alum-derrick-strandAlumnus Gives Back by Providing Job Training 

Derrick Strand believes in giving back to NIU by using "machete methods" to teach what really matters on the job.

After spending years in management consulting for companies, such as Deloitte and Capital One, Derrick Strand branched out on his own and now uses "machete methods" to help professionals think differently so they can focus on what really matters.

“My true passion is helping people define success on their own terms and giving them permission to go for it,” said Strand, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accountancy in 1990 from Northern Illinois University.

Five years ago, he founded Machete Methods, a training and advisory firm that helps companies, universities and organizations think differently to improve their services, leadership and organizational effectiveness. He chose that name for his company because a machete is a powerful tool that has stood the test of time, cuts through barriers that prevent success, clears paths that lead to a destination and has an edge that needs to be continuously sharpened for effectiveness.

He is one of many alumni who share strategies with NIU students through Jobs PLUS, which provides working students with access to professional development workshops.

The NIU Alumni Association is working with Jobs PLUS (the Division of Academic Affairs), the Division of Student Affairs and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions to create more volunteer opportunities for alumni.

The association recently created NIU Nexus, an online community where alumni can learn about volunteering in areas that they’re interested in either on or off campus. Opportunities include sharing career expertise with a student through mentoring or internships, referring a student for admission (which waives their application fee) and serving as a social media ambassador to promote NIU.

After being gone from campus for about 25 years, Strand decided it was time to give back to Northern. So he made two trips a couple of years ago from his home in Richmond, Virginia, to Northern to speak at a leadership conference for students and present a Jobs PLUS workshop on how to create productive teams.

“I wanted to give back to the school that was so good to me during my time there,” Strand said. “I think it’s an excellent institution that is on the cusp of doing some really amazing things.”

He believes that the strong reputation of academic and athletic programs and enrichment opportunities, such as Jobs PLUS, make the university stand out. 

Northern is special to him because it is where he learned how to manage his time to be successful in multiple programs.

“I had the unique experience of playing golf on scholarship, being active in a fraternity and majoring in accounting,” he said.  

On Thursday, he gave back again by leading a Jobs PLUS webinar on how to make a powerful presentation.

During the webinar, he told students that the secret to a powerful presentation is keeping it short and simple and using stories or examples related to main points to connect with an audience.

For example, “PowerPoint is a tool that is grossly misused in the work world,” Strand said.

He pointed out that common mistakes that people make in presentations are showing too many slides, using bullet points excessively, reading slides, lacking passion for the subject and not connecting with the audience.

He admits that that he was not always the best at making presentations. Over the years, he has learned from trial and error that a simple presentation with one to five slides is what resonates with an audience.

The students especially liked how knowledgeable Strand was on the topic and the stories and examples that he used. They left the session with ideas for making their own presentations more effective during college and when they begin a career, said Chad Glover, director of Jobs PLUS.

“Having NIU alumni like Derrick who have experience in training and in facilitating workshops on topics that we want to focus on and are willing to give their time to do that for us is an absolutely integral element to how our model is designed to work,” Glover said. 

By Colleen Leonard