From Homeless to Global Tech Executive: Kendrall Felder’s Path to Greatness

Kendrall Felder is a former Duke football player, has an MBA from Duke, and is now the Global Head of Centralized Services (IT) at Cisco.  Impressive right? But Kendrall faced long odds to get to this point. Teenage mother. Drug dealer father. Abuse in the home. At 15, Kendrall was out on his own trying to find a place to live. And despite his odds, Kendrall forged his own path to greatness.

Donald Thompson: Welcome to The Donald Thompson Podcast. I have with me today a good friend of mine and guest Kendrall Felder. And Kendrall is chief of staff at Cisco in their cybersecurity division, and Kendrall, welcome aboard, man.

Kendrall Felder: I appreciate it, Don. I’d add one more adjective to your name: mentor. Don’t try to cut me short there.

Donald Thompson: You’re too kind. You’re, you’re too kind. One of the things I like to do, Kendrall, when we introduce folks to our audience – tell a little bit about your story, just a little bit about background. Brothers, sisters, growing up, so that when we’re talking the audience is talking to a friend –

Kendrall Felder: Yeah.

Donald Thompson: And not just the name on an email.

Kendrall Felder: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. It’s always cool for me to tell my story because people assume that because I went to Duke, my story isn’t what it is, right? But, but to your point, DT, I was born in Trenton, New Jersey, very inner city environment, if you will. And I’ll share some of these details cause I’ve actually started sharing them internally at Cisco here recently.

Because I think it’s important that a lot of people understand that this, this finished product, if you will, wasn’t always in this state. And so, the inner city environment in Trenton, New Jersey, born to a 16-year-old mother. Being candid, father was a drug dealer and learned a lot. I actually grew up with my mother.

I am the oldest of three siblings. I have a younger brother by about eight years, younger sister by about seven years. And it was always a, a journey, I would call it, because I was growing up with a mother so close in age. Oftentimes, we lived with my grandmother and, you know, the aunts and uncles and everybody under one roof and experiencing life together.

And around 5, we moved down to Wilson, North Carolina, a very rural town, but  just like most towns in the South, have the good sides of the tracks and the bad side. I came from the latter. And growing up in that environment taught me a lot. And I, I attribute a lot of those experiences to the success I’ve had today in that, you know, from a very early age, I was tasked with things like taking care of my sisters, cleaning the house to, to, a perfection, a state of perfection, as you probably well know, DT. uh, Taking care of community lawns, taking care of our lawn, things of that nature. So, having that type of responsibility at an early age I think helped to mold me, but you know, everything wasn’t rosy. Experienced things like, you know, domestic violence with my mother, seeing her being shot at, you know, drug abuse, things of that nature.

But around 12 or 13, really got into athletics. I sorta hit my stride  Basketball was always my first love, so I did a lot of travel basketball around that age. But moving into high school, I actually picked up football my sophomore year, and people find it really hard to believe that, you know, I ended up playing division one and didn’t play until 10th grade.

And that was really attributed to a lot of friends that I had close to me who kept me motivated to dive into the sport, but also the coaching and leadership really helped me to understand that this was a potential ticket out of my current situation, right? And so not thinking about it just from an athletic perspective, but a life perspective was a big thing for me at that point.

You know, ironically enough, at the same time, the biggest hardship that I’ve had in life to be honest was, you know, one of those domestic violence bouts, ended up with my mother in the hospital for around six months, right? And so, that the crazy part is my father went to jail that same exact weekend for what will be 15 years.

And so at 15 years old, there was this homeless black kid trying to figure out how to fend for himself and his baby sister, right? And I learned an invaluable life lesson at that point because I was depending on family to take care of me, right? My mother’s gone, my father’s gone, I expect somebody to step up and say, “Hey Kendrall, you can come live with us.”

That didn’t happen, right? So I had to figure out how to put my sister in a situation where she would be OK, and then I ended up having to live with a family friend until my mother got out of the hospital. And so that was an invaluable lesson that if you want something out of life, you gotta figure out how to make it happen on your own because, regardless of how close you think people are to you, when the situation gets difficult it’s typically not that many people in your corner, right? And so I’ll sort of stop there and allow you to dive deeper or switch gears, but that’s Kendrall in a nutshell.

