Each quarter, TMA NOW helps you get to know your fellow TMA members. This newsletter introduces you to
senior managing director,
Burr & Forman LLP
. As the winner of the TMA Jeopardy competition held during the NOW Reception at The 2016 TMA Annual, Derek received a Spotlight article. Well played Derek, well played.
How did you get involved in TMA?
Tamara: I initially attended local events to get to know more people in the industry and then attended the Distressed Investing Conference. My appreciation for the value of TMA evolved so that I am now also in my third year as a volunteer on the Board of TMA Southern California.
Originally, Alabama did not have a chapter, so I joined the Tennessee chapter to take advantage of their networking opportunities. It was a long distance relationship, but we made it work. When we created a chapter in Alabama, it was even easier to jump in with both feet, but I still firmly believe that attending TMA chapter meetings outside of your normal footprint might be the best networking you can do. I appreciate the unsurprisingly warm southern hospitality that Tennessee's chapter showed me, because it definitely planted a seed.
Hot topics in our community are: leading change, successes and failures, mentorship/sponsorship, and earning the role. Have you had experiences in any of these areas that made a strong impact on you?
Yes, I have been fortunate to have strong mentors, both men and women, and I would not have gotten to the place where I am in my career without support from multiple people. Because I have received amazing mentorship, this has made me more proactive in being a mentor myself.
I was fortunate to work very early in my career with one of my current law partners, Mike Hall. Mike has been, and still is, an exceptional mentor to me, both personally and professionally. Over the years, I have watched him mentor many people who have gone on to become successful private practice attorneys, in-house counsel, judges, and basically every legal role you can imagine. And I have to mention that Mike's promotion of equality in the workplace is second to none, which has been impactful on everyone he works with, including me. One of my primary professional goals is to be a Mike-Hall-Kind-Of-Mentor to as many people as I can.
In your opinion, what's the most exciting/interesting trend or event happening in the turnaround and restructuring industry?
Retail is really interesting right now. Any retailers that are on the fence were trying to just get through the holiday season and decide what trigger to pull. Retail is an industry with many challenges. Millennials and Generation Z are a hybrid of mall consumers and online purchasers. Retail needs to figure out what is the hook with millennials, what will draw them in.
Derek: I recently drove a self-driving Tesla, and it really was a life-changing experience. It took me less than thirty seconds to get comfortable with the car driving for me. The ability of technology to replace workers, even skilled workers, has the potential to enact a reduction in force I don't think most people, including me, really comprehend. Those changes are going to happen quickly and will necessarily impact the entire global economy, which will certainly impact the restructuring space and our corresponding volume of work. And that same advance in technology will most certainly impact our own industry directly, but how? How do we keep from being the buggy whip manufacturer? It is fascinating to me, if a little frightening, when taken to the extreme.
What's the best career advice you've ever received?
Do not be afraid to stretch, i.e., apply for a role even though your skills may only check half the boxes. Develop lasting relationships that create your own business. Do not be afraid to ask for things whether it is from a client or from a mentor.
Derek: "Be nice to everyone." -My mom, every day of my youth. And even being a litigator, you can do an effective job and still be nice.
What would someone who only knows you professionally be surprised to learn about you?
I am a Girl Scout leader.
Derek: I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania last year.