Prodigy in Leadership, with special guest: Drew Fodor. Part II

Welcome back everyone. I trust the first tart of my interview with Drew Fodor went down well last night? What an amazing individual and such a unique story. What an interesting view of one man’s leadership and the management of his own gifted life. I want to get back into the interview without hesitation but first I have a little bit of follow up information.Nightline

After I signed off last night I reached out to Drew to let him know the first part had posted. I always love hearing from the guest and look forward to getting their perspective on the piece. In this instance I was looking to see if Drew wanted me to change anything in Part II. He was very gracious and declined that anything be changed but he did offer a link to the Nightline Interview I mentioned in the Part I.  I’ll let you watch for yourself the whole piece but Drew pretty much recalled verbatim what was said in the interview; I’m not surprised. One thing that did stick out was something that one of the Davidson Academy’s founders said. You see, this isn’t just a school for the gifted and talented, it’s a school for the gifted and talented from the gifted and talented. A number he threw out was these are individuals that come along about once in about every 25,000 people. Okay, now that we have a little more perspective, let’s continue.

Elton: “Your dad, doing what he did, it sounds like he was a big proponent of your future. Did he play a role in creating those opportunities for you to interact with other kids or activities whether it be sports or things of a similar nature?”

Drew: “Getting involved in sports was a little difficult when it was a school of one for sure. But I ended up doing martial arts as my main sport so I have my black belts in Karate, Kung Fu, and Taekwondo.”

Elton: “All three?”

Drew: “Mmm hmm” He nodded his closed lips yes. “And I taught Taekwondo for a few years after I got my third one.”

Elton: “So were you able to engage with other people your own age at that point?”

Drew: “That’s where I met my two best friends and still to this day, was through that Taekwondo School since I’ve moved here.”

Elton: “So it sounds like he was really creating or affording you those opportunities to engage … “

Drew: “Yes, he definitely tried his best, whether or whether not it always worked … “ slight chuckle and a smile “ … he definitely tried his best.”

Elton: “To recap a little. When I was introduced to you through your video presentation in Dr. Simmons class last semester, when I saw and heard that what I did, I was very much: ‘What? This guy? This is incredible! This is amazing and what a wonderful story.’”

Drew: “And that’s how it’s been since maybe the first two years, it’s sort of tucked away until it gets brought up.” Drew makes a tucking away gesture with a little grin.”

Elton: “And then are people very curious?”

Drew: “Yes.”

Elton: “You said you matriculated when you were 13 … and I don’t know your age now so my question is was it slow going? Did you take two or three classes a semester, or was it more like one class a semester?”

Drew: “I took two classes my first semester then it was between 15 and 18 credits (five to six classes) each subsequent semester. So, it sped up pretty quickly so between the ages of 13 and 18 is when I did my undergrad. Then after completing my undergrad I worked at a small pharmaceutical storage company for a year and then I started the MBA program and now I’m 21.”

Elton: “So, pretty much a normal timespan?”

Drew: “Yes, it’s been about eight years between since I started and now.”

Elton: “And the work you do with REMSA, that doesn’t only sound like an interest but also an aid in you being accepted into a medical program?”

Drew: “Yes, I’m hoping my interest in health care can make a difference. We’ll see if that ends up happening.”

Elton: “Now, do you engage with the community in any other ways at this time?”

Drew: “So, I’m not teaching Taekwondo like I was before but during my EMT basic class I started the … what did we end up calling it … the TMCC EMS iPod Project at Regent Care. It’s down in South Reno and is a long-term elder care facility. What prompted it was were shown a video in class that music helps people with mental disabilities a lot so we brought down a bunch of iPod’s loaded with music. That’s still going on.”

Elton: “It’s ongoing? You’re an active participant in that? That’s fantastic. I had now idea such a program was even going on.”

Drew: “Yeah. I started it and we’ve had two or three classes go down there and volunteer since then.”

Elton: “That’s a great program! So what I’m hearing up to this point is there weren’t any real trouble spots for you along the way? Would you say that’s true as you’ve gone form this very incredible beginning to where you are now?”