Donald Thompson: Yeah, man. One, just so it’s said out loud and on tape, man, I’m proud of you and you know, a lot of people let those circumstance create a negative mindset about the future, right? So the question that I have for you is those circumstances were not ideal.

Kendrall Felder: Right.

Donald Thompson: There’s nothing, there’s nothing in the books of parenting that prescribed what you went through.

Kendrall Felder: Right

Donald Thompson: How did you keep that focus forward chasing your dreams and growing forward and not let it make you so bitter, right? That it, that it held you back.

Kendrall Felder: Yeah. Well, and it’s funny because you and I used to have these discussions one-to-one. I liked nice things DT and, and that’s the dead, the honest truth. I always liked nicer things. And so for me, going through those experiences, you know, nothing that I’m proud of, but I had experienced a lot of the “success” my father’d had when I would go stay with him, and I would see some of the glitz and glamour and always said to myself, I wanted those things on my own and I wanted to do it in a legitimate way, right? And I wanted to, I wanted to be somebody who can do great things. And so, during those times, for me, it was more of, an exploratory phase where I had to figure out what my path to greatness was going to be, right? There was no room for failing, and I still feel that way to this day. So, to your point, I didn’t get negative because I knew ultimately what I wanted and I knew there were paths to get there. I just hadn’t figured out where that path was.

Donald Thompson: I mean, that’s powerful. I mean, what my path to greatness is, and one of the things that we all have to push through is making sure that we have the self image that God gave us, not the one the world tries to put on us.

Kendrall Felder: Absolutely.

Donald Thompson: Right? And that’s a, and that’s a fight based on the narrative, based on all those different things that can come at you, and you were able to keep your eye forward in what you could become to motivate it through. Now, in high school, in the sports piece, you used sports to be a ticket out.

Kendrall Felder: Yep.

Donald Thompson: Right? But was it football, basketball? How did you make that choice? Did you do both? Like how did you know which one was going to be the one to kind of push and accelerate it forward?

Kendrall Felder: Well, I think the college coaches made that choice for me. It was not something that, you know, I was able to go division one in basketball.

No knock on division two and division three schools, but that was, that was more where I was from a basketball standpoint. And I was, I was even pretty good at track, but as you know, that the track dollars aren’t the same as football. So I would say, you know, that fate played out as it was posed to in that regard.

Donald Thompson: Hey listen, one of the things, you know, I, I tell people all the time, my college career was different. You actually went to Duke and played football. I went to East Carolina and practiced football.

Kendrall Felder: Hey man, practice is the hardest part.

Donald Thompson: I was a practice team all-American. So that is good stuff to kind of bring us forward. Now, moving from Wilson, going to college at Duke. Duke is a not all white, but a pretty white institution.

Kendrall Felder: Yeah.

Donald Thompson: If you can be recruited to go division one, ACC, that’s a highly competitive division in football.

Kendrall Felder: Yeah.

Donald Thompson: Why did you choose Duke, right? All, all of the other options.

What made Duke the best choice for you?

Kendrall Felder: Yeah, absolutely. So what I didn’t call out and I don’t really speak to very much, but as a kid, academics always came naturally to me. I got, I have a list of awards and recognitions throughout my elementary, middle, high school years, that are rarely talked about, but they were things that I essentially found passionate and as I would pursue them, I’d get recognized for my proficiency in those areas, I’d say. And so as the decision came about as to where I would go to school, I got offers from places like UNC, Maryland, Army, all great institutions. You know, I’ll poke fun at UNC, but, but ultimately I know it’s a great academic institution, right? But for me, I grew up understanding the cache of the Harvards of the world and Yales and Duke and things of that nature, and I knew that I didn’t know anyone who looked like me who had been to Duke, right? And as I started to think about things like that, the types of lifestyle that education affords one, it became very clear to me very early on where I wanted to go because of what it would do for me after football.

Again, I like nice things, so I knew football wouldn’t last forever and I would have to use my mind eventually to, to drive my life.

