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Darrell Farlough

How an MBA Helped this Consortium Alum Turn His Childhood Dream of Becoming a Globetrotter Into Reality

As a boy growing up outside of New Orleans, Darrell Farlough dreamed of seeing the world.

Years later, as a young man, with a bachelor’s degree in physics from Dillard University and another one in mechanical engineering from Columbia University, Farlough saw an opportunity to realize his dream by combining his interest and background in engineering with business. Living in New York at the time, Farlough was working as a process control engineer for IBM. “Because IBM was paying for it, I started taking business classes, MBA classes, part-time for a year,” he says, “but it was going to take four years, so I decided to apply for The Consortium fellowship.”

Farlough still recalls the exact date he received news of his acceptance and his receipt of The Consortium fellowship to Indiana University (IU) Kelley School of Business: April 1st, 1991. “I was ecstatic to be in the 25th anniversary class for The Consortium,” he says.

Darrell Farlough
Darrell Farlough

The experience took him many places, including to Exxon Company International (now ExxonMobil) in Florham Park, N.J., for a summer internship — where he was first exposed to the global energy industry — and, later that year, to Manchester Business School in Manchester, England, as an international exchange student. But it wasn’t until Farlough graduated in May of 1993 that, working in supply chain management, he truly began to see the world.

Through his experiences at Fortune Global 500 companies including ExxonMobil, Ford Motor Company, Sarah Lee, BP and his current employer, Farlough has worked on global projects in many countries including Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Scotland, Switzerland and others. In addition to having visited all 50 states and 28 countries, he has been at the management level since 1998, managing projects and budgets as large as $1.6 billion annually.

Farlough credits The Consortium with giving him the opportunity and ability to achieve his dreams, and he has shown his appreciation by remaining involved with the organization since graduation. Farlough attended the Orientation Program & Career Forum (OP) four times over the years as an interviewer and recruiter. But his dedication to The Consortium is perhaps most clearly demonstrated by his commitment to giving back financially to the organization, which he has done every year since graduating. In September 2021, Farlough gave his 28th consecutive annual gift to The Consortium.

“I didn’t become one of the Harlem Globetrotters, who I saw at 9 years old in the Louisiana Superdome, but receiving an MBA from IU as a Consortium fellow helped me to achieve my personal childhood dream of becoming a ‘globetrotter,’” says Farlough, who works as a global procurement manager at a global energy company (which he would prefer remain nameless).

Farlough recently shared with us how The Consortium opened new doors for him and why he continues to give back after so many years.

When you decided to get your MBA, was your goal to go into the energy sector, or did your internship at ExxonMobil turn you on to the idea?

It was certainly to get into another industry, but I didn’t have a specific one in mind. My experience at Exxon turned me on to wanting to work in that industry — and for several reasons. You could work 50 years there, and you would never run out of new things to do, and it was very challenging. But also, for me as an engineer, although I wanted to move into management, I always wanted to work for technical companies. I spent 13 years at Ford Motor Company and have been in the energy industry now for about 13 years. Those are technical industries, so it fits my background perfectly.

As a little boy, you dreamed of becoming a ‘globetrotter’ and of working at a global company. What instilled in you these goals, and how did they inform the direction you took in your career?

In the fourth grade, I had geography for the first time, and we covered the whole world. I remember being fascinated. One of the things my teacher, Ms. Keating, would do was whatever region of the world we were studying, she would bring in food from there. I remember when we studied Brazil, she brought in Brazil nuts. For China, she brought in Chinese food, and we were all using chopsticks for the first time. This was totally foreign to somebody from my little area of the world. I knew then that I wanted to travel the world. So, when I decided to become an engineer at 15, I wanted to combine the two. I have traveled a lot on my own personally, but I also thought it would be a great combination to work for global companies where I could also travel the world for business.

When did an MBA come into the picture for you, and how did you think that it would help you achieve those dreams?

