- Founder and Managing Partner, Protégé Search
- Former VP/Head of Talent Management, NFL
- Executive Recruiter at Two Global Executive Search Firms
- Startup Entrepreneur
- Graduate of Harvard Law and Howard University
- Native of New Orleans
Hi, I’m Rory Ellis Verrett. And this is my story…
I have been mentoring students and professionals for 20 years, and I love doing it. It started when I was a student at Harvard Law School. I didn’t have a corporate lawyer in my family so I read a lot about the big law firms that were recruiting on campus. With this knowledge, I became a trusted source of information for my fellow classmates. Also, as an alumnus of Howard University, I was often invited to campus to speak to students about careers in law and public policy.
As a graduate of these two wonderful universities, I came across hundreds of young, talented, and ambitious students and professionals. They wanted to set the world on fire! And however I could help them – reviewing a resume, referring them to one of my mentors, helping them think through graduate school essays – I tried to help.
My own life-changing experience with my first professional mentor happened when I was a student at Howard. I met Mr. Wilson, a young law firm partner who specialized in environmental law. “I want to go to Harvard Law School like you, and then become an environmental lawyer,” I declared with the cockiness of a 19-year old know-it-all. Mr. Wilson pulled no punches: “Well, right now, your grades are too low coming from an historically black college. Ivy League law schools typically require a very, very high GPA for applicants coming from HBCU’s.” (The next semester I got a 4.0!)
That conversation started a 25-year mentor-protégé relationship. I remember attending a cocktail party at Mr. Wilson’s home, where I mingled among dozens of accomplished people of color. As I sat in Mr. Wilson’s basement vibing to a Jonathan Butler jazz CD and listening to what these doctors, lawyers, and investment bankers thought about the leading Democratic candidate for president, Bill Clinton, I remember thinking…this is everything I want out of life!
Mr. Wilson had a brilliant and beautiful wife, a whip-smart and polite young daughter, and influential, down to earth, and conscious people of color as friends. It was like The Cosby Show, except it was real life! There would be other tremendously valuable mentors in my career – Mr. Packer in New Orleans and Mr. Anderson in New York. Each one helped me in a different, but impactful way.
After spending the early part of my career in public policy and entrepreneurship, I entered the executive search industry where I learned a lot about successful careers. The leading companies and organizations in the world hire executive search firms to help recruit their senior executives and, in some cases, the organization’s CEO. My job as a “headhunter” was to find the executive with the right skills, experiences, and culture fit for each of my clients.
I worked at two of the largest and most prominent executive search firms in the world. Whenever I interviewed a candidate for a client, I always tried to help them. Sometimes it was helping them understand the compensation model at a company, or preparing them for their interviews, or just being a sounding board for their frustrations at their current job. I interviewed hundreds of talented executives. They worked at Disney, MTV, the NBA, Coca-Cola, Google and other institutions.
I learned a lot about career choices – the good and bad decisions – and what actually makes most professionals feel joy at work and fulfilled in their careers (hint: it’s not money). I was eventually hired by one of my clients, the NFL, for a newly created role, the head of talent management and recruiting.
I spent a lot of time mentoring executives in the sports and entertainment industries. I managed a leadership academy for top talent, helped prepare high potential coaches at NFL clubs for their interviews for head coaching positions, and led recruiting for the NFL league office. I learned a lot about what it takes to break into the sports and entertainment industries, and what it takes to succeed there.
After building the talent function at the NFL, I worked as a consultant helping clients in the sports, financial services, and tech sectors develop and implement solutions on diversity, talent strategy, and public engagement. With the encouragement of many friends and professional colleagues – including my own mentors – I launched Protégé Search, a retained executive search firm helping clients recruit and retain diverse talent.
At night, on weekends, at lunch, and on the golf course…I do a lot of mentoring. I’ve also done a lot of public speaking about careers. I’ve been blessed to have been invited to speak at universities, including Harvard, Howard, Duke, Wilberforce, the University of Central Florida, Stanford, and the University of Pennsylvania, among others. I’ve shared a few of my creative theories about careers and work with audiences as far away as Turin, Italy. I always enjoy meeting new people and occasionally becoming someone’s new mentor.
I mentor others because mentoring made a huge difference in my life. As the youngest child of four, I was first mentored by my two brothers and my sister. My mother and father were great role models as well, but I call their advice parenting, not mentoring. The insight and wisdom from my siblings helped me tremendously as I was growing up. It doesn’t hurt that my siblings are accomplished in their own right – a foundation executive, a Fulbright scholar French teacher, and the best sportscaster in America, ESPN’s Stan Verrett.
Through Protégé Podcast, I’m trying to pay back all the advice and wisdom that helped me in my career. I am launching this podcast series because I want the next generation of talented young professionals to learn from the mistakes and successes I’ve witnessed, and do better.
Thank you for listening to Protégé Podcast, stopping by the website, and allowing me to join you on your career journey. I hope I can be as helpful to you as Mr. Wilson and others have been for me…
Family – My Foundation
Next to my faith, my family is the most important priority in my life. I have been blessed with two amazing parents, three talented and accomplished siblings, a brilliant and supportive wife, and a loving and creative daughter.
New Orleans – My Hometown
I went to an all black, all boys Catholic School in New Orleans, Louisiana. No other institution has had a greater impact on my life than St. Augustine High School, home of the Purple Knights! (That’s me, second row on the right.)
To say I was a speech and debate nerd in high school is an understatement! Our team at St. Augustine High School in New Orleans won the state championship in performing arts my senior year. That experience – our success and the brotherhood within our team – shaped me profoundly.
Golf – My Passion
I love golf because it challenges you to make decisions under pressure. It’s healthy for you, beneficial for your career, and something you can do your entire life and almost anywhere in the world. President Obama, my brother Stan, and Lydia Ko would complete a dream golf outing.
My favorite golf course in the world is Bandon Dunes in Oregon. An amazing test of every facet of your game!