Donald Thompson: No, that’s powerful. My dad’s a 30 year retired football coach and he would always tell me that all of us at some point, hang the cleats up.

Kendrall Felder: Yep. Yep.

Donald Thompson: And what are you going to do then?

Some it’s after high school, some they play some college, some, some years in the NFL, but everyone has to hold them cleats and put them up on the pedestal, and what are you going to do then? And it’s pretty powerful that you thought about in choosing an institution, both the athletics, the academics, but also what it was going to do for you after.

Kendrall Felder: Right.

Donald Thompson: And you know, the thing that I wrote down as you were talking is the brand matters.

Kendrall Felder: Yes.

Donald Thompson: Right? And you want to define something that can help your brand after school, right, so you can go chase the different things. Tell me a little bit about your experience on campus, right? So those are the reasons you chose it.

The now all of a sudden you’re in this institution, you’re moving from a small town to a larger city, Durham, North Carolina. Tell me about how you navigated that, that educational environment in that, in that mostly white environment.

Kendrall Felder: Not well to start. I’ll be honest with that first semester was tough, right? Because not only was it a culture shock, but I broke my ankle the first week of camp.

And so, you know, most freshmen who are scholarship athletes going into, into those environments have had a lot of relative success, right? And so to be humbled that way and be in a completely new environment where you don’t necessarily understand how it works was, was very tough. And so I’ll, I’ll tee up my answer by saying I ended up double majoring, if you will, in cultural anthropology, but then also did Duke’s markets and management studies program.

And what that did for me was, on a, on an anthropological side, help me understand how to immerse myself into different cultures and be successful, ultimately. Help you understand how to communicate, what nonverbal cues look like, what are people’s value systems and what drives them? How do you forge mutually beneficial relationships, that of that nature  and ultimately how you learn to respect people who aren’t like you, because I think you see that as a big problem in our country now and in the world now, if I’m being honest.

And so for me to be able to learn how to do those things in a structured systematic way was I would say critical to the success that I’ve had to this day, so when everybody wants to poke fun at the liberal arts student who focuses on cultural anthropology, I’d say think twice about that, because there’s a lot more value that comes out of understanding people than most realiza.

Donald Thompson: Oh man. That’s a powerful answer and like interesting, right? Like how you figured out to merge, right, both the business side and the people side, right, of what you wanted to do and become. That’s pretty powerful.

Kendrall Felder: Yeah. And it was, it was funny because being in – that was one of my classes first semester and hated all the other classes, right, but I remember being at that one every Tuesday and Thursday thinking to myself, ‘This is something that I really need in my life to become successful,’ so that ended up, that ended up being the major that I went with ultimately.

Donald Thompson: No, that is really cool. So now, let’s fast forward a little bit in all of those things are really, really interesting.

And I wish we had a lot, a lot more time. How did you get to Cisco? How did you choose cybersecurity? What does the chief of staff of cybersecurity do? Like it sounds cool. You win that part. Like, it sounds like, amazing. But tell me a little bit about that, that career journey, that Duke MBA –

Kendrall Felder: Yeah.

Donald Thompson: And then merging that with some of the things you’re doing now.

Kendrall Felder: Yeah, absolutely. So I’ll start at the front end of the career journey coming out of undergrad, I didn’t really know what I didn’t know in terms of career paths. What I did know was I was relatively  sharp and I understood numbers. And so for me, that meant I would go into a role of financial services, sales, right?

I was pretty good with people, understand how numbers worked, I’ll go there. And so I started as a financial representative at Northwestern Mutual, and ended up quickly transitioning into a role at RTI International where I worked directly with folks like the CFO there, the treasurer, the controller.

And so for a 24, 25-year-old kid that experience was invaluable because not only were they giving me more technical assignments where I could sharpen my business skills, also got to sit in on those meetings. And so to hear how a large company is run at that phase in your career, I don’t think you can put a price tag on that.

It was like pre-business school for me, but that was one of the things that they always encouraged me to go back and do. And so, ultimately went back to business school at Fuquay, wanted to get more of a well-rounded business education, so I focused on strategy as one of my concentrations, and then entrepreneurship – as you well know – was my other concentration.

