, a former nurse, and a former engineer.

“It was transformative,” he said. “Everybody on that team contributed in their own way.”

Are you part of the collective genius? Tweet using #collectivegenius, and tell Brandeau how you are leading in a way that brings out the best in your colleagues.

-Christina Holder

 

Siblings Samantha Stach ’09 and Eric Stach ’14 finally make it to a Duke-UNC basketball game together

In her brother’s opinion, Samantha Stach ’09 should crown sibling Eric Stach ’14 “brother of the year.” That’s because when the younger Stach won two tickets to the February Duke vs. UNC men’s basketball game at Cameron Indoor Stadium via a DAA Twitter giveaway contest, he invited his sister—but not until after Samantha took to Twitter to appeal to her brother. Samantha had never been to a Duke-UNC game. Eric, who had been part of Tent #1 for four years as an undergraduate, won the pair of tickets from a random drawing of more than 3,000 entrants. Read their story as it unfolded on Twitter via Duke Today’s story, “A Tale of Two Tickets."

-Christina Holder

 

Chris McCormack ’13 is making a career for himself as a sport agent, representing tennis stars Roger Federer and Grigor Dimitrov.

During his time in Durham, Chris McCormack ’13 worked in the Duke sports marketing office, helping drum up sponsors and season-ticket packages for a once-struggling Blue Devil football program. Just two years out of college, he’s now doing some of the day-to-day business for tennis legend Roger Federer.

An agent with Cleveland-based Team8, McCormack works for Federer’s agent, Tony Godsick, and serves as the main point person for Grigor Dimitrov, a rising star on the professional tennis circuit who finished 2014 ranked eleventh in the world. The firm focuses on representing iconic figures in the sports world—three of Team8’s four current clients are tennis players—giving McCormack the opportunity to work with legends like Federer, the owner of seventeen career Grand Slam titles, as he learns the ins and outs of the business.

“You kind of pinch yourself every once in a while, because there are so many other kids that are young and in the sports industry and are my age, but they don’t necessarily have the same opportunities,” McCormack says.

McCormack always had the inside track to a career in talent representation, if he’d wanted it. His grandfather, Mark McCormack, founded IMG, the entertainment and talent representation powerhouse, in 1960. His father, Todd McCormack ’82, helped run IMG new media division, assisting athletes in creating personal websites during the dot-com boom in the late 1990s and working with events and host sites like Wimbledon and the All-England Club to develop digital strategies.

Working at a small firm like Team8 provides McCormack with opportunities right out of the gate that larger organizations aren’t able to match. Based in Cleveland, he travels around the world to major tennis tournaments, handling media and sponsor requests for Dimitrov. The top Bulgarian on the pro tour, Dimitrov resigned a sponsorship with Nike last August and added an endorsement deal with Rolex last October, both of which McCormack helped put together. Traveling with Federer—a champion with a squeakyclean image and numerous long-standing endorsement deals—requires even more legwork.

“Roger’s team has eight or nine people always traveling, and Grigor has at least four,” McCormack says. “People often see this job and say, ‘Oh, this guy is just out there running around to all these exotic locations; he’s got the luckiest job in the world.’ What they don’t see are all the phone calls and all the logistical nightmares that happen on a week-to-week basis.”

Federer and Dimitrov faced off in an exhibition at Madison Square Garden on March 10, a match Dimitrov won after dropping his three previous contests against Federer. As Dimitrov’s career begins to take off, McCormack will be along for the ride.

“The most exciting part of the job is you feel like these clients have almost become an extension of you. Their successes almost become your successes,” McCormack says. “When they win a big tournament, it’s almost like you’ve won a big tournament or that you’ve done something really well in your job.”

-Ryan Hoerger