Giving back to the program: Derek Eiler’s message to learn, earn and return

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In a 60 minute talk, alumnus Derek Eiler ’93 brought a message to students to “learn, earn and return,” a message he clearly takes to heart. He urged young professionals to spend the first third of their career learning, the second earning and the third returning the good fortune by mentoring young professionals, lecturing at your alma mater and giving back to your profession.

Eiler is one of many successful individuals that make up the vast alumni network of the sport management program at Bowling Green State University. The program prides itself on its network that spans coast to coast, and through the existence of the Sport Management Advisory Board, created by faculty for the purpose of giving alumni a voice in current happenings in the program, alumni have the opportunity to stay connected to the program. 

Current managing director of Fermata Partners, a division of CAA Sports, Eiler is one of the exceptional alumnus that make up the network. He has been generous with his time and has returned to campus on several occasions to meet and engage with students. This past October, Eiler made another visit to Bowling Green to deliver the keynote at the 2015 HMSLS Homecoming Symposium.

The Homecoming Symposium is an annual event hosted by the School of Human Movement, Sport and Leisure Studies (HMSLS) within the College of Education and Human Development. The symposium features topics in areas such as exercise science, sport management, tourism and leisure and event planning. Unique to the symposium is the fact that all speakers are alumni of the respective programs. Additionally, a group of alumni return each year to hold interviews exclusive to HMSLS students for internships and open positions at their organizations.

Following graduation from BGSU, Eiler landed his first job as a university services assistance with Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC). Through hard work and perseverance he worked his way up the company ladder to senior vice president and managing director. During his tenure, CLC became the second largest collegiate licensing firm in the country. Because of this success, he was named one of the 40 most influential sports executives under the age of 40 by Street & Smith’s SportBusiness Journal in 2009. In 2012, Eiler founded Fermata, LLC with three long-time business associates.

“It is always nice to have someone as influential and well-known as Derek come back and talk to students,” said Sungho Cho, professor of sport management and organizer of the HMSLS Homecoming Symposium. “Students relate to him and take to heart what he has to say.”

Eiler began his keynote titled “What it takes to win: Career advice for aspiring sport professionals” with a series of questions to the audience. From the beginning it was clear his talk was all about the students and even though most of his anecdotes were from the field of sport management, students from across all HMSLS programs sat intently and listened to his advice.

“Mr. Eiler was more than just an alumnus talking to us about his experiences and career path; he was more like a motivational speaker,” said Rebekah Cashmer a sophomore sport management major. “His talk was not only helpful, it was inspiring and very interactive. I took to heart his advice to always be creative instead of just going through the motions, because no one is inspired by that.”

Eiler covered a range of topics including social media and what your profile picture says about you, to crafting an effective elevator speech and why that ten seconds is so important. In addition, he challenged students to write down their goals and come up with realistic visions for their future.  

He also outlined nine points to be successful in business. Each point included a personal story and ways to incorporate the strategy into everyday life.

At the end of the presentation he produced a slide with his personal email address and encouraged each student to reach out to him with questions.

“I reached out to Mr. Eiler following his presentation about setting up an appointment for an informal interview and within minutes I had a reply,” said Peyton Barnett, a junior sport management major. “I am so thankful that such a successful alumnus is willing to help out the students at BGSU.” 

While Eiler is undeniably a successful businessman, he is also an inspiration to aspiring sport management professionals that come to BGSU looking for a solid foundation. 

“The Homecoming Symposium keynote exceeded expectations,” said Austin Balen a junior sport management major. “Earlier that day I heard Bobby Bowden and Kevin Helm, another BGSU alumnus, talk about motivation and leadership, and Derek’s presentation really tied in the overall point of the importance of leadership and passion to the other speakers of the day.” 

Eiler is slated to be the guest speaker at the November Sport Management Alliance meeting.