And so for me, that, that really was a combination of understanding from a strategic standpoint anyway, how all of the functions culminate into ultimately driving a strategy and what it takes to make that successful, but then also on the entrepreneurial side it’s very much the same thing, except it’s your skin in the game,right?  You eat what you kill. And so, getting that experience from a business school perspective, doing my internship at P&G, I think really helped me a lot in terms of what business should look like outside of just the financial realm. I came out, went into banking. I did product management there and did some sales, or led a sales team.

And then I got the entrepreneurship itch, and so that’s where our paths crossed back in 2014. Worked on a couple of ventures together. And as we were coming out of the last venture, Creative Allies, Cisco actually called me with an opportunity. And I remember having this conversation with you, I said, “I can’t believe this it’s a real thing.”

And essentially what they told me was they were looking for an athlete, and not the athlete in the physical sense, because clearly I was that, but an athlete in the mental sense. Someone who had enough capacity to understand emotionally where they were and how they were responding to things, but also from a business standpoint to help them understand their regulatory posture as it relates to cyber security and the technology posture as it relates to cyber as well. Right? So we were going into these conversations really trying to see how we can help these countries transform where they are from a digital standpoint. And with that experience, it dawned on me to me that in terms of big companies like Cisco, I needed to run a large organization.

And so this chief of staff opportunity presented itself. And now we deployed x number of technologies throughout the enterprise. We have teams in China, India, and the U.S. And you know, as of literally last week, I, I got promoted into a role where I can’t go into too many details, but the size of my organization will, will triple and the budget that I have will, will grow exponentially. So I’m really excited about catching up with you on that as well.

Donald Thompson: Oh man. That’s awesome. And yeah, I won’t press any further, but man, like I’m just smiling ear to ear because you’ve always had the work ethic. You certainly had the mind, the intellectual capacity to do big things that you needed your dream shot, right?

Like you, you just needed your moment. It wasn’t a function of, and this goes back to the diversity inclusion conversation that I’ll pivot into. Think about the talent that people are missing when they’re not looking for the next Kendrall.

Kendrall Felder: Absolutely. Couldn’t agree more.

Donald Thompson: Right? And, and, and it’s not about yes, diversity and inclusion is important.

It feels good. It’s the right thing to do, but it’s also the right thing to do for your business. Expand the number of people that you’re talking to recruiting, promoting, right. If you have a global dream, right, in terms of your particular sector. So let me ask this: things are going well for you, corporate America.

What are the, some of the things, what are some of the advice that you would give for people of color that are the only in the room, right? That don’t understand like you learned how to navigate these different situations. Right. What kind of advice would you give?

Kendrall Felder: Oh, man, it all starts with, with yourself quite honestly.

And the first thing I would say is: own the fact that you’re the only one in the room. DT, I’ve literally been to conferences in Europe or Singapore or whatever country where there are thousands of people there, and I’m literally the only black man in the room. And you know what I do with that? I go up and represent my organization.

I a lot of times talk about my background. I help people talk through their problems. And after about five minutes into a conversation, I’m not the only black guy in the room. I’m the guy who can help people solve problems, right? And so always – something you taught me and it’s, it’s such a little thing, but it’s such a big thing in reality, always have an opinion, right?

When, when people are talking to you about problems or issues or whatever it may be, have an opinion on that because your opinion may be a blind spot in the way they’ve been thinking about it. And so leveraging that, that advice you’ve given me has helped me in a lot of rooms that I’ve been in for sure.

Donald Thompson: I mean, I use the term – it’s a sports analogy – but when I think about my career and the people I’ve been able to work with, scoreboard matters. If you deliver results –

Kendrall Felder: Right, right.

Donald Thompson: Right? It helps you navigate. And so a lot of people think about what the organization should do to make them more comfortable and that’s true.

What the organization should do so that there are more minorities in leadership positions, that is also true. But there’s also a personal responsibility component to deliver results so that you can impact what the company does in hiring, so that you can impact what the company does in promoting people because you become the example of what they want more of.

Kendrall Felder: Yes. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I’ll pull that thread a little more. When I worked in my first job in Cisco, where I was able to travel and meet with these governments and large companies, through my work there, I was able to impact about a billion dollars of business for Cisco, right?

