Children & Middle Grade Author
Community Focused Problem Solver
Travels from: Raleigh, NC or Seattle, WA

“Derek stands out in my mind as a shining star. He was hard working a creative problem solver and a true collaborator.” – Duke University

Derek Rhodes is a business strategist, community leader, social entrepreneur, author, and public speaker. As a highly accomplished strategist with nearly a decade of experience in the corporate world, he has served as Microsoft’s Chief of Staff, Miami HEAT’s Director of Business Strategy, and Google’s Team Lead.

Derek has an innate ability to change systems from within. After graduating from Duke University and receiving his bachelor’s degree in Public Policy Studies, he pursued two highly competitive internships – one at the Department of Justice and another at The White House. Derek’s skills and drive caught the attention of President Obama, who publicly recognized him at a press briefing in the East Room. In his time at the Obama Foundation, he led My Brother’s Keeper Alliance – one of the largest youth development initiatives in history, where he oversaw the successful distribution of over $1M in grant funding to nonprofit organizations and designed the initiative’s first long-term strategic planning process.

As an experienced strategist with a track record of achieving both business and policy objectives, Derek is known for his results-driven approach and compelling communication style. He is passionate about helping historically underestimated youth, particularly Black men, find personal and professional success. This passion led him to found the Durham Success Summit, a one-day leadership conference providing career skills and internships for over 150 young people. As Executive Director, Derek continues to build lasting relationships, and drive the organization’s mission of elevating underrepresented youth into corporate America through practical education and exposure.

Derek draws on his own experiences as a Black man in America to help audiences understand the challenges and opportunities they face. In 2022, he was recognized as one of Triangle Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 business leaders. He has also been featured in Business Insider for his community contributions.

Derek is active as a custom keynote speaker and workshop facilitator who tailors his presentations to fit the unique needs of each audience, where he uses real-world examples and a solid framework to inspire meaningful change, and provides the strategic tools necessary young professionals or new leaders looking to get ahead in their careers. As a highly sought-after corporate leader, Derek has spoken to groups around the world, including the American School in London, Chicago Public Schools, and National Network of Schools in Partnership. He holds a City Council-appointed seat on the City of Durham’s Racial Equity Commission, and serves on the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy Board of Visitors.

Derek’s latest book, Jimmy for the City, was published in 2016.

Derek's Featured Titles


How to Change the World

This keynote address for middle school, high school, and college-aged students that educates young poeple on how to reinvent civic and corporate engagement on their own terms. Learn three key steps for inspiring meaningful change.


How to Design for Underestimated Youth

Young Black men are in urgent need of early-career guidance to increase long-term earnings growth, business ownership, and opportunities for community engagement. Companies as well as policy makers need to reinvent outreach and engagement of these men by providing programs and services including career fairs, mentorship retreats, public discussion panels, counseling services, and job and internship placements. Derek provides educators, business and community leaders, and aspiring change makers with tangible strategies and solutions to a persistent economic problem.


Storytelling for Change - Interactive Workshop

Based on Derek’s children’s book, this workshop teaches middle and high school students to reflect on their personal lives and how their written story can impact their local communities.


Amplifying Youth Voice


Designing for Black Youth


What College & Corporate Won’t Teach You


Nothing For Us, Without Us: Effective Outreach & Engagement to Youth


Youth-Accessible Entrepreneurship: Skills, Stories, and Strategies

Derek’s Blog

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Triangle Business Journal, 40 Under 40 Award (2022)
Business Insider: Most Impressive Students at Duke University (2015)

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

Similar Authors

Children’s/Middle Grade Author & Illustrator
Middle Grade Graphic Novelist
Middle Grade Novelist
Bestselling Middle Grade Novelist
Middle Grade/Young Adult Author

We’ve received your Message!

An AU Representative will connect with you as soon as possible.