Drew: “I definitely had issues in the first two years, getting accustomed to my undergrad. But since then it’s really not been a struggle.”

Elton: “What about kids in similar situations, would you have advice for them?” I think this is actually the first time he’s paused. Up until now most of his answers have been very direct, and of quick response. But after a brief pause he shrugs before answering.

Drew: “Think really hard before matriculating to college. Sixteen is one thing, thirteen is another. At sixteen you have enough experience with regular education that I think the matriculation would be a lot easier. But, doing it a lot younger than that, especially if you’ve been out of the normal education system for a while, you have to have a strong support system. Someone who has recently gone through a similar situation would help a lot.”

Elton: “Did you have that someone?”

Drew: He closes his eyes, purses his lips and vigorously shakes his head no while letting out a chuckle and a smile at the end. “I mean, I had my dad and you know he was great throughout my undergrad but I didn’t have someone to tell me what I should be doing or how I should be taking notes. All that kind of stuff I had to figure out on my own. That was hard.”

Elton: “You started this project really from the ground up forcing you to, like you said, figure it out on your own, what a tremendous experience. Now that we’ve looked back, and now that you’re looking forward, as we wrap this up, where are you at in your expectations on where this could go based on where you’ve been? Because for you, it was a really fast-track up.”

Drew: He smiles and laughs an approving nod

Elton: “And so it’s plateauing a little bit and maybe if you get into medical school it will ramp up one more time?”

Drew: “Yeah. I’m thinking that it’s either going to be healthcare management in finance or accounting now that I’m done with my MBA. I’ve received one job offer but I’m still trying to find more. So, wherever I end up continuing on it’s going to be doing something in the interim until I start medical school in a year or two.”

Elton: “In my blog, I also talk about the Reno area and you heard Kristin Stith come and talk to us and what a great program she doing with #BiggestLittleCity, do you see yourself if the opportunity presents itself staying in the area?

Drew: “I do, I’m going to stay here for probably the next two or three years and then from there I’ll make another decision on whether not I’ll stay beyond that. It depends on medical school as well. If I get in here, soon, then I’ll stay. But you know, if I get in somewhere else then that’s where I’ll end up leaving to.”

Elton: “And so, just like any other grad student who is in the same situation you’re in your applying to medical schools all over the place? Those schools that pertain to your particular interest, your particular talents?”

Drew: “Yes.”

Elton: “Well, I hope you stay, I believe it would be a great to continue to have your presence in the community.”

Drew: “Well, if I do leave, I plan on coming back at some point.”

Elton: “Oh, so it sounds like you’ve grown fond of the area?”

Drew: “Yes, yes I have.” Great smile here and a little head nod affirmative. “Hilton Head, South Carolina is great, and there are some 20,000 people that live there, but it’s pretty much beaches and tennis and golf. That’s all there is to do there and it gets old after a while; it’s not as much as fun as it sort of sounds. And here, there’s all of that, and more!”

Elton: “Agreed! And a lot of that is sometimes taken for granted by those that live here who say: ‘Oh there’s so much going on in these other places’ but in reality there is so much going on here!”

Drew: “They should go there and visit first.”

Elton: “Haha, exactly! That whole: ‘The grass is greener on the other side.’ Thing.”

Drew: “Yes, exactly.”Drew & Elton

At this pint our interview was pretty much concluded. I want to thank Drew for giving us a very good synopsis of what it’s like for someone in his unique situation to manage what I consider a project from a very young age and do it very effectively under sometimes very difficult circumstances.

Wrapping up, as leaders and managers we all face situations where we need to handle personnel uniquely. In Drew’s case, and he’s an extreme circumstance, it shows what can happen when a tailor made situation is created for someone. No, we won’t always have the time to create an atmosphere or project unique to everyone we manage. But, that doesn’t mean we stop looking at them uniquely, that doesn’t mean we ignore where each can be utilized most effectively while allowing for them to grow in response. So, pause next time you start making decisions for the group, and remember, each one of them is a Drew in their own unique way, it’s our job to see it that way.

Image Credits: Sketch and Photo by Author

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