And so you think about the reality of that, that’s a pretty big number. And when I, when I was doing those things, I would hear my leadership team celebrate the victories for the organization, but a lot of times I was a bit apprehensive in telling people that I was the one behind it. And as I started to share the work that I had done with other executives or other leaders, you can almost see their eyes just like glaze over with amazement of, “Oh my goodness, you did that?” And so to your point, it is about the scoreboard. And another piece of advice I would give people in positions like mine is don’t, don’t sell yourself short. Talk about the wins that you’ve had. Because regardless of how big or small, if they met or exceeded the expectations that were set, then you did your job, right?

Donald Thompson: That is powerful.

When you think about let’s, let’s take it macro a little bit and look at our country and the murder of George Floyd, the murder of Brianna Taylor and, and, and, right?

Kendrall Felder: Right, right.

Donald Thompson: How has that affected you? How have you dealt with those emotions and those ups and downs? What are, what are some of the things you’ve been thinking and feeling in this moment that, you know, this, this racial moment, if you will, in our country,

Kendrall Felder: Oh, man.

I don’t think we have enough time that has to go through the full answer there, but in reality, DT, there are several emotions associated with it. I think the first one you get, or I get at least is hurt, right. That the sadness that comes with seeing people that look like us get killed for no good reason.

Right? Even if they were in the wrong in the situations that they were in, death wasn’t the penalty for those crimes. And so to see people get unjustly punished the way that they have on video and no justice be served for it, there’s a lot of hurt that comes with that.

The second feeling that, that comes shortly thereafter, maybe a second or two is, is anger, right?  Because once the sadness subsides, it is, well, why, why would people feel that way towards me that have never even had a conversation with me. They’ve never taken the time to get to know me. They are basing their thoughts of what I am on my skin color, right? And the anger that I get out of that, because I know – and not even being arrogant. I know individually, I probably accomplished more than 99% of people, but, but if someone looked at me on the street in basketball shorts and Jordans, they’d assume I was a thug. You know, and there’s – that makes me angry because I work hard like everybody else, but I have to, I have to – I’m guilty until proven innocent in a lot of ways.

It’s a parallel to what I’m trying to say, but I have to reverse the stigma of what people think about me versus them seeing me and thinking I’m a great guy, you know? So in terms of how I feel and, you know, how I’ve handled it though. That’s how I feel, how I’ve handled it? I’ve been boisterous DT. I’ve been, I’ve been very boisterous in a positive in an objective way, but I show up to executive meetings and I talk about the fact that, you know, X percent of employees at, you know, my company or in my organization, look like me. And that, that percentage isn’t enough.

And we need to figure out ways to give people opportunities. And I’m not talking about to your point, just setting up programs that, that pull people in for no good reason. There is talent. There is black talent that exists in America, and I am challenging my leadership team and our executive team at Cisco to start to find that talent and deploy them into our leadership infrastructure.

Because one of the things that I struggle with quite candidly, and I’ve said this, so it was no secret is when I look up the leadership stack, I don’t see many people that look like me. And so a lot of times when you get it a person like me, who’s done a lot in their career doing well at the moment, and they start to look up the chain and they don’t see any more like them, they start looking for organizations that do have people that look like them up the stack because they know they haven’t hit the ceiling.

Donald Thompson: Yeah. I mean, you make a powerful analogy in terms of the success of the business long term. ‘Cause there’s one thing recruiting and investing in people of color, but if they don’t see a future for their dream, they’re on the move.

Kendrall Felder: Yep, absolutely.

Donald Thompson: And so that comes back to the competitive advantage in the talent wars for companies that really lean into diversity and inclusion.

Kendrall Felder: Absolutely.

Donald Thompson: And one of the things that in the work that we’re doing and what we’re learning is that there is an appetite now for change. And that’s the thing that keeps me optimistic is a lot of the leaders that I’m talking to are, are much more forwardly thinking about what do we do, not just the why we should do it right? Not just the if, but what should we do to get some results, and that’s encouraging. What would you recommend kind of broadly to business leaders, to, to people that are out there that can help them in that sourcing of talent, help them be more accommodating, not accommodating in terms of lower the bar, but empathetic –


If you will, right, to people that are different than them.