At IBM, my first company after undergraduate, there were two tracks for employees: a management track and a technical track. So you could rise in the company to the same levels, but you were either on one track or the other. Although I was told I was a very good engineer, I also had strong interpersonal skills, so I chose the management track. And although it wasn’t absolutely necessary, it was certainly preferable at IBM — if you were a current employee who wanted to rise up to the management level — to have an MBA. So, I started taking business classes at night. By the time I got to IU, I’d taken five MBA classes. I was ecstatic to win The Consortium fellowship because I could finish my MBA faster. I know for me personally, the experience of going full-time at a top university was worth it.

You have been giving back to The Consortium every year since you graduated from IU, in 1993. What was it about The Consortium, its mission and your experience in it that motivated you to give so generously to the organization over the years?

Several things. One — and I would hope that every Consortium fellow feels this way — business school is very expensive, even with The Consortium fellowship. I was making a very good salary at IBM. You have to give up two years of salary to go to school full time. This really hit home when I got to IU, and most of my peers were taking out student loans to cover 100 percent of their costs. For those of us who had received The Consortium fellowship, being able to go to a top business school for free was like winning the lottery. Then, once I graduated, I landed a phenomenal full-time job at Ford Motor Company, making a lot more money than I was making two years earlier. It only seemed right to give back to The Consortium.

Another thing that really struck me was the OP. I remember I was 25 years old at that time, and The Consortium was in its 25th year. We were in the 25th anniversary class. At that time, that just seemed so long ago, that in 1966, 25 years earlier, The Consortium had started. Now, it’s 55 years old, and I want The Consortium to be around for another 30 years. The great thing about The Consortium is the more money they receive each year, the more fellowships they can award, which is phenomenal. I wanted to be a part of that and show my gratitude.

How has your MBA and your ties to The Consortium helped you achieve the dreams you had as a little boy?

In a number of ways. First, I wouldn’t be in the energy industry today. If I hadn’t received the fellowship and, instead, had gotten my MBA at IBM going part-time, I would’ve graduated two years later than I did at IU. I would’ve been at IBM at that time six years, and I probably would have been expected to stay at IBM since they would’ve paid for my MBA. I probably would’ve been limited to the computer industry, at least for a long time, because I wouldn’t have worked in any other industry. I think it would have been a lot tougher to make a transition to a new industry.

So, what my MBA gave me and how it helped me realize my dreams … is that I now have expertise in the computer industry, the automotive industry, some in the food and beverage industry, and the energy industry. This has allowed me to make a very competitive salary every year since I graduated business school. It’s also taken me to some places that I had never even heard of and certainly would’ve never gone if I hadn’t earned my MBA or received the fellowship. I now know at least one person, personally, on all six inhabited continents, and at least one person on all six continents knows my name. If you would’ve told me that as a little boy growing up in Louisiana, I would’ve said that I probably had a higher chance of going to Mars than of that happening. The MBA and The Consortium changed my life.

As an alum, you’ve attended OP as a corporate recruiter and interviewer several times over the years. Having been on both sides of the table, as a student and a recruiter, what value do you feel The Consortium provides all around?

It provides a number of things. I think one of the great things about the OP program was that, the summer before business school, you get to meet all of the other Consortium fellows and participate in a job fair. At every OP, as a student and as a recruiter, the job fair was a major, major leg up because only The Consortium students had that experience before going to business school. We were placed in front of companies, had a chance to do some mock interviews, learn interviewing techniques and all of that, even before we started business school. But, more importantly, we had contacts at companies who may or may not come to our particular school, whom we had met at the job fair at the OP.

From the recruiting standpoint, companies get to meet future potential employees years before they graduate, so they can start identifying talent. And I can tell you that, at least in my class at IU, most of us ended up working for Consortium sponsored companies. Ford was a sponsor of The Consortium at that time. So, from a recruiter standpoint, it’s a great place to find talented employees early on.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would hope that The Consortium fellows, and certainly all of the alumni too, never forget The Consortium. They should remember that they won an opportunity of a lifetime to go to a top business school without being burdened with an exorbitant amount of loans. They should want to have The Consortium around for another 55 years. It’s not just giving money that is important. Serve as an interviewer at the OP, or encourage your company to be a corporate partner. Lastly, you can interview potential candidates who apply to The Consortium. That has always been satisfying to me. 

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