Darius’ Journey from Personal Injury Law to Sustainability Advocate
Written by Darius Rountree, Jenkins MBA Student
I am a North Carolina native originally from Wilson, North Carolina. As a young kid I dreamed of becoming a lawyer. When I imagined my career, I saw myself in a nice suit with a sharp briefcase walking into the courtroom everyday ready to assist my community and that excited me. Therefore, I decided to attend North Carolina Central University to study criminal justice with future plans to attend law school. After graduating undergraduate I started working for a large personal injury law firm in Durham, North Carolina and about two years into working in this space I realized I did not want to become an attorney. It took some time to figure out my next steps, but what I did learn working at this law firm was how much I enjoyed managing teams and leading people. At the core of management and leadership, I liked helping people and being of service to others. This led me to pursue an MBA so that I could grow my people management skills with the goal of one day becoming C suite leadership.
Initially I did not have the NC State Jenkins MBA program on my radar, however, a good friend of mine who received her bachelors from NC State recommended I check it out. The Jenkins Program instantly became my first choice and I was able to apply and get accepted. Overall, my experience in the Jenkins program has been nothing short of excellent. I had a 10 year gap between my undergraduate degree and starting my MBA so it did take some time to get back into the swing of things like studying and doing homework. I don’t have a concentration but I decided to pursue a certificate in business leadership. My classes have been great, and the ability to complete these high impact courses online has allowed me to continue working while learning. It has been challenging to balance working full-time and being a part-time student but incredibly rewarding.
In Summer 2021, I took Jessica Thomas’ one-credit business sustainability course and it has changed my career trajectory. I was never interested in sustainability and I’m far from an environmentalist, however, when I learned about B Corps and sustainability, the work felt really good and like the right thing to do. In the course we learned how businesses are integrating sustainability into their strategies and how to take better care of the spaces we occupy through sustainable practices. Without this class I would possibly still be at the law firm and wouldn’t have even thought of a career in sustainability. I ended up applying to a new position for a B Corp called Guildheadquartered in Denver, Colorado where we are focused on unlocking opportunities for America’s workforce. I love working for a B Corp because they really care about their employees and the community at large; the benefits are also great. It feels good to go to work everyday and know my impact is on people and how we change their lives through debt-free or low cost education. It is also a women-led organization which really aligns with my values. Here at the Jenkins program I recently took the Women in Leadership course with professor Leigh Shamblin which has not only enhanced and introduced me to leadership skills needed to succeed in my role, but also given me the cultural and inclusive knowledge to be a better advocate for women that I work with.
This past Spring semester I decided to take MBA 582 Sustainability in Business which is a 3 credit practicum course with Jessica Thomas. MBA 582 was a great experiential learning opportunity. I have so many things that I want to do within my career, like consulting, so I was able to get real consulting experience through working directly with an external client that is working toward B Corp certification. My project team was made up of a diverse group each with different backgrounds and strengths, and our collaborative nature allowed us to put all of our experience together and work towards the same goal which yielded a successful project in the end. Through the project I became very invested in the company’s future and hope that our teams project has made a significant impact in their progress toward a more sustainable business. Now that I’ve been on this side of the work, I’ll be raising my hand as an alumnus to become a coach for the next B Corp Clinic. I am incredibly grateful for the skills and knowledge I have learned in these two sustainability courses and also to be on a new career path in which I love the work I do everyday.
In the future, first is to finish my MBA this coming December! I am excited to graduate but so grateful I had this opportunity to learn and completely change my career. I love working for Guild and hope to make an impact on the company and members we serve. The ultimate dream company I would love to work for is Ben & Jerry’s. I love what they do, how they respond to social justice issues and overall contribution to sustainability. I want to continue working in B Corps and reach C suite level status. Lastly, I plan to continue giving back to my community and hopefully inspire the younger generation. Representation matters and my hope is to be a role model for my community. I also want to come back to NC State and help educate students on B Corps and sustainability, I want to devote future volunteer time here as well. In my free time (not that I have much between work and school), I listen to music and enjoy time with friends. My favorite artist of all time is Whitney Houston. You will find me jamming out to some music throughout the day.
If you want to learn more about my experience in the Jenkins program or my experience working for a B Corp, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn!
This post was originally published in Business Sustainability Collaborative.