Kendrall Felder: Absolutely. And I’ll take this, this opportunity to state that. While no company’s going to get it right to start with, I applaud Cisco for taking the steps that they have here recently, because they have put a lot of effort into it. It’s a matter of refining, to your point, and really understanding how to drive that change.

But, but I applaud the work that has been done. In terms of what I’d recommend, it’s very similar to what I’ve talked to our leadership team about. And that is, yes, we want to create a pipeline of talent. We want to attract talent, but once you get it in the door, you have to have the right culture in place.

Right? And that’s just not, “Oh, we accept Kendrall, he’s a black guy.” It is you need a culture where people are looking at each other as teammates, right? Ultimately, trying to drive towards a common goal. Because we all work at the same company, we’re all working towards that company’s stock price, make no mistake about it.

Right? And so, I think that’s a key part of it, the culture. And that the second part is, real opportunity. And what I mean by that is it’s not just about a job, it’s about exposure. It is about acknowledgement. It is about, and when I say exposure, that means opportunities to engage with leadership so that the leadership can understand that, “Hey, this person is actually pretty talented.”

And then the visibility from a standpoint of once this person does their project and they do it well, let’s celebrate it because again, people need to know that these types of people can be successful. And so when I think about what, what should be done in organizations is putting in, putting in place programs that allow people to get that visibility, to get that exposure and ultimately be able to drive success like everyone else.

Donald Thompson: Oh man that is, that’s good stuff. I mean, I don’t have it. I really, you know, I’m always full of phrase, but I don’t have anything to add. That was. That was, that was well stated. When you think about leadership, and you’ve now worked at a lot of different companies with a lot of different folks from small companies – entrepreneurial, Cisco obviously is a very large company, P&G and different things. Talk to me a little bit about leadership qualities that you admire and want to emulate.

Kendrall Felder: Yeah. So, the first thing that comes to mind for me is a empathetic, right? And not in the sense of feeling sorry for anyone, but in the sense of understanding what the task is, that’s being asked of your employees and then understanding how you can give your employee the resources needed to become successful.

Right? And so that, that empathy for me is a big thing. The second thing that comes to mind is decisiveness. you’re always going to have a thousand options to choose from, right? And you, you can choose 500 of those thousand options and you’ll spend all your budget trying to do everything. But a leader who can be decisive and choose to move on a strategy in a very pragmatic way, over the years, I’ve seen that, that puts the team at ease, if you will, because they know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. They understand what the objectives and goals are, and everybody’s marching towards that same North star. And the, the last feature that I really admire in leaders is their ability to learn different areas.

And that’s what I’ve always admired about you. Your ability to sit down with someone, pick their brain, do a real discovery session and help them work towards a solution, ultimately. And I think when you couple those three things that the empathy side to where someone’s understanding what they’re asking of people, someone who can make strong decisions and then someone who can and pick up information from different sources of stakeholders to make the best possible outcome.

Those are, those are the things that I think help drive leaders in organizations like Cisco.

Donald Thompson: That’s awesome. No, that is really, really good. One of the things I wanted to ask as we pivot back a little bit to your MBA career, I’ve always had in my mind. Right. Why do you need an MBA? Right. Like just go build a business or something.

You know what I mean? We’ve talked about this. So I kept it up, like, what is, what’s the big deal. Right. And you know, obviously if you don’t have one, like you gotta make up reasons why it’s not as, big of a deal like “What do you need that for?”


What are, what are some of the takeaways from that MBA experience, right, that you bring to your work today?

That helps you make better, stronger, give people that value prop of why they should consider.

Kendrall Felder: Yeah. There are several things that come with an MBA. The first for me personally, I remember I said, my advice to someone in  a room of a thousand people would be to own it. It’s going to be very similar in an MBA program.

