Keith James is a proud alumnus of Tuskegee University. After earning a Bachelors of Science degree in business administration with a focus in marketing, Keith is now a territory sales manager for the number one tobacco company in the world, Altria/Phillip Morris. There, he accounts for $15 million of annual sales and manages about 150 retail accounts. He attributes a part of his success to the opportunities presented to him during his Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) 10th Annual Leadership Institute experience. Keith never walks by an open door, so when the opportunity to attend the leadership institute came along, he quickly jumped right in. He knew that being in the atmosphere with the top students in the country was a way that he could network as well as perfect his leadership and communication skills. More importantly, he understood that in the corporate world, leadership and communication skills were the two key attributes he would need to succeed.
While attending the TMCF Leadership Institute, Keith quickly engaged in different activities such as an interactive presentation on Google. The recruiters from Google were impressed at how many resources Keith’s group was able to use in a short amount of time. After leaving the Google workshop, Keith felt better prepared to work on short-term projects. He felt a sense of pride as he explained to the Google workshop facilitators that a part of his HBCU education was learning to go beyond the resources provided. He took note of the poise and demeanor of the corporate recruiters, and silently declared to himself that he would learn to display the same.
Again, being one to seize the day, Keith attended as many workshops as possible. He believes that the opportunity to polish his skills in a setting specifically designed to support his career goals are directly related to his ability to thrive in his current role in the corporate world. “Most of what I practiced during the TMCF Leadership Institute immediately came into play with my new job.“ His role for Phillip Morris consists of communicating ideas that influence others, working effectively with customers and other employees, planning the use of his time and resources efficiently, and applying and enhancing his ability to evaluate information, producing innovative, quality results.
In college Keith participated in many group activities to enhance the quality of student life. He has a passion for business, which led him to be the Chief Marketing Officer for the National Student Business League, a league founded by Booker T. Washington. There, he worked alongside his colleagues and fraternity brothers Taylor Harps and Phillip Terrill. Together, these men aimed to facilitate and enhance the success of African American business students attending Tuskegee University by providing training, resources and exposure.
Under the leadership of these three men, the National Student Business League has grown from a mere six members into one of the campuses leading organizations with a current roster of 40 members, and it is the only organization on Tuskegee University’s campus with a building that serves as corporate headquarters with three offices. This was made possible through the support of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated.
Another duty that Keith truly enjoys in his current position with Altria/Phillip Morris is the opportunity to go back to Tuskegee University to recruit worthy students. It is a full circle experience since Tuskegee Alumna Charlisa Smith recruited him to Altria/Phillip Morris when he was a student. Altria/Phillip Morris is also a sponsor of the Thurgood Marshall Leadership Institute.
Yet another full circle experience in Keith’s life is his 2008 creation of a non-profit organization with mentoring as its focus. Keith and his best friend created it, in part, to show their appreciation for the important mentors in their lives who played pivotal roles in their success “I feel like I am obligated to go in the black communities to give back the knowledge that was given to me. My passion is to change the landscape for, and the mindsets of young African American people.”
Keith believes his TMCF Leadership Institute experience was the best event of his college career. “I believe that every Historically Black College Student who aspires to standout and achieve greatness should experience the Leadership Conference and I will work very hard to see that they do. In life, you have to illuminate a path that is bright enough for others to follow. I will never forget the road I have traveled and the people who have helped and believed in me along the way. I am a proud past attendee of the TMCF Leadership Institute, and I am grateful for the lifelong learning opportunity it has afforded me.”