Of the many lessons Keith Parker shared at a recent Impact Speaker Series, one of the most important that he highlighted was how critical it is to find quality mentors in your professional career. Keith emphasized this succinctly for students in the audience, “Just as important as your major is who you choose as a mentor. One or two mentors might not be enough.” He had learned some of his most important professional lessons early on from a mentor in Richmond, Virginia. This mentor taught him a framework for leading an organization that he would apply to each organization he led, “Take care of your people. Take care of your team. Financial results will follow.” Additional highlights included:
- Details about his career in public transit systems prior to his role at Goodwill, highlighting MARTA’s successful turnaround in particular
- Work being done at Goodwill of North Georgia, and how it is bringing economic and social impact to the Georgia economy
“If you can [successfully] lead something from a volunteer standpoint, you can do anything”, shared Keith Parker at the Scheller College of Business’s Impact Speaker Series. Keith recalled the importance of volunteer, collegiate leadership roles in preparing him for professional leadership opportunities: “Leadership takes practice.”
Keith Parker and student
In 2012, Keith was brought on as the CEO of MARTA. At the time, MARTA was one of the largest transit systems in the country, however it was simultaneously recognized as one of the worst systems for employment. . With potential bankruptcy looming, Keith knew that he would need to change the public perception of MARTA quickly to transform the transit system. By following his mentor’s advice and implementing a strategic plan aimed at increasing positive media attention of the transit system, he was left MARTA with over $250M in cash reserves within five years.
Now, Keith is at the helm of Goodwill of North Georgia. He discussed some of the ways in which Goodwill is generating both economic – over $1B annually – and social impact in Georgia. He is hopeful about Goodwill’s ability to grow this in the future: “I know that working at the right place is where you’d do it for free.”
Keith Parker, a native of Virginia, has had an illustrious career in leading public transit systems across the United States, including Atlanta’s Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) and systems in Charlotte, San Antonio, Richmond, and many other cities. Keith is currently the President and CEO at Goodwill of North Georgia.
Organized by the Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship (ILE) at Scheller College of Business, Impact is a weekly series that brings successful leaders from the corporate and nonprofit sectors, as well as innovative entrepreneurs, to campus for an authentic discourse with students and staff. The main goal of the series is to show students the width and depth of opportunities, and challenges they will face in their careers; to widen their horizon and understanding of important issues; and to engage the community, on and off campus, in the important debate around these topics.
ILE is an interdisciplinary institute that encourages values-based leadership and socially responsible entrepreneurship. The impact Series is free and open to everyone. Most talks are recorded and available on ILE’s YouTube page.