But for me, it was a good measuring stick. I’d always thought I was talented. I’d always thought I was smart. I’don’t always thought I was good with people, but you can best believe all three of those notions will be tested when you get into a business school environment. And so for me, it was an opportunity to prove to myself that I was just as good as anybody else who were considered, you know, premier talent in my age group. So that was a part of it. Once I was able to prove I was as good as everyone else, the, the comfort that came with knowing I could consume and excel at the types of content that was being thrown at us. That was assuring, right? Because you’re taking things like, advanced operations classes.

You’re taking statistic courses. You’re taking all these accounting courses, and they actually give you more work than you can possibly do with the hours in a day. And so they make you figure out, where are you going to spend your time? Which is very much real life. I have work I’m supposed to be doing right now, but I know what I can triage.

But that was, that was the second piece of it. And then third, and probably most importantly, if I’m being honest, is those people that you’re working with over those two years, you don’t realize it at the time, but one, you are helping them understand who you are and proving that you have talent. But then once you all graduate, you’re going to go off and become respective leaders.

If you’re in a program, a top tier program, you’re going to go off and become leaders in your respective industries and companies, and so you immediately have a network who’s going to be fast risers and people that you can leverage to pick their brains for problems that you have, or for opportunities that you may have.

So those are three of the top things that really resonate with me, but the list could go on forever.

Donald Thompson: No, that is a, Kendrall that’s powerful. And I think you mentioned the one that when we talked about this over time, that resonated with me the most is that network. And, and I’ve benefited that from knowing you. Like, once, once somebody told me the reason the MBA was like this network, I was like, “That makes perfect sense!”

Kendrall Felder: Yeah.

Donald Thompson: I need to find me some MBAs and get into they network!

The other thing that I know from, from the folks that I’ve worked with that, that also makes sense is that ability to consume large amounts of data and construct meaningful insights pretty quickly from  large amounts of data. And so that’s, that’s really a good, a good, good synopsis. I love your statement. I have a lot of work to do, but I know what I can triage.

Right? And that is a, a time management nugget that people can use no matter what they’re doing. Personal life, family, business, right. All, all that good stuff. I don’t know if you remember this, I won’t name names, but it will – let me see if I could get a reaction. Do you remember the meeting we were in and the guy said, what is EBITDA?

Kendrall Felder: Yeah, I do. I do remember that

Donald Thompson: We were in a meeting.

We were in a meeting and Kendrall has an MBA, Kendrall’s good at accounting. I’m none of these things. And so the guy in that meeting looks at me and goes, Don, let’s just talk about EBITDA a little bit. And you know, I know that you guys really might not know what EBITDA is, but Don let’s me and you have a conversation, I’m like, “I know what it is, but like Kendrall’s like a genius.”

That was the epitome, right, of prejudice and stereotypes and, and, and just, and just taking people lightly. But man, that, that, that was, that was a funny moment in time. Last question that I would ask of you. And one, I appreciate you being with us and I’ve enjoyed catching up as I always do. If you had a magic wand, what would you change in the world?

Kendrall Felder: Oh, man. This feels like one of those pageant questions. I don’t know if I’ve thought about what I would change if I could change one thing, and this is with a magic wand. This, this probably isn’t pragmatic, but I’d change suffering, right? I’d take suffering out of the world and, and I don’t even know what that looks like in practice, but I know when I think about all the things I’d like to change, whether it’s hunger or whether it’s wealth disparity, whether it’s, you know, people dying of sickness, the one thing that is in common across all those threads are people suffering.

Right? And so if I could change one thing, that’s what would be.

Donald Thompson: Oh, that’s powerful. Kendrall, I am appreciative of your time. And more than that, like I’m cheering for you. Like, I’m just like, as I see you continue to rise, like I’m just, I’m really, really happy, but I’m not surprised.

Kendrall Felder: Thank you.

Donald Thompson: I’m really happy for you, but I’m not surprised, and I just appreciate you keep taking my phone call.

Kendrall Felder: Well, I’m actually going to try to get some time of yours here soon, ’cause I want to catch up with you on some things.

Donald Thompson: Sounds good, man.

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The Donald Thompson Podcast is hosted by Walk West CEO, mentor, investor, and Diversity and Inclusion Consultant Donald Thompson.

Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.

The Donald Thompson Podcast is edited and produced by Earfluence. For more on how to engage your community or build your personal brand through podcasting, visit

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